Björn Fagerström started as Managing Director at our Co-Location Center North on May 1st. Björn has a solid industrial background from R&D, manufacturing, and project management in diverse industries ranging from Oil & Gas, Energy, Pulp & Paper, Automotive, Consumer goods etc., in parallel to his role as part-time professor at Mälardalen University, Sweden. He also has an experience as an entrepreneur, starting companies and launching new activities such as laboratories and new product lines.
Interview with Björn Fagerström, CLC Director, EIT Manufacturing North.
You have recently been nominated Director of EIT Manufacturing CLC North, in Gothenburg, Sweden. Name three main things you would like to achieve in your new role.
I prefer to speak in terms of team and not only speaking for myself. All our achievements will be team achievements.
Create a culture and environment in which new start-ups, entrepreneurs, or companies that needs to scale up, or companies with production problems, etc. see CLC North as a natural, trustful and knowledgeable partner for discussions, inspiration and for finding a robust way forward, based on a joint effort.
A great step forward will be when more companies in Europe consider manufacturing capabilities as a critical asset for future development. The entire process from product planning to product development, industrialization and manufacturing is an integrated part of any industrial companies’ eco-system. The ultimate end-effect of this will be an increased number of products proudly declared “Made in Europe”.
The process from innovation to full scale volume manufacturing needs to be shortened, so all efforts and support EIT manufacturing can provide in this process is critical. Time is an increasingly important factor and it is better to early have a system up and running with basic functionality/process capabilities, in order to improve and learn. I would like to see that EIT Manufacturing supports this process and some good “best practice” and “success stories” can be presented based on our contribution in this process.
Europe’s industrial sector is today facing a twin transformation: an Ecological one and a digital one? How can EIT Manufacturing support this transformation?
EIT manufacturing can support in all phases of this transformation, from training, to innovation and business creation. EIT Manufacturing needs to provide practical, efficient and reliable support in order to be a productive and trustful partner.
EIT Manufacturing has the knowledge and skills for evaluating new technology that can be considered for implementation in future manufacturing systems, taking also sustainability and digitalization aspects into account.
Companies are typically facing a dual challenge, in further streamline existing operations to free up more resources for long term development, i.e. ecological and digital transformation. EIT Manufacturing needs help companies overcome this dilemma, in which training is a critical first step.
Europe, and the world is currently facing a major pandemic, that has put about one third of the world’s population under lockdown. What role do you foresee for Europe’s manufacturing industry to help us recover after the pandemic (and even during the pandemic)?
We can foresee that the pandemic will have big impact and a lot of restructuring is expected, but to already now predict exactly what will happen is difficult. However, we will certainly need a more robust, flexible and sustainable manufacturing strategy. The winners in this new world are already anticipating and preparing for the upcoming transformation. We can assume that several industries will re-consider their manufacturing strategy, including their entire supply-chain structure and position in the eco-system.
EIT manufacturing can play a key role in this process. The first challenge is to restart the industry, in some cases with a reduced workforce, as well as manage the financial losses accumulated during this period. In this context, with tight resources, companies need to find new pragmatic ways to get things done and deliver their products to end-users.
I would expect companies to consider ways to obtain more control of their manufacturing, and entire supply chain resulting in an increased focus on “local” manufacturing. Furthermore, I would assume companies to adopt a more focused and less fragmented approach in terms of business strategy to save cost and effort, with a narrower product portfolio provided to their end customers.
To sum up, our industrial companies will have to refocus and sometimes take hard decisions. Likely, or hopefully, some of these decisions will go in the direction towards more sustainable products as well as sustainable manufacturing.
You have spent your whole career working with manufacturing innovations – what attracted you to the industry in the first place?
I have always been interested in industrialization and the interface between product development and manufacturing. Just developing a product is half of the job and I would like to be in the process of developing the manufacturing system simultaneously with the product, which is well supported with industry 4.0.
The shortened market window for products and the cost of delay has increased, resulting in a need to be focused on TTV (Time To Volume), rather than TTM (Time To market), as that can mislead the focus in the team. You need to get volumes quickly out for the intended products and start to earn money on your investment. Hence, industrialization capabilities are a critical asset for any industrial company.
Name a major manufacturing breakthrough would you would have liked to invent? Why did you choose this innovation?
One quite old technology that has been operational for quite some time, including many new revisions, is the HVDC technology, invented some +60 years ago, for efficient transfer of electricity over long distances. This is a key enabler for our future renewable energy systems, and the entire grid will be restructured in order to transfer green energy from wind and solar farms. This is an exciting example of how long time it sometimes takes for a great innovation to reach its full potential!