Step-by-Step with Skanem in Thailand

Skanem is one of the largest suppliers of self-adhesive labels in Europe dating back to 1905. The company specializes in making all kind of labels serving large national and multinational customers. With factories in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, UK, Poland, Germany, Russia and the newbie in Thailand (which has just had its grand opening on 20 June 2007), Skanem is now in full steam of expanding its presence to Asia.

A Great Team Work

According to Ole Rugland, the owner and group president of Skanem, success wouldn’t happen without good teamwork and trust. This is one of the reasons he positioned Alf Møller to be responsible for the operation of Skanem in Bangkok.
Previous to Skanem, Alf worked for Dyno Industries as General Manager at one of their plants. He joined Skanem in 1997 to work with Metal Packaging and restructuring of Riflex Film. At the end of 2004 he was transferred to Skanem’s biggest self-adhesive factory in Newcastle, England as a Managing Director. After staying in Newcastle for one and a half year, Alf was asked to take care of the new Skanem site in Thailand.
“I have to admit that I was a bit nervous when I first got here in November 2006, the factory’s construction was more or less done, but we needed to build up a complete organization from scratch” says Alf Moller.
“In the beginning we only had two staff. It was very challenging and interesting to set things off, to recruit the right people on board. But we did it, now we have 30 employees working for our site.”
“It is all about trust,” Alf continues.
“I trust the head person of each department to recruit their own people, we’re building this stone by stone, taking things step by step and now we’re developing gradually.”
Skanem Bangkok reached its first goal when they passed the quality audit and started with deliveries in July.
“I’m impressed with the organization. We are all new to each other, but in a short period of time, a good team has been established and together we managed to pass the quality audit.” Alf continues.

Potential Customers

The reason Skanem set up a factory here was because they were challenged by one of their multinational customers.
“That is why we are here. Our strategy is to work with large national and multinational companies. We believe our experience and synergy from other sites can add value and we try to target this group as our potential customers.”
According to Alf, he has just hired a new sales manager to develop the market for Skanem in Thailand.
“At the start it is important to get known, to get our name out in the market. Today we have a few orders from Thai customers. Our new sales person is very active. She is helping us reaching out for more local customers, although I have to say that it is a bit tough to compete in the local market,” says Alf.

The target

Skanem’s main goal is to be the preferred supplier of labels to large national and multinational customers in selected market segments and to explore further expansion in selected high-growth areas.
“The focus in the group is to get the factory in Thailand up and running before we decide on further expansion,” says Alf.
“Now the factory is ready. Our aim is to live up to the contract, to get more customers, locally and internationally before we expand our presence in Thailand and South East Asia,”
“Skanem is an entrepreneurial company and have ambitions to grow. Our values are based on trust, team spirit and continuous improvements.” he continues.
“We hope to develop the company further with local management. It doesn’t work building up the company with a group of expats, we need to work as one team with the local Thai management”
“If I need any technical, finance or purchasing support, it is very easy to get that from my colleagues in Europe. With this support and the local management we will develop Skanem in Thailand.” Alf concludes.

Thai-Scandinavian Style

Despite that Alf is the only “farang” in the factory. He is blending into a Thai working style and environment quite well.
“I really enjoy working here although sometimes there’s a language barrier between me and the staff on the shop floor. It takes time to learn and understand the culture, but Thai people have a positive attitude and always have a smile on their face,” Alf says with a smile.
“One thing I’ve learned from working here is that the Scandinavian style is a bit more direct and not always appropriate. I can be more straightforward in meetings if I’m back in Norway, but here you have to spend a little bit more time getting into the right dialogue or asking for advice.”
“I think what matters here is the relationship and how to build up understanding and trust. It is not that difficult because Thai people are very friendly and some of our staff here have experienced working with western companies before.” says Alf.
When asked about work ethic, Alf said at Skanem they keep everything transparent and clear. Everything should be open and honest so they can gain trust from the customers.

Life in Thailand

From Newcastle Alf moved to Thailand with his wife Anne-Lise, his 14 years old daughter Oda and his twin son and daughter of 13 years old Mathias and Sofie. They still keep in contact with their family in Norway, but also like to travel to new places in their holidays. They’re staying in the north part of Bangkok and their children are attending the International School of Bangkok.
“I was planning to stay a bit longer in England but then there was this opportunity in Thailand so I discussed it with my family and we all agreed that it would be nice to come here,” says Alf.
“Moving here was not much of a big step in terms of staying abroad compared to England, but it is a bigger step in terms of culture and language,”
“The children were a bit skeptical at first but now they are quite positive, settling in with friends and school. My wife is busy following up the kids, exercising and has also attended a Thai course to be able to communicate some basics with the Thais. Regularly she meets up with people from the Scandinavian Society in Thailand. “I spend my free time with my family and like to have a nice run in the morning,” Alf finishes.


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