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Not about to tank


VM Tarm produces aluminum, stainless steel and vacuum tankers for the transport of feed, liquid manure, chemicals and milk. There are also special tankers for mink feed and beer. “We are a familyowned company, and the largest and leading manufacturer of tankers for the transport industry in Northern Europe,” says Kristian Olsen, acting managing director of VM Tarm since May 2011. “We produce between 120 and 150 tankers a year, and our expertise in tanker development, construction and production is quite extensive.” Milk tankers make up the core of VM Tarm’s business. That is also the field where the company has ist origins. Today it accounts for 35% of the company’s sales.

“When I started, we generated turnover of 100 million DKK,” Mr. Olsen begins. “Now we are up to 200 million DKK. Sales of liquid manure are on the rise, and we can see that in the sales of our tanks. Biogas plants need that material as fuel and rely on tankers to deliver it. We see massive potential here.” Germany in particular has established a number of biogas plants recently. To take advantage of the situation, VM Tarm has appointed a new German sales rep. The areas of feed and chemicals are also gaining importance. In the past, VM Tarm made customized products, but it switched to standardized items for a more competitively priced range.

“We can keep spare parts in stock, which speeds up repairs and maintenance,” Mr. Olsen points out. “We can also reuse our designs, so we have the same starting point instead of starting from scratch for every customized order.” The production department is made up of five workshops: welding, components, chassis, electrical and assembly. Each workshop has specially trained staff who know their field perfectly and can provide their expertise in their specific area of work. Because production is not enough, VM Tarm offers repair services, as well.

“Our service workshop is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” the managing director points out. “Our staff in this workshop has good all-round knowledge to be able to repair or service any of our own tankers, as well as those from other manufacturers.” VM Tarm has been a success for more than half a century thanks to ist solutions. The shift to fewer areas of business has allowed the company to reduce costs in production and engineering with its standardized products.

“We had fewer model options and could really streamline what we offered,” Mr. Olsen describes the benefits of standardization. “It is also a lot easier for us to make calculations and quotations. We may not always have the best price, but having a larger time frame – the product is the cheapest according to maintenance, lifetime and weight.” With fewer models, the company as been able to work on the details, such as building lighter tankers than the competition. That, in turn, draws in customers, who work together with VM Tarm to develop the right tankers for their needs; it is a joint effort. Mr. Olsen himself is driven by the desire to win.

“It’s such an exciting company,” he comments. “It was really easy to come here and see how the company runs. There is great potential here. We just had to get the right people with the right qualifications to the right spot in the company. Then everything took off from there.” With his background in engineering, Mr. Olsen discovered early on the necessity of working in a team. He has brought that attitude with him, and that is how VM Tarm operates.

“We listen before we act,” he says. “What does production have to say? What about sales? Everyone can be heard.” Founded by Bernhard Lauritsen in 1962, VM Tarm has its complete production in Denmark. The site in Tarm encompasses an area of 38,000 m2, and 11,000 m2 is covered space. Prior to Mr. Olsen’s operating the company, VM Tarm had several areas of business, including oil and gas. The new managing director decided to refocus the company and offer only five segments. “We were no longer all-rounders; we became experts,” Mr. Olsen reports. “We had specialized salespeople for each segment, and we were able to combine production with our technical department. That allowed us to reduce costs, which are quite high in Denmark.”

After a slight reduction in staff, the team is up to 150 people. “We used to deal with a lot of countries in the European Union, even Iran and the US, but we now focus on special countries,” the managing director notes. “We’re very prominent in Denmark, as well as Norway and Sweden. We’ve recently acquired contacts in Germany and the UK, too.” About half of VM Tarm’s production is exported. Of that, Norway accounts for 30% and Sweden for another 20%. “We recently sent three milk tanks to Germany and seven to the UK, so you can see that those are new markets,” Mr. Olsen says. “We obtained the order from Germany because of our lighterweight tankers.” Several big customers are DSV, Arla, Carlsberg and ISS in addition to a Danish feed company called Danish Agro. The company acquires these and other customers by placing ads in magazines throughout its key market countries and also participates in exhibitions.

“We want to attend the Agrotechnica in Germany in two years’ time,” Mr. Olsen says. “We have huge market share here in Denmark – Norway and Sweden, too – but we are struggling a little to gain a foothold in Germany and the UK.” Last year was the best year in VM Tarm’s history. This year promises to be even better. Manpower and costs will remain in focus.

kristi“If you’re going to produce in Denmark, you need to be effective,” Mr. Olsen says. Over the next twelve months, the company will be working on developing sludge and vacuum tankers – a new project. “And at the beginning of April, we will be showing our tanker of the future,” the managing director reveals. “We had a twelve-month project to design a new generation of tankers, where being lightweight is standard. Our new tanker is 1,000 to 1,500 kg lighter than the old ones. The chassis is still the same, so a truck can carry a greater volume for the same weight.” This is, of course, beneficial to customers. They can transport more goods with fewer trucks, which ultimately means lower fuel consumption – a point for both the wallet and the environment. The breakeven point comes after three years, and the tanker can be used for another ten to twelve years after that. 2014 will also be a year for planning a strategy for 2017.

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