EB: Kitron is a leading electronics manufacturing services company with operations in Norway, Sweden, Lithuania, Germany, China and the United States and enjoys an excellent reputation around the globe. What are the important milestones in the company’s development that have led to this vanguard market position?
Tommy P. Storstein: Kitron banks on a long history. The company was founded in 1962 with its roots in Elektrisk Bureau, Statronic and Ericsson. One of its first products was a telephone exchange developed by Ericsson. Over the years we shifted focus from developing our own products to become an independent contract manufacturing supplier of electronics. And in 1997, we became a public company and were listed on the Oslo stock exchange. In 1999, we established a base in Sweden by acquiring two production facilities from Bofors and Saab. As of then we became one of the biggest and leading suppliers of electronics manufacturing in Scandinavia. In 2001, based on market developments as well as on customer requests, we decided to set up a site in Lithuania in order to be able to manufacture in a low-cost country. For the same reason, we started to source selected components from China and eventually established a sourcing office outside Shanghai in addition to our existing channels in Europe. This way, we benefitted from being a global supply chain provider. In 2010, we built a manufacturing plant in China, next to our sourcing office. As more and more customers focused on the Asian markets, we felt the responsibility to support them and to decrease their time to market. To support our growth strategy, we did a market study of the German market. Scandinavia is without doubt a big market, but Germany is five times bigger. In 2009, we started our German adventure and acquired a small EMS company near Stuttgart. This local setup enabled us to offer our services with close proximity and support to clients in the DACH region. Additionally, being able to support our customers with manufacturing capabilities in the United States starting in 2010 was another huge milestone.
EB: Given this impressive dynamic development, how many employees work for Kitron today, and what are the company’s core competences and markets?
Tommy P. Storstein: Kitron has 1,200 employees worldwide and an annual turnover of around 220 million EUR. We are very proud that staff turnover is extremely low, even in China, which is unusual. People identify with our sustainable philosophy, and the company’s Scandinavian mentality is highly attractive. Basically, we manufacture everything from fully assembled electronic circuit boards to complete end products based on customers’ requirements and needs. Services includes the entire value chain related to manufacturing an electronic product from cradle to grave. Our customers are in the medical, defence/aerospace, offshore/marine, energy/telecoms and industry sectors, and turnover is spread out equally in these sectors. They are operating in different areas, but they all have highly complex products or markets demanding high requirements of the manufacturing processes. We work for companies within low-volume high-mix production. We are proud to have well-known global players such as BAE, GE, Bombardier, ABB and many others as our references.
EB: Why should companies work with Kitron? What exactly is the benefit for them?
Tommy P. Storstein: In a nutshell, cooperating with Kitron means greater flexibility, cost efficiency, sustainability and innovative power along the entire value chain. One of our customers is ABB. When they develop new products, we support them in the development phase, we advise on design and product layout to optimize manufacturing efficiency, we analyze components to make sure that they are available throughout the life cycle of the product and to ensure best value for money, we develop tests to make sure that the product will comply with all requirements and specifications, and we run prototypes to seal the approval. In a next step, we concentrate on making the serial production of the product as LEAN as possible to shorten lead time and to drive cost reduction programs. To sum up, we deliver outstanding value by offering competence in technology and processes, manufacturing efficiency and yield improvements, optimized costs and constant improvements.
EB: Can you tell us about Kitron’s future projects?
Tommy P. Storstein: There are many projects in the pipeline. We recently invested in our manufacturing capacity from Lithuania to support our expected growth. We are also focusing on streamlining our production in Norway. We will continue to invest and improve our sourcing capabilities. And we will monitor any new technology closely which may improve our manufacturing efficiency. Our main goal will always be to add value for customers. We need to be cost efficient and to realize that what our competitive edge is today will be a commodity tomorrow.
EB: Thank you for the interview.