New technology is in our backbone

The factory in Molde has been central to the Glamox success story for more than 60 years. Today the plant is more productive than ever, thanks to an improvement driven culture and new technology.

Although Glamox was established in 1947, the most important part of the Glamox story started when the factory in Molde was built in the end of the 1950’s. Situated in a medium sized town on the west coast of Norway it was perhaps not the most likely starting point for an industrial company, but the founder, Birger Hatlebakk didn’t care, he wanted to stay close to his roots. The factory saw the successful commercialisation of Hatlebakk’s innovation, the glamoxation process that allowed Glamox to manufacture efficient aluminium reflectors for powerful luminaires and which has remained a corner stone in the company ever since.

A desire to improve 

But what would Birger Hatlebakk say if he could see the factory today? Maybe he would raise an eyebrow to the investments that have been made the last decades. He was known as a frugal man, all expenditure had to be justified, but more than likely he would also have been proud to see how much the factory has developed when it comes to output, production processes and technology.

Today the factory is managed by another Birger. Birger Holo (39) started the job as Plant Manager in 2017 and has already seen several successful implementations of new technology. Although things have changed a lot since Hatlebakk’s time, he still feels that some of the founder’s spirit lingers in the factory.

“Curiosity, innovation and a willingness to explore new technology is something that has remained in the factory since the beginning. It is a desire to improve things that is in the backbone of the company. Also important is the ability to leave projects and technology that don’t work as intended,” Holo says.

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Collaborative robots 

In recent years Glamox has invested heavily in new technology in the Molde factory. A very visible proof is the 14 robots and various complex machines that inhabit the facilities. According to Holo, implementing new robot technology has become easier and more affordable in recent years.

“Typical manufacturing robots used to require a lot of empty space around them to work safely. Today we have so called collaborative robots, that are designed to interact with humans in a shared space or to work safely in close proximity. These robots are easy to set up and commission,” he says.

How do you keep up to date when it comes to new technology?  
“Monitoring and assessing new relevant technology is a task that is assigned to the department for production methods and technology as they have a lot of competence in this field, but I also try to keep an eye on it myself out of personal interest. In the end the decision to invest will end up on my table. Timing is always a crucial factor, it is important to wait until the price has come down to a level that makes the investment worthwhile,” Holo explains.

The world’s most autonomous workers  

Holo manages 170 employees in seven departments; production, production methods and technology, product engineering, planning, purchasing, Quality&HSE and finance. He firmly claims that Norwegian production workers are among the world’s most autonomous.

“They are not afraid to initiate improvement projects and make independent assessments,” he says. His philosophy is to utilize this strength as much as possible. Because it’s no secret that the Norway is a high-cost country also when it comes to factory wages.

“We depend on high productivity to be profitable, hence we use new technology to automate tasks that don’t generate any value. A good example is handling of parts in and out of machines. This is a job that can be turned over to robots enabling our workers to only spend time on tasks where human labour is most efficient. There are still many assignments where human hands and a human brain are the best tools,” he says.