On Wednesday September 25th 2019, the focus was on a vision for the future, as Pipelife looks back at 50 years of business in Norway. Management, co-workers, Austrian owners, and residents firmly believe that the company will continue producing added value in the form of innovation and sustainability for at least another 50 years.
Pipelife Norge invited everyone to tapas, cake, and a photo exhibit at the community center in Pipelife Norge's hometown Surnadal to celebrate its 50-year history. Along with a number of prominent guests, local townspeople were also welcomed by General Manager Kjell Larsen.
"They are the ones who create our reputation. It's in the way that they talk about us at the dinner table, when the kids are listening, or in other contexts. As a company, we are dependent on them, and we will need them even more in the years to come," said a jubilant Larsen, who also led a tour of the factory.
Putting doubts to bed
The Norwegian pipe manufacturer was established in 1969 by its founder, Martin Botten, and further expanded by his son, Jon Einar. The business grew quickly and, within just a few decades, became a European player in the production of plastic pipe. There was therefore a great deal of skepticism when the manufacturer was acquired by the Austrian Wienerberger Group in 1999.
"Our co-workers have put those predictions to bed," says Larsen, who praised the owners for their contributions to making Pipelife Norway a showcase for the entire group regarding its sustainability, product development and effectiveness.
The development of the Norwegian factories in Surnadal and Stathelle continued after the company joined the Wienerberger Group. Now, there are also plans for the factory in Ringebu that was integrated into Pipelife Norge AS after being acquired from Isoterm AS last year.
"Now, we're looking ahead. Over the last few years, we have invested heavily in sustainability across all areas of our production, in order to satisfy future demands from both clients and public authorities. Together with significant investments in digitalization, this will ensure that we'll continue to be around for at least another 50 years," says Larsen, anticipating a bright future for the business.
Praise from Group leadership
Also present at the birthday celebrations was the CEO of Wienerberger AG, Heimo Scheuch, who came straight from Vienna, along with several other representatives of the Group's management, to attend the celebration. In his speech to the several hundred attendees, he highlighted Pipelife Norway's importance as an employer and as a catalyst for economic development in the region.
"Today, we employ more than 250 people across our three Norwegian factories. With our skilled and motivated employees, we want to secure and expand our position as a market leader in plastic pipe systems by focusing heavily on sustainable and digital solutions. This is part of the solution for tackling the challenges posed by climate change and rising sea levels," says Scheuch.
Leaders in the Green Revolution
"With the aim of achieving a sustainable and circular economy, Wienerberger is increasing the use of recycled materials in plastic pipe production. We have already exceeded our goal of using at least 70 kg of recycled raw material per ton of manufactured product by 2020," says Scheuch, who praised both Norway's and Pipelife's focus on sustainability.
"As a country, Norway is leading the way in the Green Revolution, and Pipelife Norge is leading the way in its industry. But we have to keep going and bringing more people on board. Last but not least, we are working on converting our policies and other good intentions into practical demand for our eco-friendly products. The changes facing us will require quick and decisive action," says Scheuch.
Over 1 billion invested in Norway
Over the last 20 years, Wienerberger has invested over 1 billion Norwegian kroner in Pipelife Norge and the pipe manufacturer's three factories in Surnadal, Stathelle and Ringebu. Over this period, around 60 new jobs have been created, and a total of 860 million kroner paid in taxes and duties. In that same period, a total of 600,000 tons of pipes and pipe components have been produced.
The Norwegian oil fund owns 4% of shares in the publicly-listed Wienerberger AG.
Pipelife's 50-year history in Norway
Martin Botten starts producing plastic pipes in Surnadal. His son, Jon Einar, is active from day one, and eventually takes over this plastic pipe business.
Botten's plastic pipe activities gradually expand.
Introduction of pipe component injection molding. Turnover reaches NOK 2,353,216.
Botten establishes Mabo Transport.
Botten establishes a production collaboration venture in Finland.
Market growth stagnates, requiring the plastic pipe industry in Norway and the other Nordic countries to downsize. Plastic pipe producers in Norway, Sweden and Finland are bought out, making Mabo a Nordic enterprise.
Botten purchases Rieber's plastic pipe factory in Halden and becomes a market leader in Norway.
Botten experiences growing pains, and invites external parties to participate in the plastic pipe business as part-owners. The company is set up as its own entity: Mabo I/S. M. Botten purchases Lyng Rør's factory in Vanvikan.
Norsk Hydro enters Mabo AS as an owner.
Mabo purchases Large Plastindustri in Oslo.
The factory in Stathelle is purchased by Large.
Pragma establishes itself as a trademark for double-walled pipe systems for wastewater and stormwater.
Norsk Hydro purchases the remaining shares in Mabo AS. Jon Einar continues as Head of the Group for two more years, before the Botten family withdraws from the company completely.
Mabo builds a new factory in Gdańsk, Poland.
Kjell J. Larsen assumes management duties for Mabo's business in Norway. Mabo comprises five factories and 312 employees in Norway.
Turnover reaches NOK 442 million. Two of the five factories are closed down, and production is relocated to Surnadal and Stathelle.
Mabo is bought out by the Pipelife Group. The Norwegian company joins 26 other subsidiaries.
Pipelife in Stathelle produces the world's first PE pressure pipe (2000 mm in diameter) and strengthens its position as a world leader in marine pipelines.
Smartline, an innovative drainage pipe system for indoor use, is launched. New product technology is developed, still based on high quality. The products take up less space, and Smartline looks good even in open installations.
Pipelife Norway AS celebrates its 40th anniversary on 6 September. Pipelife Norway consists of two factories and has 150 employees. Over the course of ten years, the number of production units has fallen by three, while turnover has increased to around NOK 700 million.
The world's largest PE pressure pipe, with a diameter of 2500 mm, is produced in Stathelle. Surnadal sees big investments in streamlining the production of PVC pipes.
A new production line for double-walled pipes, with sizes up to a full 1400 mm, is installed in Surnadal.
Pipelife purchases the Isoterm AS factory in Ringebu.
Pipelife celebrates its 50th birthday.