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Danish business: exports are our bread and butter

Despite numerous crises in the world, such as the UK’s decision to leave the EU and historically vast numbers of refugees, the Danes are still in favour of globalisation. But support is not as solid as it once was.
Olsens Metaltrykkeri comes face to face with globalisation on a daily basis. Here Managing Director Stig Nalbandian (left) and Operations Manager Jan Wass (right) can be seen with Hassan Sefiddashti from Iran. Photo: Lærke Posselt

Publiceret: 07.10.2016
Af Rikke Brøndum mail

Operations Manager Jan Wass is looking at some round pieces of metal.

Soon they will be sent to Sweden where they will be assembled and then shipped to the United States. The final destination is a tanker in New Zealand transporting liquid gas.

“If we couldn’t export, we wouldn’t exist. It’s as simple as that,” he says.

We are in a small factory hall in an industrial area in northern Rødovre, with a company called Olsen Metaltrykkeri.

Every day, 28 Danes and foreign nationals manufacture new metal parts for oil and gas meters, lampshades and much more that end up with customers around the world.

See also: Danish businesses want to stay in Denmark

Globalisation is our bread and butter

If you ask Jan Wass what he thinks about globalisation, his answer is clear. Globalisation is his and his colleagues’ bread and butter.

This is an opinion he shares with many others. In a survey published by Epinion for the Confederation of Danish Industry, 60% believe that globalisation has been beneficial to Denmark and offers businesses new opportunities.

Only one in ten believes that Denmark’s involvement in the global economy leads to lower salaries and fewer jobs. 44% believe that businesses win on globalisation.

“The support of the Danes is important to businesses which depend on the fact that we are an open society and continue to be so. When businesses have good export opportunities, the cake we all share becomes bigger,” says Deputy Director General Thomas Bustrup of the Confederation of Danish Industry.

See also: The future belongs to Europe

Black clouds gathering over world trade

Good news from the wider world is sparse at the moment. The crisis in Syria with its record numbers of refugees and the UK’s decision to leave the EU are affecting the atmosphere on world markets.

The Chinese economy, the world’s second-largest, is shrinking while both Brazil and Russia are close to actual recession. In both Europe and the United States, resistance to a new free trade agreement that has been in the pipeline for several years is rife.

At the most recent G20 summit in China, Chinese President Xi Jinping emphasised that the world is in an economic and political crisis and that the leaders of the world’s 20 largest economies have to work hard to secure support for free trade and ensure growth and prosperity. 

“The majority of Danes still support globalisation because job market regulation has been able to support those who have lost their jobs, whose businesses have folded,” explains Anna Ilsøe, labour market researcher at the University of Copenhagen.

“Historically, it has been easy to hire and fire in Denmark, but we have also created a solid safety net in place with our unemployment benefits for those who have lost their jobs. We have managed to create a job market that has found a balance between risk and security. This may also have affected the generally positive attitude to globalisation that Danes have,” she says and continues:

“As a small, open economy, Danish businesses – at least those in manufacturing – have always been used to competing and both employees and managers have had a basic understanding of the fact that the state of the market can be both good and bad. That understanding probably also plays a role in the attitude the Danes have to globalisation.”

Professor of Political Science at Aalborg University Jørgen Goul Andersen also points to the Danish model as an explanation and he praises the government, employers and unions for having spoken positively about free trade for many years.

“Our political parties have largely been in favour of free trade and against protectionism as long as anyone can remember. The same goes for the unions. But it has to be kept alive all the time by all parties,” he says.

Internationalisation from all sides

There is no sign of crisis at Olsen Metaltrykkeri. On the contrary, the company has recently won back a customer who had decided to choose a supplier in China who was cheaper.

“But quality became the decisive factor. When you make metal measuring equipment, it is all about being precise down to a hundredth of a millimetre. And we’re just better at that than the Chinese are,” says Jan Wass.

Managing Director Stig Nalbandian agrees. His business, which he took over from his father at the beginning of the millennium, does not just making a living on globalisation in the form of exports, but also recruits employees from abroad.

Currently, eight nationalities from countries such as Italy, South Africa, India, Eritrea and Iran are represented in the business. Most have been trained by the Olsen Metaltrykkeri and are now working in the business as skilled workers.

“We have always had apprentices so we know how to train people. That presents challenges, but it also helps to emphasise that we live in a global world and we cannot just shut ourselves off,” says Stig Nalbandian. 
Olsen Metaltrykkeri
Founded in 1959
Turnover: DKK 25 million
28 employees from eight countries
Exports mainly to Sweden, Germany and the United Kingdom

If we couldn’t export, we wouldn’t exist. It’s as simple as that.

More info
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PUBLISHED: 10/7/2016 LAST MODIFIED: 4/1/2017