The head office and production facility of Jøtul in Fredrikstad, Norway.

The head office and production facility of Jøtul in Fredrikstad, Norway.

A new driving force for Jøtul in the corona crisis

When Jøtul's planning manager resigned at short notice during the corona shutdown, the solution was just a quick phone call away, says Jøtul's CEO, Nils Agnar Brunborg. Soon after, interim manager Karl Johan Svendsen was in place.

Lost their planning manager during the corona crisis

When Covid-19 put Norway to a standstill in March 2020, the cast iron stove and fireplace manufacturer Jøtul was brutally affected. The shops that sold their stoves around Europe were already closed, and the new factory in Poland was running at half speed. One hundred employees were laid off, and production stopped. Jøtul's planning manager was among those who changed jobs during the period.

– I called Narve Karlsen at Interimleder AS, which we have used before, and for whom I have worked as an interim manager. The advantage of hiring through an Interim Service Provider like them is that they have an extensive database of skilled candidates. This means they can announce assignments in a matter of moments, quickly vet candidates and present the client with a highly qualified shortlist, says Brunborg.

His cross-industry experience came in handy

When Interimleder announced the assignment, Karl Johan Svendsen was one of those who responded.

–  I have built power plants in Equatorial Guinea, industrialized parts for the GEnx aircraft engine and built concrete plants in Ghana and Togo. I'm all about management, systems and change processes. My initial thought was that I could take my experience from other industries with me to Jøtul, says Svendsen.

He was given the assignment as Procurement Manager in Jøtul and started a few days later, in October 2020. His mission was twofold. Run the operations in Norway and Poland, and continue several sub-projects related to the restructuring and relocation to Poland.

– We have never shipped as many stoves as now

The first thing he did as the newly appointed interim leader was to get to know those on his team:

– It is about feeling where the pain is, unleashing the employees' potential, so they can concentrate on the right things and then implement necessary changes. One thing I did was to make sure the right people attended the right meetings. I did this by structuring the meetings into operational discussions and management discussions. I have also worked for increased cooperation between the countries, especially in these corona times, with full implementation of Microsoft Teams. We now work one hundred per cent in the cloud in a much more transparent, efficient and modern way. We have started to clear the backlog and have never shipped as many stoves as now. Much due to better control of the planning process, says Svendsen.

– The interim manager has met our expectations

Brunborg reports that the assignment has a timeline that ends before summer and that the company four months into the assignment is satisfied with the job the interim manager has done:

– Karl Johan quickly got up to speed in the job, both operationally and analytically. He is a professional and has met our expectations, even in a challenging period with colleagues working from home and limited travel opportunities, says Brunborg.

About Jøtul:

  • Jøtul is a Norwegian industrial group established in 1853.
  • The company manufactures cast iron stoves and fireplaces.
  • The head office is located in Fredrikstad, and a new factory was opened in Poland in 2018.
  • Jøtul has 500 employees globally.

Situation and challenge:

  • The Corona closure in March 2020 led to 100 layoffs.
  • The planning manager quit and got a new job during this period.
  • Jøtul needed someone who could take responsibility for supply chain and purchasing and take responsibility for sub-projects related to the restructuring and relocation to Poland.

Solution and results:

  • Hire an interim manager who could take over operations and projects related to restructuring and implementing modern and efficient applications and systems.
  • Establishment of new shipping routes and processes to England after Brexit.
  • Clarified responsibilities and routines for smooth delivery of the baton in processes.


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