A day in the Life of John Cornelisse

John Cornelisse, expert in the gutroom, constantly seeks to improve processes. Together with colleague Gerrit Strookappe, who is interviewed elsewhere in this edition of “Let’s Meat,” John tinkers and experiments to see how these processes can run more efficiently. It starts with an idea in John’s head that he then sketches on paper. Next, a rough low budget model is created by Gerrit that is held together with tape. If the model turns out to actually work, all kinds of settings are fine-tuned. It’s a laborious progression of testing, making adjustments and reporting.


John is 47 years old and started with Van Hessen 11 years ago. His current role is that of Project Manager Innovation with Van Hessen’s Gutroom Competence Center (GCC). “Our task is to discover best practices and bring innovation. These then need to be shared and implemented with our worldwide Van Hessen family.” As such the GCC has a global support function.

“Next to innovation and best practices we also offer solutions for current problems. We create tools and machines that do not exist yet in order to meet such needs.” John is excited to explain what happens to the low budget models once they pass the initial test of functionality: “To facilitate the process, everything that happens is recorded with a video that is accompanied by a written report. At this point, it is time to build an actual prototype. In close collaboration with GCC, they produces highly detailed drawings on the basis of which a prototype is built of a completely new machine. “When this is finished the machine is shipped back to the GCC where we examine its operation to see if it functions as desired. The entire cycle of researching, testing, adjusting and reporting is repeated until we are all satisfied and able to conclude that we have a new product or process.

This has not always been the case. The emphasis on innovation is relatively recent and has been prompted by the desire for innovation with Van Hessen after the merger of 2017. More efficient and effective methods that guarantee consistent quality aim to support and improve the international position of Van Hessen.

Next to his role as Project Manager with the GCC, John also consults Van Hessen Russia. “To develop our business in Russia we at GCC offer support.” John speaks to his colleagues in Russia as often as three times per week to assist them in their operational activities. “We discuss the daily situation in the gutrooms in Russia, the deals we have with our partners, as well as the actionable items that result from those deals. Together we discuss what needs to be done and how,” explains John.

John considers his current responsibility with the GCC as absolutely unique: “For years we did the same thing over and over again and just the last few years, there has been a complete change of strategy. At the GCC we have been compelled to start thinking in a completely different way. Suddenly you are the focus of change.” This transformation has not always been easy, admits John. Everything went very quickly. But when he looks at the developments within the company, he understands why this happened. It was simply necessary. John has a very down-to-earth approach to his task as an innovator: “I always try to think in simple terms. ‘Impossible’ does not exist for me. I find that attitude exciting.” John sees himself in the same role for the foreseeable future. “I only started recently in this particular role as Project Manager Innovation. No day is the same and I’m just really enjoying it. Yes, this is the place to be for me.”