“Trust the team” is Thomas Bergan’s mantra, as he embarks on a giga manufacturing mission with FREYR
Thomas Bergan’s first job was as a mechanical engineer in Freia, the renowned Norwegian chocolate factory. He’d decided to follow in his father’s footsteps, pursuing a higher education in the field of engineering, because he says, “I didn’t actually know what I wanted to do.”
This indecisiveness evaporated while he was at Freia. Bergan says that he immediately got involved in optimization work on the production line.
His first instinct was to improve the process through automation. But it turned out that the best solution was already in the heads of the people who worked on the production line. By talking to them, listening to their ideas, and making several small adjustments, the line began performing at a much higher level and additional investments were no longer needed
“The cooperation between man and machine triggered something in me,” he says. “And so, I jumped from engineering to a career in managing production lines. I haven’t looked back since.”
It’s difficult to get an exact count on the number of products that Bergan has had a hand in manufacturing, but they range from semiconductors to electrical cabinets, to doors and windows and even subsea equipment.
Now he has landed in FREYR, as ‘SVP Production’ for the company’s giga factory operations in Mo i Rana Norway.
What attracted you to FREYR?
Bergan: It was the chance to participate in building something from the ground up. To not only build a manufacturing facility but also to build a culture. It was an opportunity for me to create a foundation for an organization. FREYR’s mission and the environmental role the company plays were also important to me. It was a challenge that I couldn’t say ‘no’ to. And so, I bought a flat in Mo i Rana before I even visited the city.
You’ve had a long career in manufacturing. What is the most important lesson you’ve learned?
Bergan: I have gained a lot of experience over the years, both in how you do things and how not to do things. The most important lesson I’ve learned is to trust the team. This is absolutely essential, something that is especially critical as we build our operations in FREYR right now.
How would you describe your leadership style?
Bergan: Building trust is so important because you need to give the team the support and space to do their work. I don’t micro-manage. It’s essential to demonstrate, by example, that people have a direct impact on what we do and how we do it. I strive to ensure my team has the best possible tools and support necessary to succeed on their tasks.
This is easy to say, but in reality, it’s something that must be top of mind every day.
What is FREYR’s operations team focused on now?
Bergan: Right now, we are about 40 people in operations in Mo i Rana. We are currently entering a more operational phase and soon taking over the Customer Qualification Plant (CQP) and Test Center. This is what we’ve been preparing for and working towards. It’s not just PowerPoints and plans anymore; it’s time for real action!
What’s your five-year vision for your operations team in FREYR?
Bergan: Five years from now, I envision autonomous teams with high competency and high confidence when operating our plants. We will have the right people and the tools, and we will have a great culture, which is at the heart of our inevitable operational success. This is what will enable us to hit all our targets – on safety, quality, and efficiency.
Not only that, it’s also about trust and commitment. There are a lot of people cheering us on, especially across the local municipality. Many people outside of FREYR are also doing a lot of work to help us succeed. This is important. It’s a team effort. And this is what keeps us motivated to deliver on a giga scale.