Attracting and retaining great staff is a perennial challenge for manufacturing.
When you find talented team members it makes sense to hang on to them - whether that's through the development of mentorship programmes, provision of recognition and rewards, training and development opportunities or encouraging employee work-life balance.
Here at FB Chain, our track record for staff retention is possibly a little unusual - with four of the key personnel across our five businesses having worked for the company, in different roles, for at least twenty years.
In this blog post we find out a little about their backgrounds, their observations of changes within the industrial chain industry over the years, and why they've chosen to stay with FB for so long.
FB Ketten GmbH - Matthias Berls (20 years' service)
Matthias Berls joined FB Ketten in 1999 as a Sales Technician in the company's back office and was promoted to Sales Manager in 2004.
In 2005 he was appointed as FB Ketten's Managing Director.
What changes have you seen in the industry since you first started with FB?
"A lot of competitors have come up which has challenged us to do what we do in an even better way. We've also seen a lot of imitators, but this has just confirmed for us that we are on the right track."
What is your favourite industry segment and why?
"The sawmill industry - because there are such a wide variety of chain applications and different challenges for the products to have to overcome. It's always satisfying to come up up with the right solutions. It's also great to have the opportunity to interact with so many people across the breadth of the industry from the maintenance personnel to the general managers."
Why have you stayed so long with the same company?
"It's definitely down to good ownership - there is the potential to develop and to explore career opportunities. There's a lot of freedom and also much responsibility. And a real sense of closeness and connection with the business - as if it's your own company."
What's been your proudest moment at FB Ketten?
"There's always a sense of pride whenever anyone in our team is successful or does a great job. For me personally though it's been great to develop and establish the INNO with my team and to see the whole group champion this product."
FB Ketten Handelsgesellschaft - Thomas Wagner (28 years' service)
Thomas Wagner joined FB in 1991 as sales support, before moving into roles as Sales Technician and Sales Manager.
Thomas has been Executive Director of FB Ketten Handelsgesellschaft since 2003.
What's changed in the chain industry since you started?
"What's really struck me is the increase in speed - everything is just so much faster today."
Which is your favourite industry segment and why?
"Number one is the forestry industry - in particular saw mills, chip board and pulp and paper. This is the sector where we first started and the area that I know the most, having worked with customers in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, France, Belgium, the Czech Republic and Russia. Number two is the cement industry because we have so many heavy applications and heavy chains. As a sales technician I especially used to enjoy the challenge of measuring chain wear and carrying out chain calculations."
Why have you chosen to stay so long with the one company?
"The combination of freedom and responsibility that it offers. The opportunities for self-development and to support my employees to develop themselves. My goal is always to make each one better than me."
What's been your greatest achievement at FB?
"What I like most is being able to offer customers a solution that saves them time and money and that offers a better performance. Sometimes at the beginning these solutions can look costly - but in the long-term they are always much cheaper for the customer. To win such a project is always the best motivation."
FB Kedjor AB - John Karlsson (20 years' service)
John Karlsson joined FB Kedjor AB in Eskilstuna in June 1999 and this year marked his twentieth year as Sales Manager. In May 2019 he was officially appointed as FB Kedjor AB's Managing Director.
What changes have you seen in the industry since you started?
"Customers are more into customised solutions and almost all chains have special features to improve performance. Customers also want turn-key projects - so not just buying chain but also the combination of components and the fitting of that solution to the machine."
What is your favourite segment of the industry and why?
"Pulp and paper because it's a sector that's at the forefront of modern technology and sustainable production. The businesses we deal with are big ones and the installations we provide are customised to their needs."
Why have you stayed so long with FB?
"It's a steady company - driven by people for people. There's a strong emphasis on development both professionally and personally."
What's been your proudest moment?
"Helping shape FB Nordic into a creative, profitable and market leading supplier that keeps sustainability in mind."
FB Chain UK - Peter Church (20 years' service)
FB Chain's UK Managing Director Peter Church joined the company in 1988 as an internal sales representative working with the leaf chain aftermarket. In 2000 he departed FB - later returning in 2010 as its new MD.
What changes have you seen in the chain industry since the 1980s?
"When I first started all orders were done on the phone or by fax. Now almost everything is email. Back in 1990 our cut off time for placing orders was always 4.00pm - which at the time amazed our customers. Now people place orders at 5.30pm and can still expect next day delivery."
What's your favourite industry segment and why?
"Telehandlers - at the design stage it can be a real challenge to fit everything into the space in the boom. We're also constantly working with customers to help their machines lift higher and heavier loads. JIT delivery can also be very satisfying."
Why have you stayed so long with FB?
"Our owners make it very clear that the success of the company is not only seen on the balance sheet. They want the business, and its people, to develop. The key values and measures have been consistent over many years which helps us to make to make good long term decisions (even if there's sometimes short-term pain.)"
What's been your proudest achievement?
"There have been a few - the move into the new building without any disruption to our customers; the investment in production automation and the seamless transition to a new computer system. But underpinning this has been the people whom I've seen grow and develop in my nine years as MD."