When the project goes awry – the CEO’s suit is swapped for overalls

When the project goes awry – the CEO’s suit is swapped for overalls

Projects can go wrong! Everyone knows this but it’s rarely admitted in public or above all, recognised by those that matter. According to Bo Birkemose, the CEO of FRECON, acknowledging that a project error has happened is crucial, because it must be dealt with as quickly and effectively as possible. This is why he will also readily swap his suit for his overalls when things are urgent. Thus recently, he spent a whole week helping out at a machine workshop in Falster.

“When an error occurs in a customer project and the schedule goes awry, it’s our responsibility to fix things as quickly as possible. Because the delivery still has to meet the deadline and the agreed quality,” says Bo Birkemose, CEO at the engineering company FRECON. Bo doesn’t doubt for a second that mistakes happen from time to time during major and complex engineering projects, but the difference to the overall result lies in how those mistakes are dealt with. In this regard, you must never think you’re too fine to admit mistakes have happened, and to step up and find a solution.

Bo Birkemose acts fast when things are urgent. In May, a customer project had gone badly awry at FRECON, whose task was to design and manufacture a 26-tonne test bench for testing components for floating offshore foundations. “Unfortunately, during the design phase some mistakes were made due to among other things, the fact that we had not clarified the requirements for the test bench thoroughly enough and because other design problems arose during the process. It took a long time to fix things, so the schedule went awry,” explains Bo.

But at FRECON, Bo insisted that neither the customer Stiesdal Offshore Technologies, nor the manufacturer Nøhrs Maskinfabrik, should be penalised because of internal mistakes made at FRECON. In any case, the test bench had to be delivered to the agreed quality and functionality and fitted for test at Lindø Offshore Renewables Center (LORC) as agreed.

Therefore, Bo immediately took a week from his own schedule and put on his overalls at Nøhrs Maskinfabrik to help them reduce the production time.

Bo is a qualified marine and technical engineer. He also has extensive experience in automation and as a blacksmith and machinist; skills that he really needed when he operated the lathe at the machinery manufacturer’s facility.

Photograph: Bo Birkemose, CEO at FRECON A/S, puts on his overalls and lends a hand when things are really urgent.

“Nøhrs Maskinfabrik were really excellent. They dealt with the increased pressure by acquiring not very common materials in record time, and quickly made machine time and resources available. It was amazing! We all worked very hard – the entire week from 5 in the morning to 11 in the evening,” says Bo.

It might not be the most conventional procedure for Bo, but as he points out: “As the director, you have to lead from the front and set a good example. If the schedule goes awry, it’s clearly an advantage being able to help your employees and partners by getting involved as an extra hands-on resource when necessary. For me it’s crucial that all of us successfully solve the challenges.”

Despite a difficult start, the test bench for floating offshore foundations was delivered completely in accordance with the customer agreement and is functioning faultlessly. It is now being used with tests on a number of components for a floating offshore wind turbine foundation to show that they are able to withstand the enormous forces that they are exposed to.

Henrik Stiesdal, CEO at Stiesdal Offshore Technologies:

“It’s not like something going wrong during a special project has never happened before. As the customer in such a situation, it can be a struggle getting the mistakes corrected and you may often find yourself with unavoidable delays. This wasn’t the case with the test bench. Bo Birkemose personified something that we really like about FRECON and he literally took ownership of the problem. It resulted in a successful outcome, where despite the worries along the way, we acquired our test bench at the agreed price, the desired deadline and at the desired quality. And it works perfectly!”