The art of leadership

Jotun has maintained its number one position in marine coatings despite the “horrific” market conditions of the past few years: adapting, evolving and building to stay ahead. Now, says CEO Morten Fon, with what appears to be “light at the end of the tunnel”, the company is well positioned to consolidate that leadership.

Morten Fon is smiling. Nothing unusual about that, you may think, given the affable nature of the long-term Jotun chief (soon to be celebrating 30 years with the business, with the last 13 as CEO). However, what makes this flash of enamel noteworthy is its display during a discussion on the prospects for the marine coatings segment – a segment that, he freely admits, has endured “horrific” conditions for much of the last decade. “There are clear signs of light at the end of the tunnel,” he says, referencing the fact that Jotun signed contracts for three times the number of newbuildings in 2018 as it did the previous year. “Short to mid-term, there are better times ahead,” Fon adds, noting: “By Nor-Shipping in June we should all, hopefully, be smiling just a little bit more.”

Enabling opportunity
Jotun has been a familiar face at Nor-Shipping since the Oslo and Lillestrøm based event week swung open its doors 54 years ago. Fon calls it a “vital arena” to meet the firm’s global customer base, showcase innovations and take the pulse of an industry that, like Jotun, is constantly evolving.

“Nor-Shipping provides a window into the future,” he states.

“Gathering a vast array of industry stakeholders in one place so we can gauge development, identify trends and plan cooperation to fulfil future potential. It constantly builds on existing strength to enable new opportunity – and that fits perfectly with our own approach.” It’s an approach that has paid huge dividends for Jotun over the past 90+ years.

Platform of expertise
When the family-owned business filled its first paint tin in 1926 its sights were sent firmly on the local whaling market. At that point Norway was a world leader in what is today an increasingly unpalatable industry, with Sandefjord recognized as its national hub. Jotun built its base opposite the local shipyard Framnes (birthplace of many famous vessels, including Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance) and devised specialized coatings for a fleet operating in some of the world’s most inhospitable waters.

Clipper HPS 61. Photo credit Jotun

This expertise provided a platform to move into the wider shipping market, which in turn gave Jotun the understanding to prosper in the energy segment when Norway struck oil offshore in the late 60s and 70s. Fast forward and the business, which now employs close to 10,000 staff (or ‘Penguins’, as they call them) across facilities in more than 70 countries, has evolved to establish either strong or leading positions in the worldwide decorative (domestic), protective, energy and marine segments.

At home in Sandefjord Jotun is a true local hero – its name is everywhere. The same can (almost) be said within shipping.

Culture of commitment
Jotun is the number one provider of marine coatings, with products protecting around a fifth of the entire world fleet. It’s a position that is built and maintained with long-term vision. “My tenure here is not unusual,” says Fon. “We have created a culture where loyalty and long-term relationships are nurtured and cherished. Internally we hire and develop with a view to creating ‘lifers’, whereas externally we are committed to building customer relationships that add value and help the industry tackle its most pressing challenges. That attitude helps mould our wider business decisions.”

Morten Fon, CEO Jotun. Photo credit Morten Rakke

To demonstrate this Jotun’s CEO points to the fact that the difficult marine conditions of recent years haven’t led to widespread cuts, but rather to a strategy of retaining existing talent and adapting capacity to meet demand – e.g. focusing on opportunities in the maintenance and dry docking sectors, while refining the newbuild proposition to achieve competitive advantage when the market does pick up.

“We have the resources and people in place to move quickly and meet customer needs,” he states. “The value of that is huge – both for the company and the industry.”

As is, Fon adds, Jotun’s current transition from a position of paint and coating supplier to solutions provider.

Better business solutions
Jotun is realigning itself to provide concepts and services that meet customer needs and solve business challenges. For example, its Hull Performance Solutions (HPS) offering combines premium SeaQuantum anti-foulings with a suite of sensors to measure long-term performance in accordance with ISO 19030. This provides documented proof of HPS’ ability to maintain a clean hull (with a High Performance guarantee promising minimal hull speed loss – under 1.5% – over standard dry docking periods) delivering increased fuel efficiency and consumption. For shipowners this translates to lower OPEX and CO2 emissions.

Suddenly coating choice becomes much more important than simply comparing paint and prices, it’s now a crucial long-term investment opportunity. An opportunity that, with HPS adorning almost 900 vessels in the world fleet, the industry is waking up to.

Fon references the launch of Jotun’s SeaStock Management Solutions in 2018 as a further step forward. This effectively allows Jotun to take on the management of all on-board paint maintenance – including condition surveys, all ordering and logistics, and much more – to ensure predictability, optimal quality and protection, and hassle free administration. He explains:

Clipper HPS Photo credit Jotun

“It allows our customers to focus on what they do best, running their fleets, while we focus on what we do best – protecting people and property with world leading solutions. It’s simple, efficient and helps bring us closer, increasing understanding and performance. That’s something we can all benefit from.”

Moving forwards together
That spirit of increased collaboration will be key to the future, Fon believes, both for maritime and the broader ocean space. “Data is a key issue,” he states. “Access to data will allow us to provide better solutions, while sharing data across relevant platforms will help the industry in general push for optimized performance, efficiency and regulatory compliance. Greater transparency will help give us all the ability to navigate what, in the past, has been an unpredictable industry. That’s crucial.” As is, he imparts, being open to fresh horizons.

“Nor-Shipping’s decision to enable new ocean opportunities for its maritime base is indicative of how this industry evolves,” he concludes.

“If you look at Jotun we have grown from shipping to embrace industry, energy (both fossil and renewables) and are now providing expertise for aquaculture and offshore fishery projects. You can take knowledge, transfer it and prosper, as long as you find the right partners to work with. That’s where events like Nor-Shipping come in.” You’ll find Fon there this June – meeting, mixing and smiling.

 

 

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