"The future was
always on my mind.”
The concept of automation techniques didn’t enter Mikkel's world until after high school, during time out from a job as an unskilled factory worker.
"Here, technology and robots were already a big part of my everyday life and I thought it was very exciting and futuristic," says an enthusiastic Mikkel.
And it’s that excitement and innovation that make up the algorithm of his work today. That happens at Vola in the Danish town of Horsens, where Mikkel is halfway through his apprenticeship as an automation technician.
"We do process optimization, primarily for production plants, and build machines and plants so that robots can handle the trivial and tedious tasks, freeing up time for the humans to handle the more complex and advanced jobs, like developing, servicing and controlling the machines."
And he loves his job. “The thing that gives me the greatest satisfaction is that we have to design machines ourselves and consider all the thoughts from the offset. And when you’re in that process and the pieces fall into place, you think, ‘I’m the guy who thought that!' There is no instruction manual. A bit like with kids, "Mikkel laughs. "It makes me really proud!" But as in any other creative process, there is almost always the inevitable doubt that he must go through before a project gets underway.
“Will the ideas arrive? Where should I start? Should it be a robot arm or a motor on a sled? But then it starts coming together as soon as you begin. And the more experience you have, the smoother that initial period becomes."
The thing that gives me the greatest satisfaction is that we have to design machines ourselves and consider all the thoughts from the offset.
The future in progress
MIkkel was 15 when he bought his first motorcycle, "but then of course I couldn't ride it, so I ran a race instead."
“I have always worked with motorcycles and cars and mopeds, and naturally mechanics and lots of electronic. But I did not have a great understanding at the time. It was clearly here that my interest was sparked, because there had to be something that propelled the motorcycle. Some driving force. So, the basic principles were there. However, I knew I didn’t want to be a mechanic. I wanted to use my mind creatively and thankfully my profession gives me the freedom to do that."
A job robots can’t do
Mikkel isn’t only becoming a better automation technician, but also a better colleague. Because strong development lies in good supportive teamwork. Vola, with its special focus on quality, has a sea of talented (human) employees who help carry the iconic Arne Jacobsen design from 1968 into the future.
“Giving and receiving constructive criticism is very important for my development. I soak up everything I can. So, I also value being on a first-name basis with all 200 employees, going through the factory and talking to everyone. It gives me an insane amount of energy and knowledge.
”In addition to sparring with his many talented colleagues, Mikkel also gets a huge boost from the unpredictability of his everyday work life.
"When I get up in the morning, I don’t always know what's going to happen – and even if I do, the day may quickly take another turn because of a sudden problem that I need to solve."
The journey to success
Mikkel loves the future. And that could help shape tomorrow’s world: "Every day something new happens and every day new opportunities arise." He knows that the future will be bright when he finishes in a couple of years, because automation technicians are in high demand. But going abroad doesn’t appeal to him right now. However, he is drawn to a life on the road, close to home, with his machines, "if it can be done in a way that suits my family." Mikkel is looking to the future again, as the family he refers to is currently just an aspiration, “but you never know where you will be in two years."
First, however, he needs to get qualified. And that means there are a few machines that must be ridden first – tasks that require work clothing he can rely on.
“The thing that is really high for me is mobility. That's pretty important to us service people. There must be flexibility and stretch – especially in pants. After all, we work in all sorts of strange positions, lying and crawling under machines. So, the clothes can’t be too delicate, because they get a lot of action. It can also get up to 30 degrees under a machine, so breathability is essential.
”Being able to grab experiences like Mikkel’s and spin them into creative solutions is important to Kansas. Product development takes place in collaboration with skilled people in crafts and industry. The result is superior clothing with a focus on functionality, durability and comfort. Like the new Evolve Trousers Flexforce for example. The design is equipped with many practical ventilation zippers, meaning Mikkel can regulate temperature when in demanding conditions or simply hot summer days – a ‘cool’ feature he and many of his colleagues value.
“At Vola, we are used to working with high standards. And our daily focus on good quality shines through our work. It’s therefore also natural that we demand a lot from our work clothes. Kansas delivers, every time. They’ve taken us from feeling the heat to feeling pampered,” laughs Mikkel.