Proton Technology is now taking the step from lab to knowledge company
He is the forester who became an expert in lightweight technology, and who, after a stint on trade show floors, returned to the industry. Meet Stefan Gustafsson Ledell, the new CEO of Proton Technology.
Stefan had not really thought much about changing jobs, but when he heard last summer about the available position at Proton Technology, he did not hesitate.
"It just felt right. Proton Technology is a small, technology-centric company where I am able to utilise all of the contacts I've built up over the years. Proton is a modern corporation with good values, and the keyword 'Curiosity' appeals to me particularly. That's me in a nutshell."
Stefan smiles and says that this "feels somewhat like a job interview," but he already has his dream job. The journey here has been eventful – to the say the least – for the 43 year old Bruzaholm boy who grew up in the countryside where his father and grandfather before him worked a parcel of forest. And Stefan is still passionate about being a fifth-generation forest owner. He enjoys being out in nature so much that he extended his estate and also purchased a summer cottage to use as a retreat.
His dream of having a professional career led Stefan to a master's degree in mechanical engineering in Jönköping. After earning his degree, he stumbled into the foundry industry where he spent a few years in research and development, and eventually became Production Manager of NovoCast in Ronneby.
"It's a company that is similar to Proton Technology in some ways, quite small and technology-centric with a focus on simulating the casting process," says Stefan.
He enjoyed the job, but, as his family grew, the weekly commute began to take its toll. So Stefan decided to move back to Småland and took a job at Swerea, now part of RISE.
"I worked there for 15 years in various roles. During my last few years as head of research, I was tasked with establishing LIGHTer, a cross-industry association focusing on the development of lightweight technologies," says Stefan.
The initiative for the association originated with Volvo Cars, GKN Aerospace and Scania. When Stefan left the position two years ago, LIGHTer had 75 members, including huge corporations such as ABB, Saab, and IKEA.
Perhaps turning 40 compelled Stefan to make a change. He describes his decision to resign as like throwing himself into a free fall.
"I started thinking about what I wanted to do when I was big. I didn't want to get stuck in research, since I was more market-oriented," says Stefan.
This was the autumn of 2016. The door that opened for Stefan led him to Elmia, where he became section manager for industry trade fairs and was ultimately given responsibility for all of Elmia's trade fairs. Exciting and rewarding – absolutely. But an opportunity to return to the industry as the new CEO of Proton Technology was too enticing to resist.
When I meet Stefan, he has just completed his first month at the new company. But Stefan has already managed to form a clear picture of his new workplace.
"There are ten of us, and my colleagues are enterprising, ambitious, and thorough individuals. There is a strong awareness of quality along with an incredible sense of community in the team. You embrace the curiosity that exists, you want to progress," says Stefan.
So what does the future hold for Proton Technology?
"We have our three departments: Surface Testing, Surface Engineering and Surface Academy, so we have everything covered when it comes to surfaces. We are now going to take the step from being a lab to becoming a service provider and knowledge company within surface technology. We will work even more with special testing and development projects, and we will be experts in surfaces. We will consistently be at the forefront with regard to knowledge. And we have now begun this journey," says Stefan.
According to Stefan, the key to success is – and will always be – customer contact.
"We perform roughly 2,000 tests per year and meet around 300 customers. We are always available, we always get back to a customer when they have engaged us, and existing, returning customers always have direct contact with the lab. Whenever we conduct customer surveys, we always receive exemplary feedback for service, quality, and availability," says Stefan.
Customer contact is also an important part of the company's logistics.
"For us, logistics is about quality and delivery times. The right quality for the customer, which in turn builds trust and confidence in that we handle everything correctly and confidentially. One of our greatest success factors when it comes to delivery times is our promise to provide customers with complete test reports in five days. In this we are inarguably faster than any of our competitors," says Stefan.