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Administration Herøya Industripark AS

Phone: +47 35 92 65 00  


Hydrovegen 55, 3936 Porsgrunn, Norway

Herøya Industrial Park with incredible objective; no vehicles driven by humans at the park

Bilde av paneldeltakere på debatt i Arendal om autonomi

Panel participants: From left: chairman Oddvar Stenstrøm, Member of Parliament Arild Grande (Labour Party), senior advisor Kjetil Staalesen (Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions), cluster manager Torun Degnes (SAMS), director Sverre Gotaas (Herøya Industripark AS) and project manager Paal Aamaas (University of Southeast Norway, USN).

“We have an incredible objective – to have no vehicles driven by humans at the industrial park within a few years. Digitisation and autonomy are not an objective in themselves, but they will help to resolve challenges in respect of logistics and safety at the industrial park.” 

Sverre Gotaas, director of Herøya Industripark AS, presented this message at the themed meeting “Autonomy and digitisation – how to succeed with autonomy in a way that benefits humans and does not pose a threat”, which took place during Arendal Week. 

The meeting was organised by  Powered by Telemark, the industrial networks and  Vekst i Grenland, and a very large number of people – politicians and the business community alike – turned up in order to find out all about “the most exciting topic of the week!”, according to chairman Oddvar Stenstrøm.

External and internal logistics

photo of Sverre Gotaas

“We want to use digitisation and autonomy at Herøya Industrial Park to eliminate hazards caused by human behaviour,” explained Sverre Gotaas, director of Herøya Industripark AS. 

A number of exciting projects are in the pipeline at Herøya. The driverless electric boat Yara Birkeland will be operational within a couple of years, and plans are afoot to build a rail terminal. This will allow containers carrying raw materials and finished products to be transferred from trailers to ships and trains, which are safer and more eco-friendly. 

“When external logistics undergo radical change, it is natural for us to consider how we can alter our internal logistics in line with this. The complex traffic patterns that we see at the industrial park at present put people at risk, but this risk can be eliminated with new technology,” explained Gotaas.

More jobs, or fewer?

There is a great deal of uncertainty and disagreement with regard to what new technology could do to our jobs. Chairman Stenstrøm referred to Statistics Norway, which has calculated that one in three jobs could disappear as a result of digitisation and autonomy. DNB reckons that one in every two jobs at their group will cease to exist.

Deloitte, on the other hand, has carried out an analysis that comes to a completely different conclusion – that new technology will create four to five times more jobs  than the number of jobs lost.

Fantastic opportunities

The five panel participants who debated after the introductions were more or less in agreement; that digitisation and autonomy may provide fantastic opportunities, but that it is important to allow enough time and scope for the changeover so that it can be implemented with participation from as many people as possible. 

“Technology should exist to serve humans, and not the other way round. We have to ask ourselves what is in people’s best interests, what they need and how we can meet these needs,” emphasised Member of Parliament Arild Grande of the Labour Party.

He made no secret of the fact that our politicians have not taken into account what this technological development will involve, and he was of the opinion that they have to provide as much assistance as possible to anyone who ventures to invest, with reference to Herøya Industrial Park and others.

Control and cooperation

Senior advisor Kjetil Staalesen of the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions pointed out that digitisation and autonomy are not a straightforward journey, but that they are necessary. He also pointed out that digitisation has been something of a blessing for Norwegian employees over time.

“Control of development, with close cooperation between management and employees, is the most important element for success. In my view, no country has better opportunities than Norway to implement a digital revolution,” he emphasised.

Like Arild Grande, Staalesen gave credit to the projects at Herøya and in Telemark in general, and stated that if industry were to succeed, Norway would succeed. 

Human control

Chairman Oddvar Stenstrøm asked the panel whether artificial intelligence has any limits. Torun Degnes, head of the cluster SAMS (Sustainable Autonomous Mobility Systems Norway), was of the opinion that qualities such as discretion and empathy could not be taken over by machines. “Digitisation could free up lots of warm hands when machines take over the routine tasks,” he pointed out.

Sverre Gotaas reckoned that there were hardly any boundaries. “Nowadays, we are simply unable to imagine what robots could do in a few years’ time. One important discussion is what we should allow machines to do, and what we should use them for. Humans must control that!” he emphasised. 

photo of Oddvar Stenstrom and Hanne Gro Haugland who summed up the debate.

An exciting debate that raised a number of important questions but did not provide all the answers. Hanne Gro Haugland of Vekst i Grenland summed up the debate. 

Finally Hanne Gro Haugland, leader of Vekst i Grenland, summed up the debate with a few keywords.

We have to understand human needs and meet them, our solutions must be sustainable, we have to act to prevent accidents when machines take over from humans, and we have to use technology to create robust companies. 

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