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“I think day one will be a bit like turning 18. The coffee will still taste the same in the morning and daily life will be fairly similar to before. But the possibilities are suddenly infinitely greater,” says Jouni Ruohonen.
Since 2011, he has been working in customer facing roles at Rolls-Royce Commercial Marine, and is currently leading the department that support sales when Azimuth Thrusters are being offered to customers. Today, in mid-February, he is meeting Maria Gallardo in Rauma in western Finland. She is a regional service coordinator for navigation systems at Kongsberg Maritime and is getting a tour of the premises that KONGSBERG will be taking over in April.
“But it’s also the day we can finally start working together. It’s not just about switching logo and coveralls, but about being able to talk together, help each other, use the same tools and say hi on Skype,” says Maria.
Last year, on the last day before the general staff vacation, the message came through: KONGSBERG offers nok 5 billion to take over Rolls-Royce Commercial Marine – the largest acquisition in the company’s history. The reactions came shortly after. In the Facebook comments, one user wrote: “Ulsteinvik celebrates today.” For Rolls-Royce employees, the day marked the end of several months of nervous waiting.
“Everyone knew we were getting new owners but no one knew exactly when. So we waited. A long time. We got some information along the way, but not much. We have a culture here that says you should not waste any effort on things you cannot do anything about. But then the human mind works in such a way that it thinks about it nonetheless.”
“It must have been scary being in limbo in that way,” says Maria.
“Very! Change is always a little scary. But there was a great atmosphere here when we learned that it was KONGSBERG that would be taking over. It was clearly the best option,” says Jouni.
Maria knows that Kongsberg Maritime is looking forward to getting new colleagues.
“Lots of people have already begun to look at new ideas. We hope to get to know people and gain new knowledge that can take us even further”, says Maria.
Rolls-Royce has been present in Rauma for years. The first product left the factory floor in 1965. Today, around 500 employees spend their days designing and manufacturing azimuth thrusters and offering services to customers. A large-scale refurbishment was recently completed. Over NOK 500 million has been invested in new, modern and more efficient premises.
There are three production lines: with respective lifting capacities of 40, 80 and an ambitious 200 metric tons. And a sauna, of course. Jouni picks up a pine needle from the floor.
“Everything was pretty old and worn down. Then the whole factory was fully upgraded, and the opening ceremony was held in January. It has streamlined the operation. We are now able to manufacture more thrusters than before with reduced carbon footprint. Therefore, it’s important for us to keep it nice and tidy,” says Jouni.
He grew up close to the little town of Rauma, one of Finland’s oldest towns. Many of the 40,000 residents live in small, well-preserved wooden houses that have earned the town a place on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. Nevertheless, Jouni’s parents received a clear message when he received an offer to study in the city: “I’m never moving back here.” Six years later he got a job at Rolls- Royce and moved back.
Maria lives in Kongsberg but is originally from the shipyard town of Ferrol in north-western Spain. She grew up with the same view as from the production facilities in Rauma. She may be the first Spaniard to say the following in Western Finland: “It’s just like being home.”
From 1 April, the two companies will become one, and 3,600 Rolls-Royce employees worldwide will swap out the double R for a single K. A sad moment?
“No, no! But I am of course proud of the Rolls-Royce logo and brand. Everyone is, both internally, among customers and even in our families. We are well known and respected in the maritime sector. And that pride ensures people are always there for each other,” says Jouni.
“I understand that feeling well. I feel at home when I see the KONGSBERG logo. No matter where in the world I am. And maybe it will take some time before you identify with it too, but I’m absolutely sure you will feel just as much at home here as you have done at Rolls-Royce,” says Maria.
The merger has a number of advantages. For example, it will allow products to already be connected when they are delivered to the customer. Systems that interact with each other from the beginning rather than having to link them together after production. And it will also strengthen the services as the company will be present all around the globe. A sea of possibilities. Most importantly, it will unite forces in a market that is on the way back up again.
“At Rauma, we have specialised in mechanics and hydraulics, especially thrusters. And you guys have been leading the way with respect to navigation, automation and dynamic positioning. What we can achieve together, the doors we can open by bringing together two large players under the same roof… I don’t know if people have properly reflected on it yet. We can now deliver the whole package,” says Jouni enthusiastically.
Maria agrees. Thinking about the future is one of the most important things they do, and now they can shape it together. The combined knowledge will provide huge benefits in the market.
“Imagine having development teams in each of our companies sitting with each other’s answers in front of them. We will be able to share the knowledge needed to make the next big thing. We’ve undoubtedly kept secrets from each other and now we can finally share them”, says Maria.
The technology and equipment they develop and install in large ships is one of the things that makes her proud to work at Kongsberg Maritime.
“To have contributed to a ship sailing in the dark, in total silence, perhaps in the Caribbean, with a happy captain under a starry sky. And to know that the whole bridge is provided by us. That’s when I feel I’m working for something big. That’s when I feel I almost own the ship,” says Maria.
Jouni also has no doubts about what makes him proud of his job.
“I’ve always liked the way we take care of our people. That we always think about what’s best for employees, whether it concerns safety, travel or something else. We treat people like people. I’ve seen a lot of things, and Rolls-Royce is really good at this.”
“That’s exactly what we have in common. Everyone should be happy at work. And if something happens, people are taken care of. It’s part of the KONGSBERG culture. We are more than colleagues, we are a small family that works together,” says Maria.
Now she will soon get 3,600 new family members all around the world. A clarification of expectations is in order.
“Most of all, I expect good cooperation, and that applies to both parties. I expect that we will be keen to make contact from day one and that we will be there for each other. What do you think, Jouni?” asks Maria.
“I don’t actually have any expectations other than that things will be very good. I look forward to the day we start working together, but that’s also when the journey begins. And I think that journey will be absolutely amazing.”