The editorial team of Flexo+Tief-Druck spoke with Thomas Eskildsen, Chief Operating Officer (COO) and Quality Manager at Vetaphone A/S in Denmark, and learned a lot about what goes on behind the scenes of a technology leader.
To start this interview, would you please tell our readers something about your personal background.
Thomas Eskildsen: I was born here in Kolding and grew up just outside the city. As a teenager I intended to go on and study biology but through my parents and their friends and colleagues I’d always had a connection with the metal working industry – and to this day the distinct smell of machining metal and welding has a deep-down appeal and brings back happy memories.
But you didn’t pursue your biology studies?
Thomas Eskildsen: No – after high school I served in the army for a year and took a liking to mechanical assemblies. Before starting my studies, I worked at a metal working factory for a year to save up some money, and one year later I ended up starting as an apprentice instead of moving away to attend university as originally planned.
How did your early career pan out?
Thomas Eskildsen: After my apprenticeship in CNC machining, I had a mix of jobs like training apprentices and new colleagues, and programming. The company I was working for had started a LEAN project and I got involved in different aspects of that process. At the same time, I started attending evening classes for management and project management. My days ended up being mostly about LEAN work.
How did that progress?
Thomas Eskildsen: I helped set up a new production line, and when that was done, I was offered a similar task at a different company and ended up working within the composite industry for just under a year. After that, I took on the challenge of implementing an ISO 9001 quality system at a metal working factory. I was in charge of the project and was responsible for the quality system once it has been approved.
How did you come to join Vetaphone?
Thomas Eskildsen: I was living about 10 minutes on foot away from Vetaphone, and my workplace was a 1-hour drive away, so when I saw there was an opening for a Production Manager at the company, I applied. I have a friend who worked for Vetaphone at that time, so I had some insight into the company and its culture, which resulted in me having coffee with Vetaphone’s CEO Frank Eisby one evening after work. During the interview process the job changed character and ended up being a position as Quality Manager.
When did you start and what was it like?
Thomas Eskildsen: On the First of May 2017, just in time to be part of moving the whole administration into our showroom. This involved rearranging production while we renovated the entire factory building and trying hard not to be a disruptive influence – or at least as little as possible. I must say that the approach that all my new colleagues took to the turmoil cemented my impression that Vetaphone has a very special ‘can do’ culture.
What do you like about working for the company?
Thomas Eskildsen: Mostly, I like the Informal and flat management structure we have here. We can communicate effectively across functions and departments, and there are good opportunities for taking on a diverse array of tasks. In my six years here, we have been growing continually and my responsibilities have changed accordingly. The ongoing development of our organisation and products means there is never a dull moment. We are very agile, and decisions are made not only by the Directors but to a large degree by the Management Team, with valuable input from our solid base of experienced and dedicated work colleagues.
What is your job function now, and what are the challenges?
Thomas Eskildsen: I’m the COO and Quality Manager responsible for production and the performance of the Quality system. I have a great team around me, and we are constantly pushing to develop the organisation and increase our output. Over the last couple of years, we have battled the same global supply crisis/issues as everyone else in our line of business, and we still experience problems from time to time today. We have increased our stock of standard items and placed orders on a long horizon with our suppliers. The biggest challenges we face now are having sufficient production capacity, and the long lead times on non-standard components.
How do you assess the current state of the market?
Thomas Eskildsen: Sourcing-wise, it’s much better than last year. With regard to orders, different regions react in their own way to local or global trends, but we are seeing a steady influx of new orders. What is really encouraging is the increase in demand for wide web systems coming through the pipeline, especially systems with high complexity that end up in our special project portfolio.
Looking ahead, what are your ambitions for the future?
Thomas Eskildsen: First of all, I intend to finish my Diploma of Leadership over the coming winter. Both the company and the industry are very different now to when I started in 2017, and I’m looking forward to seeing the next stages of our development. We have ambitious goals for growth, a great team and a solid foundation both financially and culturally, so I think the future of Vetaphone will be very interesting to be part of.
And on the personal side?
Thomas Eskildsen: Well, I’m still living in Kolding, close by the company, with my wife Elisa and three children, Linus, Ines, and Tobias. As a family we enjoy climbing, we are all active in the local Scout group and enjoy spending time in nature whenever possible. When I have any spare time as a Dad of three youngsters, I like to go hunting and fishing!