Diary of a trip to Norway to discover antifoulings

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Sandefjord, Norway.
I immediately look on the map for the location of this place whose existence I was unaware of: since Jotun (
www.jotun.it
), a Norwegian giant that produces antifouling paints, has invited me to visit its factory and research and development center, I don’t want to be caught unprepared. Sandefjord is located in Vestfold county, on the eastern side of the southern part of Norway, in close proximity to Sweden (on the rugged coast of the Skagerrak). A small industrial center of 60,000 souls, its economy revolves around shipbuilding and chemicals-Jotun is a major player in the local economy (think the company even owns a museum in the city center).


AN “EVENTFUL” LANDING

I’m leaving from Linate. I have a stopover in Amsterdam and from there I fly to Sandefjord: as we are landing, the commander, as quietly as possible, makes an announcement, which I translate to you, roughly, like this, “Ladies and gentlemen, there is a fog on the runway that you can’t cut with a hatchet, we will try to land three times. If we don’t succeed, we will have a stopover in Oslo“. Am I the only one looking around agitated? All very quiet my fellow Scandinavian travelers. Either way, it feels like landing on a very thick surface of powdered sugar. When the trolley touches the runway I start a round of applause for the commander but realize I am the only one. Okay, got it. Here it is business as usual to land in thin air. At the airport I meet other journalists (Spanish, Dutch, English, French) and a bus takes us to the hotel. Everything is covered with snow and the temperature is below zero.

LESSON!
The next day the alarm clock is very early: time to gorge on salmon and there I am sitting at the school desk, just like in high school.
To learn everything there is to know about antifouling, European environmental regulations on the Why Jotun has the penguin as its brand name. (the animal represents four values by which the company is inspired: Loyalty, Care, Respect and Audacity), about its history (Odd Gleditsch founded the company in 1926 after opening a store in 1920: now Jotun has 10,000 employees scattered around the world, 64 companies in 45 countries and 37 manufacturing plants in 21 countries). I really appreciate this “Nordic” approach: first they give you all the tools to better understand a product and a market, then comes the “practical part.”

THE RESEARCH CENTER AND MUSEUM
In this case, the practice consists of daily visits to the Jotun research and development center and museum. Very interesting both. The research center is very neat, clean. Norwegian-style, in short. A chemist explained to us how product formulation and testing takes place, both statically and dynamically, on rollers rotating in water at different speeds to understand how an antifouling paint layer wears off.

The museum recounts the life, death and miracles of the company, from its inception (in 1920, as mentioned above) to its growth and expansion around the world, not forgetting tragic moments such as the fire at the Sandefjord factory that cost the lives of six employees in 1976. Nowadays, the word “storytelling” is very fashionable, especially when it comes to conveying corporate values. Those at Jotun can tell them very well, no doubt about it.

AS VICHINGHIES
In the evening, a “Viking event” was organized for us. That is, the visit to the site where the Viking ship Gokstad (now in Oslo) was found, in a shed where a seagoing replica is built, complete with a snack of craft beer and typical cured meats (I’m just telling you: whale, moose, reindeer), the trip up a mountain to discover Viking sports such as axe-throwing (where I did not shine) and horizontal “bungee jumping attached to a log, ending with dinner at a cabin to the sound of reindeer stew and dancing and performances by a famous Norwegian traveling theater company, Stella Polaris.


THE FACTORY.

Recovering from “Viking fever,” the next day I wake up early in the morning (more salmon) and go to visit the Jotun factory. What strikes me is the incredible organization of the factory, where there is a relaxed atmosphere and everything is taken care of down to the last detail (perhaps too much for an Italian like me).


We follow the production process from the beginning, that is, the foraging of raw materials and to their mixing based on “recipes” pioneered in the R&D center, to computer-controlled canning and storage in a giant Modern Times-style “hangar.” I confess that I expected to find organization, but not so much.

I leave Sandefjord (this time with a smooth takeoff) aware that from now on I will look at a can of antifouling paint with different eyes. A small work of art, a concentrate of know-how.

Eugene Ruocco

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