Frebelt and Habasit have a shared history stretching a long way back in time. It began as early as the 1980s – and today they are close business partners. According to Henrik Fredriksson, Frebelt’s CEO, it is a combination of Habasit’s quality products and Frebelt’s innovative way of working that forms the basis for their successful customer solutions. For him, trust and an open dialogue are of paramount importance in a partnership.
Hello Henrik! You offer total solutions for conveyor belts and transmission belts. What does that involve? It means that we make an inventory of the customer’s needs and investigate exactly what type of solution they require. Then we offer a customised solution based on the conclusions we have reached and find the most suitable products for the application. We give great attention to the customer’s actual needs, their real problems, so to speak.
What sort of problems can that involve?
For example, it could be that a customer has a very worn conveyor belt that quickly wears out. We would then go in and take a look at the circumstances. Is it really the belt that’s sub-standard? Or is the conveyor partly to blame? The customer often believes the belt to be the cause of the problem, but it isn’t always necessarily the case. We always try to consider the whole picture in order to solve the problem.
It sounds like problem-solving is an important aspect?
Yes, it is. That probably comes from my father, Hans. He was an inventor; he could come up with two or three business ideas a week. He was amazing that way! Innovation, or being able to think outside the box, is still very much part of our DNA. Over the years, we’ve developed our products, refined our joining methods and found alternative solutions for adhesives.
One example of this product development is a solution we implemented for a children’s day-care centre. We delivered 52 inner doors using Habasit belts as pinch protection between the frame and the door, to prevent the children trapping their fingers. Instead of seeing a conveyor belt simply in terms of a belt used for transporting things, we thought a bit more creatively and came up with a great solution for this particular need. This is just one of many examples, but the most important thing is that we always try to proceed from the requirements of the customer in finding a solution.
It seems to be important for you to focus on the customer. How do you work on that?
Yes, it is. You could say it’s a three-stage process. The first of these is problem-solving and consultation. Here, the customer often finds themselves in the design phase, where a problem needs solving. Then it isn’t so much about the choice of belt but more a question of how the problem could possibly be solved, for example with a conveyor belt or a transmission belt. We act as a sounding board for the customer, as well as contributing ideas ourselves.
The next stage is service and support. Here we always try to stay one step ahead to prevent the customer being affected by disruptions. That moves us on to the third and final stage – training. We’re happy to share our knowledge with customers in order to minimise disruptions, as far as we possibly can. We give training in joining methods so that customers can make their own joins, or at least perform an emergency join if urgent problems arise. We also visit engineering companies at an early stage and educate them in different types of material.
You mentioned service and support earlier. How important is it to be on the scene quickly after an accident occurs?
Naturally it’s very important, but we try to work more proactively and focus on pre-emptive maintenance work. Of course we carry out assembly work and can be on-site quickly, but we prefer to help out earlier in the process. For example, we have a customer that finger joins pieces of wood for door and window frames. We regularly carry out conveyor belt inspections on-site for them so that they always know the status of their belts. The customer can then decide themselves which belts they want to replace, depending on which applications are most critical for production. It might be that certain machines should always be active, whilst others can occasionally be turned off. This means that the customer avoids unforeseen disruptions and unnecessary service costs.
What do you think is most important when collaborating with a supplier?
Mutual trust is the most important thing. That goes both ways; we have to be able to rely on the supplier delivering the contracted products, and the supplier has to be able to rely on our commitment as a partner. It’s also important to maintain an open dialogue. No road is completely straight - you always come across a few bends here and there! Then it’s important to be able to talk to each other about any issues or requests. A relationship won’t last unless there’s trust and an open dialogue.
How well do you think Habasit lives up to those requests and requirements?
I think it works really well - we’ve had a great response to our requests. We have a good dialogue with them, a good working relationship and they’re very attentive to our needs. We’re Habasit’s most northerly partner within Sweden, so it feels good that we’re such close partners, in spite of being so far away geographically. For us it’s important to sell products that we can be proud of, and that’s also the reason why we chose Habasit, since their products are of a high quality. We’re comfortable with premium products, on account of our considerable technical knowledge. We don’t cut corners - we’re serious and we’re meticulous. That’s also why we’re pleased to deliver a product that gives value for money. You don’t just buy a conveyor belt, you buy the solution to a problem!
As far as I understand, you and Habasit go back a fair way. Tell us about that!
Yes, that’s correct. My father, Hans Fredriksson, worked for Habasit at the beginning of the 80s. He then decided to start his own company focusing on the fabrication of conveyor belts. At the start of this millenium we came full circle and began working closely with Habasit. In July 2014 I took over as CEO from my father.
Which types of customer do you work with?
We help customers in the grocery, paper, timber, mining and processing industries, as well as other industries such as printing. The majority of our customers come from the grocery and timber industries. Since we’re located up here in the north, we also work a great deal with sawmills.
How would you say the conveyor belt industry has changed over the years?
The product group for conveyor belts is both well-developed and sophisticated. Belts have as a rule improved over the years and their longevity has increased. Today we have the ability to present not just standard solutions but many other types of solution for our customers, including conveyor belts, modular belts, timing belts and transmission belts.
Thanks a lot for talking to us Henrik - and good luck with your role as CEO!