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Mikael Hoier | CEO | Lowenco

Mikael Hoier: Powering Innovations in the Refrigeration Industry

New technologies have made it possible to get fresh, perishable foods from one side of the world to the other without putting the integrity of the foods at risk. Similarly, state-of-the-art temperature-controlled containers and trailers make it possible to get valuable, perishable biopharmaceuticals to areas of need.

But as much as we talk about refrigerated transportation, we often forget to talk about one of the aspects of cold-chain logistics that makes it possible: cold storage and refrigerated warehousing.

As demand for the transportation of refrigerated goods increases, so does the demand for value-added services such as repack operations and consolidation. Customers tend to have more stringent requirements for the third-party logistics they are outsourcing to, since retailers and end-users have higher expectations when it comes to palette building and traceability. One company that is fulfilling such diverse demands of its customers is Lowenco.

Lowenco is one of the leading manufacturers of cold storage facilities and has formed a strategy on how to change the expensive, inefficient, and non-environment friendly temperature-controlled storage. It also holds a strong experience with cold storage facilities for high demand markets like the biotech and pharmaceutical industries.

In the following interview, Mikael Hoier, the CEO, sheds light on the company’s journey as a leading manufacturer in cold storage facilities.

Mikael, please brief our audience about your journey in the manufacturing/refrigeration industry and as the CEO of Lowenco.

I joined Lowenco back on August 1st, 2017, as Sales Director/CCO. At that time, Lowenco was a typical entrepreneur-driven upcoming company headed by the founder – with the highest focus on R&D and optimizing the existing product and the developing of new products.

One project at the time – nice and easy – all employees focusing on the manufacturing of the units, delivering and on-site installation, and then home again, relaxing and then waiting for the next project to come.

This is far away from how the business is running today. When I joined Lowenco, I made a strategy and started to move the company from the entrepreneur mindset to a much more business professional focused mindset – and from a passive sales approach to a proactive sales approach.

Now by executing and following the strategy closely, focusing on the clients and their needs – focusing on visiting a lot of potential new clients and sowing a lot of seeds out in the market – we have developed from a small one-project at the time company to now running several projects in parallel, expanding the client base dramatical, delivering solutions to new markets abroad Europe and much more.

The role of CCO developed into the CEO role official in 2020 – which of cause have changed my daily work a bit. But my mindset is still business professional driven, with a full focus on the clients. And this mindset is what I am pushing throughout the entire organization.

As CEO of Lowenco, the coming years will be more focused on strategy, expansions, development of the entire organization, and the company in general, to keep growing the company at an even faster speed than we have one until now.

It is crucial to have the feeling of what is happening at the clients and in the market, to keep moving Lowenco in the correct direction with the right products and services.

What kind of services and solutions does Lowenco offer to its clients?

Lowenco A/S is one of the leading manufacturers of cold storage facilities, and we have formed a strategy on how to change the expensive, inefficient, and non-environment friendly temperature-controlled storage. The solution has been developed under the brand names CON20 and LSSU and more cold storage facilities are under development.

At Lowenco, we produce high-end cold storage facilities, refrigerated units, and freezers from well-known quality components in our facilities in Denmark, but we are also able to deliver custom-made freezers and cold storage facilities where GMP guidelines must be applied worldwide.

At Lowenco we have unique product solutions to the pharmaceutical market. A product that is so much more than just a product.

We are not only offering Large Scale ultra-low temperature freezer storage solutions but solutions where the highest quality goes hand in hand with the highest possible safety—safety for the people handling the products going into the very low-temperature storage area of -80C and safety of the products been stored—and a unique low energy consumption per liter of product stored.

In every product we are developing – saving energy is essential – without any reflection on the quality and performance. We want to help, making the world a better place to live. The name Lowenco comes from low energy cooling – and our slogan is – Creating a better world – one unit at a time.

Every time we can replace existing solutions used in the market with our innovative solutions with much lower energy consumption, we are helping to reduce the Co2 footprint – and creating a better world.

For us at Lowenco, most of our manufacturing itself is still handmade by our staff and not by a huge machine park. Of course, we have diversified machines to secure the very high and constant quality e.g., bending of the refrigeration pipes etc.

However, for niche productions like ours, it is not always a great idea to use machines and technologies for everything – and not even everything of ours is possible to do by machines.

Considering the COVID-19 pandemic, and its impact on global economies, how did you drive Lowenco to sustain its operations while ensuring the safety of your employees?

The pandemic has been a challenge – also for us. We have been busier – manufactured, delivered, and installed more units than ever. But with more and more installations around the world – in a world with closed airports, more planes on the ground than in operation, closed routes, travel restrictions, quarantines etc., have we been forced to think more alternatives, been even more foresee and is better to plan more ahead of time then before the pandemic.

During the pandemic, we have been travelling for installation in the US, India, and throughout Europe. This has of course given us some challenging moments.

Moreover, testing has been very important for us, not only when the employees needed to travel, but also for making sure we will not shut down the entire company for days, weeks or months. But testing, quarantines etc., have given challenges in our planning – for sure.

As within many other companies, we have also had employees and their families infected by COVID. Fortunately, the employees have handled it very professional and been extremely flexible, which have helped us to be able to keep up the production and on-site installation jobs throughout the entire pandemic.

What is your opinion on the changing dynamics of organizational leadership after the pandemic?

The pandemic has given some companies a wake-up call in terms of allowing people to work from home, using online meetings etc. At Lowenco we have always had a very liberal politics about working from home or at the office.

With people working at home and hereof at more locations – and not just being around in the office, as a leader you need to adjust your leadership accordantly. For me, this has not been too much of a change, since I used to have salespeople located at other locations. But I can imagine, that for some, it has been a huge change and a challenge.

But in my opinion, this will be the new normal. We as leaders need to be able and capable to lead people from the distance, let people work from home, have more online meetings etc.

By giving the employees more flexibility – you will get so much more in return. Showing and giving the employees flexibility – means for their freedom – which shows that you as leaders trust your employees.

And if your employees cannot handle the freedom, either you as a leader need to develop the employees to become capable of handling it – if they still cannot, they cannot have the flexibility or they are not the right employees.

What would be your advice to budding entrepreneurs who want to aspire into the manufacturing/refrigeration industry?

Be yourself – trying to be another is not you! Develop the people around you – they are the key to your success. Give yourself to the company – instead of expecting to have. Give yourself to your employees and do not expect just to have.

By doing so – you will get so much more return than you are giving. You and nobody else can take care of your career and your life in general – take full responsibility for your own personal development – and you will get success in life. And this advice is not industry depended – that is for you as a leader.

How do you plan on scaling Lowenco and its offerings in the future?

My vision is to bring Lowenco to the position of the most recognized and trusted supplier of high-end cold storage facilities for pharmaceuticals and biotech firms around the world.

But not only the best-in-class product, but also keep the position of being the most innovative and ‘green’ solution for the benefit of our clients, the environment, and for the individual – all of them. Creating a better world – one unit at a time.

For me, the plans are clear. I want to continue leading Lowenco through the great developing process already started, to become an even stronger and greater company to being a part of an open and honest environment, where all are important and know they are important to the company, positiveness, and humor – create a great working environment at Lowenco.

The whole Lowenco team and I are closely following the trends in the market and its segment of product solutions.

Our innovative prefabricated modular, scalable, and highly flexible solutions are unique to the market – and with our daily development and focus on optimizing, with more and more installations made – no longer only in Europe, but also in the US, and Asia, we are expanding into new markets and becoming more and more visible in the field.

This has been discovered by more and more clients – and the best marketing everyone is when clients speak positively about you to a new potential client.

And what is great is, more and more of our existing clients buy more and more times, for expansions of the facilities – but also for new sites. We are becoming “the internal worldwide site standard”.

My personal plan and goal as a business leader – is to develop people, getting them to perform and fulfil their individual potential to become a success. Developing the company to growth and success, performing on the highest level, bringing great products and services to the clients – and fulfilling the huge potential of Lowenco.