Why do 9 corporate presidents and 20 other high-ranked employees from one company hand out buns and coffee at my university today? Surely they made my morning more pleasant, but that doesn’t deliver the shareholder’s return on investment. Or will it… in the long run? This company believes students are more important than one day of business-as-usual. This is the story of why quality starts at the university for a world-leading Norwegian firm: The Kongsberg Group.
Next year, the Kongsberg Group turns 200 years. One of the oldest companies in the world has survived due to its competence. The engineering competence has made Kongsberg a world-leading company in many high-tech niches. Kongsberg’s products vary from deep-sea radars and autonomous underwater vehicles, via marine sensor systems and world-leading remote weapon systems, to jet-fighter parts and outer-space technology. Kongsberg has 7000 employees who deliver 82 % of the sales outside Norway. To win outside the home market, a company like Kongsberg must have the best products. In these markets, “best” equals “world-leading quality”.
Today the presidents do not only give out buns and smile; Kongsberg has designed a full day for the engineering students. In a welcome presentation, CEO Walter Quam gives an excellent introduction of his firm (considering his emphasis on the importance of quality, his name is probably an abbreviation for Walter Qualityman). He explains that Kongsberg deliver “extreme performance for extreme conditions”. Kongsberg is an engineering intensive company. Many products need all technological subjects at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. No product is a one man job. 199 years of operations, has convinced Kongsberg that future quality starts at the school bench.
Through my research in SINTEF, I have been working with three different Kongsberg divisions over the last five years. I know personally that Kongsberg is serious with their slogan: World class, through people, technology and dedication.