Out Of The Icebox Into the Future

When Danish Marius Pedersen first started Scandinavian Woodworking Machinery, the company consisted of Marius and a few workers. Since then a lot of things have happened.
The company has changed name to Scanmach. It now employs 60 people. It is looking to consolidate its future by starting a school and is about to open a subsidiary in Vietnam.
Headquartered off the Bang Na Trad Highway near the new airport, Scanmach’s offices are located just off the main road where you will find their showroom and workshops.
As we walk through the workshop and showroom with current Managing Director Arne Christensen, he explains the foundations of Scanmach’s business, adding that Marius has recently left the firm – although not quite entirely.
“This is what we do,” Arne says, pointing at something looking like a pile of old metal junk. The “junk” is in fact a used woodworking machine imported from Europe. What Scanmach does is repair and tune machines just like it in order to resell them on the Asian market.
The simplicity of the idea is demonstrated by a nicely painted machine on display, looking like new – and with no unattached wires hanging out of its bowels!
“This is the same type of machine and it once looked just like that other one I showed you,” Arne says.

Out of the icebox
Marius (54) started the company in what is known as “the icebox” – once the main office. The icebox is an air conditioned container, which is now placed inside the showroom and still used as an office. Before starting on his own, Marius Pedersen had worked in the business for many years, both in Europe and the U.S.A.
In the early days Marius himself travelled Europe looking for machines to fix and recondition which he brought to Thailand, reworked and then sold them on again – by himself.
Three years ago Marius chose to sell the company to Danish machine producer Junget A/S, who then acquired a majority holding in the company and changed the name to Scanmach. So now Scanmach Asia is actually a subsidiary to the Danish parent Scanmach A/S.
The Danish division is primarily in charge of buying the used machines and employs only two people. One is the Jørn Krog CEO of Junget and Scanmach A/S and the other is bent Knudsen, who is responsible for buying the used machinery.
As we visit Scanmach the company is starting to find its ground with out the founder Marius, as he here five years after starting the company has chosen to leave the company.
“He lived out here with his wife Anne-Mette, and she wanted very much to return to Denmark, so Marius moved back with her in March 2006. At the same time he sold the rest of his stock and exited the company,” Arne explains.
But the founder’s exit has not been complete, as he has not been quite able to leave his “baby” completely.
“For a transition period Marius will be available to the company. Actually he is here at the moment helping us prepare for a large fair in Bangkok,” Arne says adding, “He will probably never exit completely, and will always be ready on the sidelines if help is needed,” Arne reckons.

Keep things under control
54-year-old Arne Christensen’s entry into Scanmach last years ago is a consequence of the growth of the company and an old promise made by Marius.
“Over the last five years, in particular the last three years, the company has grown at high rates. Due to this the management acknowledged that an administrator was needed – this was also decided in order to free up time for Marius, so he could concentrate on sales and on finding “Scanmach machines”, which is his strong points – he is the born sales man,” Arne explains with a knowing smile.
The reason why Arne was asked to take on the job controlling the fast growing company was a matter of trust and friendship.
“Marius has always said that he would point to me, if they needed someone. We have after all known each other for many years. And when someone was needed, I was inserted as managing director and Marius took charge of project and export sales,” Arne remembers.
Right now the managing director is working hard to explain to the world that a Scanmach machine means quality.
“My job is to bring the company to a higher level and to improve on several fronts. We need to build our reputation so that people know that there is no risk in buying a machine from us. When you trust a merchant, you don’t mind paying a little more for a product, because you can be sure you are getting what you want.”
“It is our reputation we need to survive on as we can never compete with local suppliers on price. But we can deliver the right machine for the job. And we guarantee that it is a quality product – we have the internal and external expertise to make sure of that,” Arne smiles.

Controlled growth
But with rapid growth comes the problem of finding skilled, trained workers.
“It is hard to find qualified people, so we have to train them our themselves,” Arne says.
Scanmach is also aware that their Danish employees have to make an effort as well, so along with the Thai workers learning English, the Danes have Thai language courses too.
“Look at it like this. If both sides learn the language of the other, the final result can only bring an inprovement in communcations at the very least,” Arne points out.

The Scanmach School
Training is just a start, as Scanmach is looking to take the concept even further by starting its own school – the Scanmach Education Centre.
A Danish headmaster, Michael Nordstrøm, has already been appointed and he is busy finding the right teachers and other necessities to get started.
“Basically its like being a “lærling” in Denmark (a combined technical school and trainee education, red). After two years you know the basics, and you will be able to start specializing in your strong points.”
Starting up the school is also a part of Arne’s long term plans for Scanmach.
“I believe that in the future we will take on more service and maintenance jobs. Today companies have their own people employed to do this. But I look longer term and foresee that companies will struggle to improve their core businesses and then need to outsource the services they need,” Arne explains.
For starters the school will run classes of four to eight pupils every second month. Doing the maths those numbers should quickly add up to the 60 people currently employed at Scanmach, but Arne isn’t counting on 100 percent output.
“Some people will quit the school and others will use the Scanmach training to get a job elsewhere,” Arne says adding that this is something the company is experiencing already.
“It is bad for us, but good for them, because they hopefully get a better paid job,” Arne says adding, “We can’t keep people here against their will, so if they find another job it is good for them and OK for us. Even though we spend the time training them, I think it is ok, if it helps them get a better life,” Arne says.

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