Interview: Gas engineering company on new Tallinn office ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

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Linde industrial gas production plant in Leuna, Germany. Source: Linde Engineering.

Anglo-German chemicals multi-national Linde Engineering has opened a new office in Tallinn.

Anti Laiv, manager of Linde's new office, in the Järvevana district of the city, gave the following interview, which first appeared in Baltic Business Quarterly.

Introduction

Linde has been in business over 140 years, and today primarily focuses on producing industrial gases andrelated engineering. It employs around 80,000 people worldwide and in 2019 had a turnover of more than €24 billion.

Linde produces various types of gases used in electronics production, in labs, for food processing, in medicine and for sea and space exploration.

Company focus

Linde Engineering specializes in the engineering and construction of gas production plants. While we are a relatively small component of the overall group, Linde Gases is the main supplier of gas-producing facilities. In addition, it operate as a plant and service supplier for third parties.

Climate change issues are important, and technologies covering the hydrogen and clean hydrogen value chain, solutions that utilize renewable energy, reducing CO2 emmissions and capturing and utilizing CO2 emissions are all a focus.

Move into Estonia result of it being an attractive business location

Over time, it became increasingly difficult to find skilled personnel for the headquarters in Munich, Germany. The decision was then made to open a further location in Europe, in addition to sites in China, India and the U.S. A thorough selection process was initiated and a number of countries in Europe were under consideration.

In the end, several factors attracted the company to Tallinn, among these a wide availability of professionals in key areas with a very high educational level and excellent language skills.

Factors that make Estonia attractive as a location are the pioneering role the country has been taking in digitalization, for example with internet-based public services; its geographical position; and ease of access.

The fact that Linde Gases has so far had very good experience with its Tallinn-based business service center also helped tip the scales in Estonia's favor, Laiv says.

Pre-coronavirus challenges

The Linde Engineering Tallinn branch office was established in June 2019 and operations commenced the following August. The key was to quickly recruit professional people and establish processes to align the branch with the rest of Linde Engineering, its customers and service providers. As for challenges, finding good and skilled people to join with us, to convince them to join when the branch had yet no employees nor established office were some of the main ones.  Other than that, there aren't any big hurdles to point out. Actually, the famed lack of bureaucracy involved with establishing the business in Estonia came into play  – thanks in a large part to the internet-based public services, which also make it easy to run a business in Estonia.

The branch office is currently providing IT, logistics and supply chain management services for various new gas processing plants under construction worldwide. Today we have more than 30 people working in Tallinn – 10 of them take care of IT system administration and infrastructure-related services, including safety and IOT functions.

Over 20 people are working in logistics services and supporting our global procurement operations. People in our Tallinn team have global roles and responsibilities, and excellent opportunities for personal development in a truly global organization.

Effects of pandemic

In March last year, when the pandemic began, we all switched to home office working,  not only in Estonia but also at most of the company's offices. Understandably, with so many people switching to remote work at once, the company's IT infrastructure was put to the test and some of our branch IT staff were directly involved with overcoming the challenge.

The Tallinn office is heavily involved in project logistics, and we definitely felt the impact of the pandemic on the global transportation sector. As lead times grew, it became more and more difficult to coordinate deliveries to construction sites scattered around the globe – all of which require deliveries on a timely and accurate basis. Sea and air transport were hardest-hit, while land transport wasn't much affected, and shipments continued to reach their destination as planned. All-in-all, the pandemic and transportation market upheavals resulted in a lot of additional workload for our staff and service providers. In any case, we feel we have got on top of the challenge together, and are now adjusting to the new situation.

Our staff in Tallinn is part of the Linde Engineering headquarters' organization, with numerous interfaces taking place in daily work. Online communication channels have been very helpful during the pandemic. However, on the long run we are of course missing occasional direct face-to-face interaction and networking. So, we are looking forward to bring our teams together again for an efficient exchange of knowledge and techniques and even more important.

So far as employee numbers go, the pandemic hasn't really had an effect. The Tallinn branch had large recruiting plan for 2020. We had to make some adjustments, but despite the pandemic we kept on recruiting  new team members through 2020. Obviously, the recruiting and onboarding process has changed, and most of it is being done now over electronic channels, instead of face-to-face interviews and meetings.

This article originally appeared in the winter 2020/21 edition of the Baltic Business Quarterly, a publication produced in conjunction with the German-Baltic Chamber of Commerce in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania (AHK). More on the AHK is here.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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