Needed - a manager who can set the standard

Lemminkäinen Norge is one of the country's leading suppliers of asphalt, crushed stone, gravel and civil engineering services. When managing director Jan Øyri needed to find a manager to improve the profitability of one of the company's departments, he definitely looked for someone who had "turned stones" before - but he was not fussed about knowledge of the industry.

There is tons of knowledge about asphalt, crushed stone and gravel within Lemminkäinen Norge. Therefore, industry knowledge and industry experience were not important when managing director Jan Øyri needed a manager for a department that was struggling to make money. Managerial skills and experience from the implementation of turnarounds was, on the other hand, absolutely crucial.

Ability to take the initiative

in projects with extensive "on-time" processes there is a lot to be done in order for the assignments to be profitable. Lemminkäinen's asphalt department in Forus had poor project profitability with several improvement areas in the processes, from order to delivery.

- We needed a department manager with the ability to take on the processes and set the standard for how it should work. The person in question must have done something similar before - that was our main criterion, says Jan Øyri.

Classic «turnaround» interim assignment

In many ways, the assignment was a classic Turnaround Management Assignment : The business loses money and must take measures to reverse the development. One possibility is to then bring in a temporary manager with previous experience of similar operations. The manager quickly comes into the company without any constraints and takes the necessary steps to reverse the situation. This was the solution Lemminkäinen Norway went for in this case.

Jan Øyri contacted Interimleder AS, and within a few days he received four managerial CVs for evaluation. He met all the candidates, and chose an interim manager with a lot of experience, the right educational background and - on top of everything - local affiliation.

It would turn out to be a good choice for Lemminkäinen's department in Forus. Jan Øyri confirms that he is very pleased, both with the selection process and with the interim manager he chose for the assignment. When asked about the measures that have been taken since the start of the assignment and what results this has given, he passes the question on to the interim manager himself.

Done it before

Aksel Kverneland has completed close to 20 interim assignments since the beginning of the 2000s, in various types of businesses all over the world. The civil engineer can safely say he has "done it before" when it comes to turnarounds. The common thread in the assignments has been that they have all had something to do with production.

- As a rule, it is the people in the business that it is all about. Change attitudes, get employees to work differently and keep the motivation up. When they see improvements, they also get faith in the changes, explains the cheerful Rogalander on the phone from his car.

Aksel Kverneland has been on assignment at Lemminkäinen Norge since January this year. As manager of the department in Forus, he has complete and full responsibility for delivering results as well as personnel responsibility for around 50 employees divided between the factory, administration and external site work. At the time of writing (August 2017) an end to the assignment has not been set.

- I would rather leave the businesses I have been assigned to in a stable, robust condition with consistent profitability, but it is of course the client who decides when my job is done.

He says that it should take 1 – 2 years to complete a turnaround, and it is important to get an "improvement timetable" in place as quickly as possible in order to keep the employees motivated throughout the changes.

Less skipping and jumping

When Aksel Kverneland started the assignment at Lemminkäinen Forus Asfalt , he did what he usually does in a new assignment.

- I start by sketching out how everything looks, from order to delivery - the entire process. Then I sit down with people in the business and take a look at it.

In the department in Forus, there was a need for better planning, better precision on delivery times and better quality in the end result.

- The culture of the business was to deliver all the way to the customers when they called and this made it difficult to plan the jobs - which in turn affected the quality of the jobs," he says.

- The goal is to get all work done and correct - the first time. A good end result starts with words on schedules, and one of the first things I did was therefore to introduce a weekly schedule. Naturally there was initially some scepticism about this, but both employees and customers can see that better predictability gives better results. The weekly schedule has calmed down the "skip and jump" factor.

HSE, high speed and optimism

Aksel Kverneland is also concerned that there should be good HSE in the work being carried out. His goal is that the employees will work less and more efficiently, preferably during the daytime. Evening and night work increases the risk of mistakes and accidents. It is about both having consideration for the employees and making sure the jobs are done correctly the first time in order to ensure profitability.

- Spring and early summer are the high season in this industry. Introducing measures that will make the employees work smarter and more accurately during the period of the year when the business has decidedly more to do, is a bit like driving at 180 kph and changing wheels at the same time, laughs Kverneland.

He admits that he will have a lot of work as well.

- Being an interim manager is very positive! But as with any other "hike in the mountains" it is also tiring at times. This is unavoidable, says the experienced interim manager.

He has set the standard: The quality and precision in the projects must be as robust as the asphalt in the deliveries! And while there is still a long way to go before all goals have been reached, the situation looks brighter now than when Aksel Kverneland started the assignment in January. The measures taken so far in the turnaround have had positive results both on the working methods and results. Optimism and profitability have new fertile ground at Lemminkäinen's department in Forus.

Lemminkäinen Norge is one of the country's leading suppliers of asphalt, crushed stone, gravel and civil engineering services. The company employs 550 employees and has a presence throughout Norway. Lemminkäinen Norge is part of the Lemminkäinen Corporation, one of the largest asphalt contractors in the Northern European market with 4,800 employees and a net turnover of 1.9 billion euros in 2015.

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