“3B Fibreglass is a company rich in tradition, located in Birkeland in the inner Agder region. Rising market share along with increased exports and profits make the company a true and worthy winner,” John G. Bernander, the Export Prize jury foreman, said of 3B Fibreglass’s victory this year.
Today, every third wind turbine blade in Europe is made of fibreglass from the Birkeland company. When it was established in the early 1970s its exports were considerably lower as a share of sales; much of its output went the boat industry in Norway.
“From the start, our main activity in many ways has been realigning and incremental improvement – with some large investment projects mixed in,” says Heine Østby, the head of 3B Fibreglass in Norway.
From the start, our main activity in many ways has been realigning and incremental improvement
Heine Østby, 3B Fibreglass
Today, almost 100 per cent of what the company produces is exported, mainly to Europe, including about 70 per cent for the wind industry, 20 per cent for automotive (auto and transport) and the rest for various niche markets.
The success factor is a mix of ability, determination and good luck, as the Export Prize winner sees it.
“At its heart is a continuing push within the organisation to improve processes, technology and expertise. In concrete terms, we have delivered on strategy and product development aimed at the wind market, and our success in that area has contributed to our positive results,” says Østby.
“In our corporate vision, we say, ‘The employees are the key to our success,’ so we believe very clearly that one basic success factor has been, and remains, the ability of individual employees to work well together to become a little better all the time.”
3B Fibreglass is a cornerstone company in Birkenes municipality, and its employees are aware of the company’s importance to the community and themselves.
“This means in practice that we have a very loyal and dedicated workforce with a strong desire to help the company succeed. Being able to produce results together has been a great source of motivation.”
The Export Prize winner’s five tips for success:
- Establish a solid culture of fact-based, structured, continuous improvement (introduction and development of Lean Six Sigma).
- Focus on innovation (product innovation based on an understanding of customer needs and customer collaboration + innovation in all internal processes).
- Provide clear, inclusive leadership that sets out goals and direction, and that develops employees and their skills.
- Prioritise specialised expertise at all levels.
- Be 110% customer focused! “To learn, you have to be out with the customer and in the market,” Heine Østby emphasises.