Redrawing the landscape for sorting machines - article Clipper Magazine


A flying start

Optimum NV, Hasselt, was founded in 2017 by sector veterans Paul Berghmans and Steve Raskin, together with the investment company Pentahold - three partners with years of experience in the development, production and sale of optical sorting machines. Technology expert Jan De Jonghe, who also boasted extensive experience in optical sorting, joined the team to lead the research and development department. Shortly after its establishment, the Dutch Concept Engineers from Eindhoven, founded in 1999, was taken over. That company specialised in optical sorting systems for the food industry. The managers and owners of Concept Engineers at that time took a stake in the capital so that Optimum could get off to a flying start with a team with more than 200 years of experience in optical and electronic sorting at the helm.


Not the biggest, but the most innovative

The market of optical sorters is a niche market which was dominated by a few major players. With dozens of patents to his name, CEO Paul Berghmans is responsible for many of the innovations in the sector in which he has been active for already 35 years. “Optimum was founded with the intention of becoming a leading reference. The market could use a new, progressive and above all reliable partner,” he said. “We are not trying to become the biggest, we want to become the most innovative - the trendsetter in terms of technology, quality and reliability. We have therefore resolutely drawn the map of innovation and investment in the future.” The first priority after the launch was to build a technological lead. The company did this by developing a completely new sorting platform by the name of ‘Cloudsorter’. The most advanced laser scanner in the sorting market, a high-resolution multispectral scanner, was then developed and launched. This laser scanner was first developed for a scanning width of 1200 mm, then for 900 mm, and the current generation, which will be launched this year, can be used for a scanning width of 1800 mm without sacrificing performance. The technology has meanwhile been further developed and refined so that the laser system can also detect invisible but seriously harmful substances, such as aflatoxin on nuts.

Ventus – the new product line

In 2019, the range of Optimum sorting machines - Focus, Triplus and Nexus - was expanded by a new product line: the Ventus. This advanced optical sorting machine combines a free-fall infeed with a high-resolution laser scanner, currently available in widths of 900, 1200 and 1800 mm. “The fact that we have achieved so much in only three years is partly due to the support of a financially strong shareholder like Pentahold, who knows the sector well,” explained Paul Berghmans. “In total, all shareholders have already invested € 15M in building our technological lead, and consequently in our future. And we plan on continuing this.” Investments have also been made in the United States with the opening of a local branch in Denver, Colorado.

American customers can visit a fully equipped demonstration centre there and, like in Asia, there is a local service department. Currently Optimum is active throughout the world in more than 50 applications.

Strong assets

Quality and service are high on the agenda. This is exactly why Optimum has invested heavily in the expansion and support of its service departments. Since the start, the number of service technicians has quadrupled. “We do not offer expensive service contracts at Optimum to get the service that customers deserve. All of our customers can count on 24/7 remote service at no extra cost”, Berghmans emphasised. “That’s what truly sets us apart from the competition. As a smaller player, we have another ace in our hand: each production line is unique. Our organisation is versatile and flexible.” Optimum may still be a start-up, but thanks to the experience and financial strength of its shareholders, this start-up is ready for the future. “Management and shareholders will continue to engage and invest in the key pillars for our further growth, namely technological innovation, a global sales network and optimal service, so that we can be a true alternative to the established values”, said Berghmans.