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Elkem around the world: Fiskaa, Kristiansand

Odd Olsen is the plant manager at Elkem Carbon Solutions Fiskå. Olsen started his career in Elkem in 1984 as a holiday substitute at what used to be Elkem Aluminium Lista.

Elkem around the world 23.11.2022

Since then, the plant has been purchased by Alcoa. Olsen had finished high school and was looking for a job when the opportunity to work in Elkem came. What started as a holiday substitute position quickly resulted in a permanent position. When being recruited to the Norwegian army, Olsen went on a temporary leave. After his service in the Norwegian army, Olsen decided to get a engineer-university degree in collaboration- and with the support of the at that time plant manager and their team.“I have gotten a lot of support and help to develop myself within Elkem”, he says.

His favorite aspect of the job as a plant manager is to work together with other people and be “where the action happens”. He views being a facilitator as a crucial part of the job. By this he means including and seeing all his employees individually as well as helping them utilize their best potential. When asked about the main challenges he faces as a plant manager, Olsen mentions managing Elkem Fiskaa´s different stakeholders. He also mentions maintaining activity and focus to keep “the wheel spinning”. Fulfilling EBS (Elkem Business System) principals, upkeeping promises and executing them in a sustainable and good way, is a priority.

Odd Olsen and a colleague at the Elkem Carbon Fiskaa plant
Odd Olsen and a colleague at the Elkem Carbon Fiskaa plant

Supplies 360 furnaces globally

Elkem Carbon Fiskaa is located at the Fiskaa Technology Park in the south of Norway, in a town called Kristiansand. It is the original paste plant that was established with the invention of the Søderberg electrode, in 1919. Today, the plant is the largest producer of carbon products in the western world and is the key supplier for leading ferro alloy industry globally. The plant is equipped with 11 Elkem designed electrical calciners for calcining of anthracite, including a blending and mixing facility to produce various types of carbon pastes. The plant has a paste production capacity of 92 000 MT per annum. There are also 3 specially modified calciners for the calcining of green pet coke. These calciners are utilised for the production of synthetic graphite and recarburisers.

Elkem Carbon Fiskaa produces products such as Søderberg electrode paste, furnacing lining materials and tap hole and tapping launder repair paster. Other products produced at the plant are ramming pastes for aluminium cathode pot cells, syntethetic graphite and recarburisers. The electrode paste is supplied as cylinders, briquettes or large rectangular blocks. Various packaging alternatives are offered to suit customers’ needs for all products produced at Elkem Carbon Fiskaa. The plant serves customers on all five continents around globe and its excellent location near the Kristiansand container port ensures efficient logistics to their main markets.

Olsen and a colleague celebrating the installation of a new robot at the plant
Olsen and a colleague celebrating the installation of a new robot at the plant

The largest producer of carbon products in the western world

As the largest producer of carbon products in the western world, some challenges will naturally come along. The main challenge of the plant is to produce quality products without affecting people, equipment, or the surroundings in negative ways. Therefore, there is a huge focus on HES (Health, Environment and Safety). Olsen adds that they also work actively with EBS as well as so called improvement groups which gives the employees the possibility to improve through different measures. Olsen says that the goal is to develop a good working flow, be productive and contribute to Elkem’s total result.

The employees are highly valued at Elkem Carbon Fiskaa. Besides improvement groups, Olsen has implemented an apprentice strategy. Today there are apprentices at Elkem Carbon Fiskaa at every shift, and in departments such as logistics and maintenance. 85% of the process operators have received their certificate of apprenticeship, which Olsen believes in essential as it illustrates and ensures that the employees have acquired the necessary knowledge to work at an Elkem Carbon plant.  In collaboration with the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration Elkem has employed former substance abusers and helped them to get a certificate of apprenticeship. Another collaboration is between Elkem, the Norwegian Labour and Welfare administration and the county. This initiative gives young people who may not have thrived in school, the opportunity to start their working life in Elkem with the goal of getting a certificate of apprenticeship.

100% environmentally friendly

Elkem Carbon Fiskaa sponsors several local initiatives, such as Technofilus, a project supporting young future entrepreneurs. “I really believe in this project because we need young technical expertise that can further develop products and equipment in Elkem”.

In order to reduce the plants environmental impact and to keep up and further develop good sustainability standards, a purification facility that eliminate the majority of the sulphur emissions, has been installed. At Elkem Carbon Fiskaa ramming paste for aluminium has become a “green product”, meaning it is 100% environmentally friendly, giving the plant the capacity to double the volume of the material. Olsen proudly tells that they are working on developing 100% environmentally friendly electrode mass and that their 100% environmentally friendly materials in theory does not require the employees at the plant to wear protective equipment. The goals is to have a zero emissions plant, which they are working towards through continuous sustainability related improves both on the product side, and the production side.

Art piece at the plant that symbolizes their values- respect, involvement, precision and continuous improvement
Art piece at the plant that symbolizes their values- respect, involvement, precision and continuous improvement

Elkem Carbon Fiskaa is an attractive employer in Kristiansand. This is clearly illustrated whenever a new position is announced- many people apply. Olsen thinks that this is a result of Kristiansand being an attractive city and Elkem’s exceptional reputation in Norway. Recent internal surveys show that employees are satisfied in Elkem Carbon and that there is a very low turnover, regardless of “tailwind or headwind”. Olsen adds that several former employees also wish to come back to Elkem after quitting.

To keep his employees motivated, Olsen thinks it is essential to include his employees in strategy processes where they are given the opportunity to discuss challenges, potential solutions to them, how to reach goals and how to develop as an employee in Elkem Carbon. “Involving the employees is key”, he adds. Odd Olsen’s ambitions for Elkem Carbon Fiskaa is to continue the development they have had for the last few years and make the plant as productive as possible. “We are building stone by stone with the goal of creating a globally leading Elkem Carbon Plant”- Odd Olsen.