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Årdal to the left, two Hydro employees at right

Stories by Hydro

From battery to foundry in Årdal

Marte Stamland and Jacob Emil Tønnesen normally work for Hydro Batteries. Marte works in business development, and Jacob with strategy and market analysis. However, for a month, they swapped their office at the headquarters in Vækerø for the casthouse in Årdal. Here they worked on different shifts, shadowing the operators at the foundry.

The idea for the temporary job exchange was formed during a visit the Batteries team had to the aluminium plant in Sunndal.

After a tour of the plant, Jacob began to wonder how much time and training it takes before someone is allowed to do more than just observe the production. He and Marte both wanted to find out.

Jacob Emil Tønnesen and Marte Stamland at the casthouse in Årdal
Jacob Emil Tønnesen and Marte Stamland at the casthouse in Årdal

No prior plant experience

"One of the main tasks in Batteries is to develop and industrialize companies, but I've barely set foot in production before. I wanted to better understand Hydro’s business, learn about the daily routines in production, and how we work on improvements and implement HSE standards in the plants," explains Jacob.

Over the course of four weeks, Jacob and Marte truly experienced the daily life of Hydro at the Årdal casthouse. They have followed separate shifts as additional resources and gradually were given the opportunity to perform tasks in production.

"Batteries is currently a small unit within Hydro and there are many others who work much closer to production in Hydro. By doing this, we gain a deeper understanding of what we actually deliver and what it takes. We wanted to learn and bridge the gap between what we develop in Batteries and the industrial heritage Hydro refines every day," says Marte.

Aluminium production has been taking place in Årdal since 1948. The plant has an annual production of around 204,000 tonnes of primary aluminium and 220,000 tonnes of foundry products. In Årdal, Hydro also operates a carbon plant that produces anodes for aluminium production in Årdal and Hydro's other Norwegian plants. Additionally, one of the aluminium industry's best research centers is in Årdal.

Want to know more about working for Hydro? See our career pages

"It has been exciting to follow the shifts to understand the routines and get to know colleagues. There has been a lot to learn, but I've received good guidance along the way. I gradually become able to perform many of the tasks that need to be done during a shift," says Jacob.

"We've gone through many tasks involved in preparing the processes in the casthouse. These are things I haven't encountered before. I've also seen the importance of 5S and good organization," adds Marte.

A significant transition from office life

Both are grateful for the warm reception they received at the Årdal aluminium plant, despite the challenges of transitioning from the office to production.

The Årdal plant in western Norway
Årdal is a modern industrial community, with ties to the old society of farming and fishing. It is surrounded by nature with high mountains and waterfalls.

"We had a private tour of the entire plant and the rest of the shift has made an extra effort to train us in the tasks that need to be done. They have been very patient with us," says Marte.

"Naturally, there is some skepticism when you come straight from an office, but you quickly become part of the team," adds Jacob.

Through the job exchange, Jacob and Marte gained insight into other parts of Hydro's operations and value chain, as well as the significance of each operator's role in the production process.

"I now have a much better understanding of how challenging it is to maintain a production line and how important it is to continuously optimize it. Quality depends on each operator. If one operator does a poor job, it can negatively impact the entire production process," says Jacob.

"This has been a reality check for me. There is a lot of manual work in production and safety must always be taken seriously," says Marte.

a bicycle parked next to a sign
Årdal is the perfect starting point for both fjord and mountain experiences

They both point out the opportunity to be exposed to the entirety of Hydro's industrial operations, which is a crucial building block in Hydro Batteries' strategy. They have also gained insights into the career opportunities available elsewhere in Hydro.

Fantastic outdoor opportunities

And what about Årdal as a place to live? Both have also had the chance to explore the nature and community in the area.

"The best thing about Årdal is the fantastic outdoor opportunities and the beautiful nature. It's a peaceful place with plenty of space and great hiking opportunities," says Jacob.

"We've also had the chance to get to know the local community and we have felt very welcome. We both ended up as regulars at the local bakery," agrees Marte.

Want to know more about working for Hydro? See our career pages

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