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Yara Technology Center at Herøya Research Park is growing – to increase the innovation rate

New impetus A new impetus, exciting tasks, and lots of fun working here, is the combined verdict of an international team of new managers and employees at YTC. From left, standing behind: Geir Sundmark, Sarmad Munir (Pakistan), Gaute Finstad, Odd-Arne Lorentsen and Sanoja Ariyarathna (Sri Lanka). Sitting, from left: Anne Cathrine Heggen, Egil Rasten, Haiyun Zhang Helgestad (China), Ahsan Nazir (Pakistan) and Alma M. Engelbrecht (South-Africa).

New employees, money and resources are flowing to Yara Technology Center (YTC) at Herøya Research Park. The innovation rate for sustainable fertiliser production needs to increase.

New recruitment wave

YTC has undertaken a major new recruitment wave. More than 20 new engineers, from the oil and industrial sectors at home and abroad, are now in place. They head the YTC team at Herøya, which now counts 108 technologists and project members from 29 nations. This is a significant increase from the previous recruitment wave in 2011/12.

“This time, we’ve hired more women than before, and several of them have PhDs,” say Odd-Arne Lorentsen and Geir Sundmark enthusiastically.

“This recruitment matches the scope and the tasks that we face,” they say. “A lot needs to be done, and we’re getting the money, resources and exciting assignments we need. Now it's really fun to work here,” they say.

A green transition

“What needs to be done?”

“We’ll be giving inputs and finding solutions to fulfil Yara's ambitions – to responsibly deliver food to the world. This means increasing production, while reducing our environmental footprint and energy consumption. We’ll be contributing to sustainable fertiliser production.”

“In the short term (2020), we’ll see how we can improve production. In the longer term (2030), we’ll consider solutions to produce fertiliser from renewable energy, and not from natural gas.

Lorentsen describes how several researchers and sub-projects are now working with this. “Here at Herøya, there's a tradition for, and also good opportunities for pilot-scale building and testing, so Porsgrunn is a good alternative,” he says. “Pilot-scale verification of laboratory results is an important step towards industrialisation.”

Increased improvement rate

“2020 will soon be here; how will you deliver new knowledge and improvements within such a short time?”

Photo of Odd-Arne Lorentsen and Geir Sundmark, Yara Technology Center

Faster improvements with Scrum: “Improvement potential and solutions are achieved more quickly when we work in teams according to the Scrum method,” say Geir Sundmark and Odd-Arne Lorentsen of Yara Technology Center.

“We achieved more improvements within a short time after starting to work in a new way, called Scrum,” say the two dedicated Yara managers.

They describe how YTC has trained Scrum Masters and dedicated interdisciplinary teams who make proposals for best practice, improvements and innovative new solutions in the course of just a few weeks.

Targeted

“We're much more successful when we take an interdisciplinary approach,” the Scrum enthusiasts say. “Not just internally within Yara, but also with external experts, and not least the users of the solutions. We receive continuous feedback and provide guidance, while the teams work independently. We’ve probably become better than before at achieving feasible solutions,” says Lorentsen.

“The term ‘scrum’ comes from rugby, but has also become a leadership philosophy that is becoming more prevalent, due to the fine results,” says Sundmark.

“Free, interdisciplinary teams work on a dedicated basis on a well-defined task over four weeks. No longer than that. Then they have to deliver what they have. During this time, they gain an overview of best practice from other factories in the world, and analyse and discover potential to improve production processes. So far, there has been focus on energy, water consumption and emissions. After this, a portfolio of proposals for further consideration will be drawn up. The best ideas are presented for decision on their execution.”  

New values

“In our recruitment work, it was important to select candidates with values that also match the Norwegian way of working, Yara's values and the scrum approach,” say Lorentsen and Sundmark.

They emphasise that all of the new employees from other countries than Norway actually have previous experience from Norway, from education or work, so that they are prepared for the new climate and culture, at any rate.

I asked Yara's new recruits. “You’ve been selected from among scores and in some cases hundreds, of other top candidates for the jobs at YTC. How does this feel?”

“We're proud, but also a bit nervous about succeeding.”

“We're all in the same boat,” says a smiling Odd-Arne Lorentsen, convinced that YTC has hit the jackpot.

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