The beating heart of a human enterprise

The beating heart of a human enterprise

Atelier Jean Regniers, Lobbes

Atelier Jean Regniers (or AJR), based in Bienne-lez-Happart for over 50 years, is an innovative craft and industrial company. What makes it stand out from other adapted work enterprises is the domains in which it operates.

As an inclusive enterprise, what really sets the AJR apart from its leading competitors is its desire to work on a real industrial project which brings economic and human realities (back) together.

In a context of heightened and sometimes fierce competition, as a fully-fledged socio-economic player, the AJR envisages its future as being driven by the values of societal responsibility and sustainability.
In this adapted work enterprise, each employee is valued for the unique skills they bring with them.

In this adapted work enterprise, each employee is valued for the unique skills they bring with them.

In 6 sectors of activity – stationery, sewing, packaging, wood, the manufacturing of detergents, bleach and demineralised water (and also service contracts), the AJR’s highly competent personnel are used to performing precise, rapid and repetitive tasks, demonstrating their motivation and desire to do a good job within their means which are often limited by different types of disability. “In our packaging section, the workers place a specimen insert into protective pockets. These are things we cannot do by computer. It amazes me to see just how concentrated and consistent they are over the course of a full day,” explains Pierre-Yves Maniquet, the company director.

Like artists, our employees repeat movements over and over again, perfecting them, fine-tuning them and constantly improving their performance.

This diversification, coupled with the professionalism and motivation of all 330 people of whom 70% are disabled, means that the AJR can offer its clients the option of quality and meaning.

The staff’s operational expertise

The staff have mastered specific know-how and sometimes show surprising levels of creativity, when it comes to making pallets, objects out of wood, detergents, bleach, files, notebook covers as well as items for babies or specialist transport bags and body bags. Packaging and service contracts complete the range of services offered by the AJR.

Pallets, fabrics, welded plastics… the Atelier is made up of different sections.

The team of in-house chemists develops and perfects the formulae for detergent products with the AJR brand, whereas it follows the distributors’ specifications for private label products.

The products are tested in certified external laboratories. Their quality is tried and tested; they can be compared using several criteria with equivalent products on the market.

All of the manufacturing departments produce goods from A to Z from start to finish using raw materials.

A good atmosphere among the machines

“I haven’t seen many places with an atmosphere like this in the world of industry. And yet, the work is not always easy,” explains the director. “Everyone smiles, there is a lot of laughter around the place.”

The different working teams adapt according to each of their skills, as well as to the practical installation. “Production lines are the same as those found in traditional companies, except that here we account for everyone’s differences. All employees are allocated to a job that they really enjoy doing,” clarifies the head of production in the detergent department.

Employees share a lot of laughter.

The company receives a small amount of income for taking on persons with a disability, but it isn’t enough to see off the competition, especially from abroad. All profits go back into the company in order to improve working conditions. The volunteer members of the board guide the director towards improving human capital.

Certain specific products and certain finishing touches cannot be manufactured or made by machines: human skills are therefore essential.

Own brand products

The idea is to make the structure sustainable and it needs to be even stronger if it is to see off the competition. “We want to expand our own range, with a social and ecological approach,” explains the director. “We have the skills and the workforce, we can develop our own brand in every department and market it.”

The human potential at the heart of manufacturing

One of the most important things for the AJR is to produce items in which humans create the main share of the added value (making specific garden furniture or objects that cannot be made using automation, for example).

The major commercial and industrial challenge for the AJR is to develop new products and applications and explore new markets.

The AJR also offers a range of ecological detergents which is as yet relatively unknown, but which is to be expanded and distributed on a larger scale.

Wipes, bags… in reusable and waterproof materials. This is the type of sustainable product the company wishes to focus on.

Zero waste

The sewing department is responding to environmental challenges by co-developing a range of sustainable items in washable ecological fabric, such as wet wipes for babies and the removal of make-up, absorbent paper towels, packaging materials for preserving food, bread bags… These items offer a real alternative to their throwaway and polluting counterparts.

Contact : 
Atelier Jean Regniers
Rue Baronne E. Drory 5
B- 6543 Bienne-lez-Happart
+ 32 (0) 71 59 91 20

©Photos/Alex Dossogne