Valley Voice – a column where our cluster members are in focus. This week we talked with Thor Hegg Eriksen, Managing Director of Vipo.
In June 2021 Vipo underwent a management buy-out and officially left the Swedish-owned Trelleborg Group. They are Norway’s oldest rubber factory, founded in 1896. Vipo has gone from a local rubber factory manufacturing galoshes to a global polymer pioneer providing innovative solutions for a wide range of major industries.
– My team is focused on refining our business strategy to maintain our high level of expertise in the more traditional areas of the energy market while accelerating our involvement in renewable energy and other industries, says Eriksen.
1. What are you doing right now?
We have rebranded as Vipo and continue to innovate; produce and deliver the high level of expertise and solutions we always have. Now, my team is focused on refining our business strategy to maintain our high level of expertise in the more traditional areas of the energy market while accelerating our involvement in renewable energy and other industries. We have always operated successfully in a variety of industries, however, in the last 10 years, there has been a high focus for us in oil & gas due to widespread maintenance projects and the move of construction further south. We have set up a business group internally solely focusing on diversification and working with customers to solve familiar challenges in new industries.
2. What are the biggest challenges and opportunities in the future?
Our biggest challenge is often linked to our biggest opportunities. This company has over a decade produced and delivered to different market sectors; private consumers with products like footwear, an automotive industry with bumpers and cooling hoses, general industry with products like anti-vibration bearings and gaskets, and now over the last twenty years a lot of different products to the energy sector. The challenge going forward is the same as all suppliers to this industry, we need to broaden the market sectors. We have all the technology and know-how needed to succeed in other segments but understand today what are the right segments and having the patience to follow through is crucial.
This brings me to one of our biggest opportunities, we are essentially a new brand, positioning ourselves as a polymer pioneer with 125 years of knowledge and expertise at this factory. We strive to be a solutions partner, where we can work 1-to-1 with the customers to create new, innovative solutions that have not been seen before. Something that takes our experience of specific polymer materials and uses it to create a solution to a unique business challenge to help our customers and in turn, the industry.
3. How are Vipo working to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050?
Working to reduce our emissions has been an integral part of our daily work for the last 20 years, our energy consumption has decreased to 1/3 of what it was 10 years ago and we will continue this decrease further. Reducing waste and recycling is and will continue to be an important part of our business model to further reach our goals.
4. What keeps you awake at night with regards to the energy transition?
The energy transition is like any other transition, exciting and challenging at the same time. What would our business do if we were not faced with continuous challenges and increasing standards to meet. We are steadily making an entrance into the renewable energy market and will continue working with the customers and speaking with industry leaders to ensure that we have a place at the table.
What still remains unclear during this transition is a better understanding of how the entire world will tackle this challenge and how we, as a local business, can contribute to “the way forward”. We need to discuss “the way forward” in relation to the world, not just locally.
5. What do you think will be the most valuable thing about being a member of Energy Valley?
We are now a Norwegian-owned business and want to focus our efforts on being members of organizations that are going to help us grow and meet our business goals. Energy Valley is a reputable organization that we have previously been members of but never used to the potential it should have been. The networking, marketing and collaboration opportunities that I believe are available here, are going to help us on the road to ensuring we are in conversations with the right people at the right time. Understanding the most recent innovations and market trends and presenting ourselves at a variety of industry events.
6. Is there any book that has inspired you in the way you lead?
I think different books fit different times and places, but a classic like; Good To Great written by Jim Collins, will always be high on the list!
7. Which Energy Valley member do you want to pass the baton on to?
I would like to pass the baton to Wilh. Wilhelmsen Holding.
Thank you, Thor!