Norwegian stabiliser manufacturer’s new Chief Commercial Officer on market prospects and investments for 2019

Marius Torjusen joined Sleipner Motor in 2019 as CCO and is heading up the global sales and marketing departments. He has 15 years experience from executive roles in international, industrial manufacturing companies and before joining Sleipner, worked two years with management consulting, leading the digital transformation strategies of several of Scandinavia’s most known brands. Marius is 41 years old, married and has two children. As a keen sailor and former yacht crew, he is used to life at sea.

Do you feel more or less positive about the marine market in 2019?

After several years of a stable and positive development in the macro economical situation, the Scandinavian market is in a healthy state and we don’t see any major changes in the near future. Also, we had a fantastic summer last year, allowing boat owners more than the average period to spend time on the water, which naturally has a positive impact on the market short term. We do see that especially dealers of smaller boats have stocked up more to be better prepared than last year when most ran out of products to sell too early in the season. However – being a market where boats are very much for ’everybody’ and even owners of quite large vessels are not just the very rich, we also see that it seems to become harder to sell any volume of new, larger boats – part of the reason being that large boats have become more costly over the last years, and of course, what is considered a ’larger’ boat is just a lot larger than before! 

What about investment plans for 2019?

The most important investment programs for us have always been in the development of new technologies and new products as Sleipner Motor is first and foremost a technology driven company. Our clear “mission statement” is to “develop and manufacture high quality products that makes a practical difference for active boaters”.

To maintain our market leading position within our product areas, we continue to invest heavily in R&D and we will continue to do so also in the years to come. Just over the last six months we have hired five more engineers, bringing our engineering staff to 26, quite a significant amount for a company our size.

Tell us about the new facility

We are in the process of planning a new headquarters and factory here in Fredrikstad, Norway, but we are still waiting for the final building permits to come through. We are very much looking forward to getting all key processes in a single building and not least to start using the development and test center, being built over the water while also fully integrated with the rest of the factory.

In the meantime, to make room for our continued growth during the building period, we have also invested in a temporary increase of about 800 m2 to our main factory, as well as rented 1,000m2 of extra warehouse space next door.

Our production facilities today are already quite good with the general exception of being spread between several buildings not perfectly laid out for maximum efficiency. The buildings look a little worn from the outside and we are growing out of them, but on the inside it is a lean operation with state of the art equipment and highly motivated and capable employees. Naturally we will gain some efficiencies when relocating to the new factory, but based on my 15 years of previous experience with manufacturing industries, I can say that Sleipner is already world class. There will probably be larger gains in the administration building. With the strong growth over the last years, we need more offices for product development engineers, sales engineers, sales, marketing and general administration. Here the new headquarters will make a massive difference, which is also positive for our ability to attract and keep top talent.

How efficient is manufacturing in a high cost country like Norway? 

I firmly believe that if you want to become best in class in what you do, you have to know and control the full value chain. How could we develop the best thrusters or stabilizers in the world if we did not know how to produce them? How could we maintain and improve on quality if we didn’t have a close connection between our engineers and the manufacturing facilities? Manufacturing is an important part of what we do, but it is not the only part and therefore we need to be experts in the entire value chain.

Another very relevant point is the industry we are in. Compared to most manufacturing industries even our one top selling item would not in almost any industry be rated as a “volume item”. This means that flexibility is the key word, meaning the ability to manufacture lots of various products in varying (small) volumes, while all the time ensuring the highest quality. And that is something we are very good at in Norway with a very self-motivated and self-operating production staff. This more than offsets the relative higher direct labour cost per hour in Norway.

Also, Sleipner Motor has a long tradition of investing in top notch manufacturing equipment that can run automated and without much human labour being involved. It would surprise you to see how few people work directly in manufacturing in this company, compared to the number of positions that are related to logistics, engineering, sales and customer service.

How significant is the Scandinavian market to you? 

Any successful brand should have a strong position in the home market and this is also the case for Sleipner. However, over the years and as the reputation of the Side-Power products have grown in all corners of the world, we are less dependent on the Scandinavian market than we used to be. More than 70% of our business today comes from outside Scandinavia. 

What are the key engine rooms for growth both in terms of product and geography/territory?

Actually, we are growing in all our main product groups and main markets. Given that our product types are ’integrated technical products’, the majority of them goes into boats during their production, so geographically the spread is generally as boatbuilding is spread.

We do have to add that our marketshare typically is a little higher with ’premium brands’ as suits our products, but you would also be surprised to see how many ’price conscious’ brands have also found that using quality components is good for the bottom line.

What new product can we expect from you? Are there any significant launches in the pipeline?

We always have new products in the pipeline, and actually some of the projects now are very significant and we would dare to say revolutionary. They will have their official launch at the autumn boatshows.

In the short run we are about to launch a new series of external thrusters – we’ve improved a lot on the old ’Exturn’ line that we aquired some years ago - improved efficiency and lower prices being just two of the benefits. The first will hit the market in Q2 this year.