Johnson Controls are deliberately anonymous in Sweden as they mainly work with global clients.

On a mission to optimise

Global Workplace Solution, GWS, is what Johnson Controls and Peter Bäckström work with. A company on the way up, on a mission to ‘deliver an end to inconvenience’.

‘Low cost but high content’ is a slogan for our time. Peter Bäckström, Customer Business Director at Johnson Controls’ Nordic head office in Solna, Sweden is very switched on to this. He aims to make his clients as cost effective as possible.

American company Johnson Controls operates in three different areas. One division supplies and installs fixtures and fittings for the automotive industry. One is active in energy solutions and manufactures batteries. The third, which is where Peter Bäckström works, is involved in ‘building efficiency’: technical equipment, technical solutions and ongoing maintenance.

“We’ve gone from project managing a building to managing and directing what goes on inside a building. We now also look at user behaviour,” explains Peter.

Johnson Controls is anonymous in Sweden, they barely even have a sign on the door, which is a conscious strategy. Small, nationally active offices are not interesting customers. Global companies that are prepared to stir things up are significantly more attractive. Anyone consulting Johnson Controls must be prepared for change.

“Our business concept is about taking over the technical maintenance and service functions of a building and creating an integrated solution that gives greater flexibility, higher quality and lower costs.This means that we also need to invest in both materials and people ourselves. That’s why we’re looking for clients who are prepared for long-term collaboration. “It can be difficult to go from having full control of every single detail to an environment where Johnson Controls, as the supplier, has total functional responsibility. A large part of the challenge for this industry lies in measuring the results. How do you evaluate cleaning, for example, when everyone has their own understanding of what clean is?”

Small, nationally active offices are not interesting customers.Global companies that are prepared to stir things up are significantly more attractive. Anyone consulting Johnson Controls must be prepared for change.” 

How to make maximum use of the space
In order to keep an eye on everything that goes on in all areas, Johnson Controls employs a number of ‘subject matter experts’.

“If a plant that needs watering every two weeks instead of every week comes on to the market and the company has 10,000 plants, then it’s time to replace the old ones. Our experts have cultivated contacts with specialist companies in different service areas. such as Securitas in the security industry, for example,” explains Peter Bäckström.

Many offices had already begun to show an interest in saving energy before the economic decline, but back then, it was more about heating and ventilation. Now, on the other hand, they want to discuss more subtle issues. How and who will use the machinery, for example. A trend which began to take off several years ago is reducing office space and fitting more staff into the remaining space.

“If a company is looking to reduce costs and make their cleaning costs one krona cheaper per square metre, while they still have unused space, then I don’t think that they are getting the best out of that space. The question should be: How do we get maximum use of the space? Is it possible to get rid of an entire floor? We often recommend ‘hot desking’, where the company is pushed together and several employees share a desk. Fantastic!”

This is where, according to Peter Bäckström, a lot of Kinnarps’ ideologies come into the picture. And he would like to pass on some advice for the future.

“There will be a lot more moving around from now on. A conference table should be able to be converted into a number of smaller tables in no time, in principle. A relaxation room is also a future trend. I call this an ‘off stage’ function. Everyone needs a little time out of the spotlight during the day.That way, you’re more efficient when you are on stage.

We sit just a little to the side. In a comfortable sofa with a coffee table and soft rugs. “This is where you can relax for a moment. This is where no one is allowed to do any work. This is where it’s comfortable and cosy.This is where people are happy.We have really pleasant Friday get-togethers here. This is how the excess square metres should be used.This is where Kinnarps comes into the picture,” says Peter Bäckström.

What demands will the next generation place on their workplace
Johnson Controls has one employee who spends their time studying research on working environments etc. and who tries to find out what demands and requirements the next generation will have of their workplace. How mobile will they be? Every year a survey of how tomorrow’s European offices will look is published.

“In 2008 only a third of all employees had their own workspace, compared to 2002. Right now office life is going through a complete sea-change. It’s time to start training managers so that they can manage employees who work remotely. How do you know they are actually working? What targets should be set?”

I’m a little unsure of what he’s saying and about the word ‘Controls’ in the company name. Is Johnson Controls merely a tough middleman? Doesn’t every company reach a point where they’ve downsized sufficiently and outsourced enough, I wonder. “Sure,” says Peter Bäckström, “but maybe that’s when it’s the right time to ask: Are we still at a winning level? Or maybe it’s enough to come second?

“And we need to show that a middleman is exactly what we aren’t. We deliver an end to inconvenience. We integrate the connections so that everything flows. We work at a distance, but are still close by. If someone phones and says that the toilet lights aren’t working, we make sure that they’re replaced immediately. We work globally, but with local knowledge. Our mission
is to optimise the workplace. Surely no-one can have anything against that.”