Bergen-based FRAMO are on an exciting innovation journey, and we have the privilege to be part of it. To learn more about what has motivated the pumping systems manufacturer to challenge themselves and invest in digitalization and design, we met with FRAMO's Marketing and Communications Manager, Geir Christian Helgesen.
For those who are not familiar with FRAMO – can you tell us a little bit about the company and what you do?
Framo was founded in Bergen in 1938, and since the acquisition by Alfa Laval in 2014 we're their pumping division. We're the leading manufacturer and provider of cargo pumps, with 4000 ships using our pumps and a total of 63 000 pumps installed on tanker vessels worldwide. Apart from the maritime and offshore sectors, we have also started investing in aquaculture.
You're on an innovation journey, where EGGS is involved – can you tell us more about that?
Many claim that the maritime sector is a traditional and conservative business, but we realized that there was an opening for development and change, that also could help the customer in a better way. We're quite a typical, engineering-driven company with a heavy focus on functionality and usability, not so much on design. So, we contacted EGGS and started working straight away with updating and redesigning a control panel. The result is a digitalized, fantastic looking panel with an improved user experience. After this project, we got hooked on using design and innovation methodologies and we are continuing with other projects. For example, we are now working on an exciting digital project where EGGS helps us with the design, structure, and frontend of the solution.
It's impressive that an organization with such a long history and tradition is open to change and innovation. What do you think is the motivation behind that?
In short, it's about business development and maintaining relevance. The market changes continuously, and you need to keep up. Three years ago, we decided that we needed to find a new leg to stand on. We started Framo Innovation and decided to enter the aquaculture industry and added that to our existing business areas – maritime and offshore. Innovation is extremely important to ensure that we expand and stay at the forefront.
"We were a bit skeptical of design methodology in the beginning. But soon everyone became engaged, and we opened up our eyes to this amazing process."Geir Christian Helgesen, Communications Manager, FRAMO
Do you have any tips on what businesses who are on similar journeys need to think about?
It's vital to anchor any new decisions or change internally, and in the companies’ top management. Without this, you run a high risk of failing, despite having great ideas or fantastic new solutions. When you involve people in the organization, they become more interested and engaged. Also, it's important to include clients. You need to know that you're innovating things that your customers actually need and want! Don't try to guess your way forward.
What made you chose to work with designers in general and with EGGS specifically?
Well, quite frankly, if we could've done this ourselves, we would have. Framo and those who work here like being self-sufficient. But we realised that we needed design and design thinking and that it was entirely out of our area of expertise. We contacted three different design agencies and chose EGGS simply because you had the maritime experience that we were looking for. Also, already in the first meeting, the chemistry felt great. You have several people with a background from NTNU, which facilitates when designers work with engineers. It gives credibility.
"EGGS has a fantastic level of experience within the maritime industry. You have many good projects to prove it."Geir Christian Helgesen, Communications Manager, FRAMO
What challenges do you see for FRAMO in the future?
The first thing I come to think of is our challenge concerning client relations. We've always invested a lot of time and energy in meeting personally and individually with our clients and potential clients. There's a lot of value in this. But, with the pandemic, this hasn't been possible to the same extent. Remote meetings and conversations have a different dynamic, and we need to adapt. We're already on our way, working with courses and training to make online meetings more dynamic and interactive.
What opportunities do you see?
At the same time, as Corona presents challenges, it opens up opportunities as well. This is especially true when it comes to training. We serve 4000 ships with 80 000 crew members each year. When we do training on-site, we manage to meet around 1000 people yearly. But, with online courses, we have the chance to "meet" and train every single one of them. Since we're not traveling, it also means we have more time on our hands to make our product even better, which is always a good thing.
Bergen is often said to be the maritime capital of Norway. How do you see the maritime industry development in the area?
It's a fascinating development! The maritime industry has always been conservative, but a lot has changed over the past three years. There has been an incredible focus on development and digitalization. I don't recognize the industry anymore - in a positive way!
"I don't recognize the maritime industry anymore - in a positive way!"Geir Christian Helgesen, Communications Manager, FRAMO
What do you think has been the driving factor in this change?
I think there are several driving factors. One of them might be the change in focus in society at large. Digitalization is happening everywhere. But I also believe one of the most important drivers is that the industry knows that it needs to change to keep a healthy margin. Digitalization opens up more efficient ways of working, remote operations, and other solutions. And for this, we need to use design, design thinking, and innovation. There's no way around it.
Get in touch with Head of Maritime
+47 919 24 414