At the start of the 1980’s, Nefab set out on a journey of internationalization, to more effectively being able to serve Swedish customers outside of Sweden, as well as serving other international companies abroad.
This expansion began in some key European markets such as Spain and France. Nefab also built a footprint in North America 1983, by establishing in Peterborough Canada. In 1982 there would also be a generation shift within Nefab, when Ing-Marie became the main owner and Jochum Pihl took over as CEO.
Nefab had set sights on expanding the business to Spain, and during the process of scouting the Spanish market to find a local manufacturing partner, a contact was established with the family-owned wood packaging company Maderas del Norte in Madrid. Together with this company Nefab built a factory for Vikex production outside of Madrid. Setting up the first factory outside of Sweden was not all smooth sailing. Daniel Gomez, Managing Director at that time for the Spanish Production Unit, worked very hard together with the local organization and the Swedish organization to set up machinery and processes to produce the Vikex product. Getting the machinery up and running took quite some time. Some days there were orders to produce, but no machinery working, and some days it was the other way around. But the organization in Spain persevered through these challenging times. Through strong teamwork, customer focus and a firm belief in a great product, the first manufacturing site outside of Sweden would soon be established and up and running.
Since the late ‘70s Noël Parrot had been a reseller of Nefab products in France, and in the early ‘80s he was the driver behind Nefab’s establishment in France. Nefab started to build a factory in Salbris, located in central France. An area with skilled manpower and good logistic connections. Several defense industries were also located nearby. As a tribute to Nefab’s Swedish roots, the factory exterior was given a Swedish expression, built in wood and painted red and white. Noël was very keen on establishing a non-hierarchal, Swedish leadership style at the Salbris factory. At that time, it was a bit exotic to give that kind of freedom and empowerment to employees – but it proved very successful.
During the early ‘80s, Nefab also made the first establishment on the North American market. The first footprint became Canada in 1983, where Nefab established under the name Vikex Industrial Packaging. The operations in Peterborough started as a small set up with a staff of only five. But the Canadian operation would soon grow dramatically driven by the expansion of the telecom industry in North America.
Machines used within Nefab’s production facilities had been developed in-house since the start of the ‘50s, but now, in the phase of international expansion it was decided to create a more formal central organization that would design and build the production machines for all of Nefab’s manufacturing units around the world. Therefore, the entity Nefab Teknik was founded in 1989, with approximately 25 employees. Nefab Teknik was divided into three main areas – machine construction, maintenance, and control systems. The overall objective for Nefab Teknik was to simplify and shorten the setup time for manufacturing units, while also supporting harmonization of production and product development.