Merging technologies, merging cultures

Peter Göransson leads the integration of solar-semi into the Obducat Group with people skills and science

With the acquisition in 2015 of German based solar-semi, Obducat’s portfolio was not only attractively expanded but with it came the shortening of development time, thereby offering much greater control in creating more cost effective nano lithography solutions. In order to handle the integration, the need for someone who was deeply knowledgeable in the field as well as capable of overseeing the unification process was paramount. In Obducat’s own VP of Operation, Peter Göransson, they found the perfect match.

In order to handle the integration as deftly as possible, Peter was tasked with overseeing the new grouping, by being on-site and hands on to streamline the transition. Peter’s unique knowledge in science and engineering, optics and embedded systems, along with extensive experience overseeing operations and project management made him a well rounded fit for this particular role. After several months of travelling weekly between Obducat HQ in Lund, Sweden and Radolfzell, Germany, the opportunity arose to permanently re-locate. That meant the uprooting of not only himself but also his wife, who works as a chemical engineer, and their three children, ages 7, 11 and 13.

The window to take a decision on such a substantial move was short and simultaneously also presented with it another offer of relocating to the USA for an opportunity for his wife through her company. In the end, they chose Germany in large part due to Peter’s desire to help the integration of Obducat / solar-semi flourish and to help actively achieve that. The move has presented both anticipated and surprising challenges and circumstances for the entire family. They were aware of the energy needed in order to switch out homes and secure new school enrolments, but Peter adds, “The days go by extremely fast now. I leave early in the morning and arrive home often late in the evening. There is a lot to be done.” One thing that is very clear though- “there is a lot of core competence here at solar-semi, and a lot of potential.” So what happens when a Swedish company takes responsibility over a German one? Peter does the work by listening to all key areas of the business. “Margins are higher in Sweden than they are in Germany and that’s part of my work- to bring that level up. Peter is both down to earth and speaks directly. “I really want facilitate the improvement of this business and I am ready to take it to task. I am solution oriented and want to move things farther down the track. If someone says something can’t be done, I want to prove the opposite.”

Some of the ways he is taking this unification to task is via several small improvements in all aspects of the business. Getting the solar-semi organisation to be better connected is one way, via technology but also through improved human relations. “Every employee deserves to know and appreciate the wins as well as the daily challenges.” says Peter, “If we have a potential customer stopping by the facility, the employees should be included in that knowledge.” Implementing weekly meetings is another way to bring individuals together as well as benefitting the whole. Listening to people, especially when new management comes into town is extremely helpful. It gauges where they’re at as well as their expectations. “Part of what I am doing now is helping each employee better define their role within the organisation. When every employee best understands their role, it further enhances the transparency as well as encourages things to run more smoothly.” Increased transparency is at the top of the list along with bringing the margins up.

As predicted, bringing solar-semi in is turning out to be quite an asset to Obducat for its substrate handling machines. “At the moment we are making big strides in the LED industry. The technology we’re working on right now is creating more light with greater surface reflection using pattern sapphire substrate.” Peter remarks. “Which is a perfect natural next step for LED improvements.”

Noting some of the differences between the two countries, the topic of money pops up. “When I look around in Sweden I see that more businesses are becoming points of digital-only transactions. That’s not the case in Germany. This winter I had to have a tanker of oil delivered for the heating and beforehand I had to go to the bank to get a thick stack of cash in order to pay for it. It was a chunk!” Peter, who is a polyglot speaks not only Swedish, but also English, German and French. Asked how the move and change of culture and language has been for his family, he confirms that it has proved somewhat challenging. “My wife is good with language and you’d be surprised how quickly you pick up a new one by helping with three sets of homework each night. The youngest is enrolled in a German speaking school, so it’s a brand new world for him. The others have at least been studying English for a while now, so it is a bit easier on them.”

Asked how long Peter plans to stay in this role and being based at solar-semi and the impression given is that there is no end in sight. Peter comes off as an “all in” kind of guy and asking where the end of something lies doesn’t quite resonate.