Per-Åke Södergren

Per-Åke Södergren is a Gotland native who combines lamb farming with the role of Senior Expert Consultant in Technology. An appreciated colleague with a large and broad competence that he is happy to share. But how and where did his career begin?

" In a previous position, I was a "customer" of Plantvision for many years and I was responsible for the implementation and administration of InfoPlus21 back in 1998. In addition, I had the same assignment with the implementation of PlantPerformance for several years, so I am well acquainted with that software. Thanks to that, I had frequent contact with Plantvision and at the end of 2016 I had organized a training for a group at Aspen Calc in the Gothenburg office. Once there, I started talking to one of the employees about what it was like to work at Plantvision and then I was jokingly asked if I should start working as a consultant instead because I already had quite a few years of experience with several of PV's products. "


Per-Åke went home and thought more and more about the question he had been asked. After about a year, he decided to accept the offer and thus left the role of process engineer/supervisor, which he had held for more than 30 years. He came to the conclusion that if he was ever going to change direction in life, now was the time.


From heavy industry to working as a consultant. Was it a difficult decision and how does Per-Åke enjoy the role?
" Changing the direction of my work in the way I did was definitely a big decision, especially for me who went from a recognized conservative industry like heavy industry to the consulting side. The fact that I'm from Gotland didn't make the decision any easier; it's often jokingly said that the first word we learn is "naj". "


But curiosity took over and the rest is history. Per-Åke thinks that the most fun part of the consulting role is that he can take his previous knowledge in combination with process knowledge/data storage/data analysis to the customers. His insights mean that he can often suggest a new angle that customers and colleagues with other backgrounds may not necessarily have thought of, and this creates added value in the projects. So what is most challenging, according to Per-Åke?
" Stressful situations sometimes arise, for example if a customer has problems with their critical systems. Then it's important to work systematically and not get stressed out. I claim to be a "calm person with tact and tone, moderate and balanced", to quote Adolfsson & Falk. So you just have to keep on working. If you get stuck and need to bounce ideas off someone, there are always experienced colleagues to discuss with. It is said that the consulting job is one of the loneliest things you can do, but there are quite a few of us in this team anyway and we help each other out. Not so much directly with the customer for my part, but we are always there for each other, a bit like a family."


The best part of the job, according to Per-Åke, is being able to help customers solve problems in their everyday work so that their assignments become easier and more profitable. No two days are really the same, but he still has certain routines.
" A regular day at work is a bit difficult to define actually, it differs from day to day. However, I do have certain recurring tasks, such as servicing a customer's Managed Services contract, which includes weekly checks and tests to ensure that the system is in good shape. There is also a lot of preventive maintenance on such systems. Otherwise, a working day/week can include everything from installation/configuration of systems, scripting and troubleshooting to customer meetings, pure helpdesk issues and administrative work."


Per-Åke lives on Gotland, but is based at the head office in Kista, which means he works remotely, something he enjoys very much.
" I really enjoy working from home. It gives a fantastic flexibility in the work.
All colleagues are just a click away if you need them. If I need to meet someone "face to face", there are good communications to get where you need to go in Sweden within reasonable times. I have many customers in northern Sweden as a bit of a focus area in my work, so it doesn't really matter if I live on Gotland or in the Stockholm area when I go out to customers there


Work-life balance is so important for an individual's well-being and Per-Åke seems to have found it. He has a dedicated office at home where he goes in the morning and when his work is done for the day, he leaves the office and finds it easier to disconnect from work. In addition, he and his wife have a small farm with lambs to care for and land to farm, a perfect combination to recharge his batteries and clear his mind from the sometimes very static system work. Per-Åke also finds that he comes up with clever solutions to work-related problems when he is doing something completely different, such as farm work. For further relaxation, he is also involved in both choir and solo singing, another good way to clear his head, according to him.


With so much going on in the world, how does Per-Åke see the future of the industry and his own role in it?
" I am most active in the energy sector and heavy industry. There we are at the beginning of an extensive transition where the things we do are very much in focus. Particularly in industry, we can contribute a lot to improvement work and efficiency improvements.
For my part, I see that you have to be very responsive in discussions with customers because that's when we can pick up new challenges.


Per-Åke is involved in many exciting customer projects and we asked him to tell us more about one of them.
" All projects contain something exciting, but one thing that stands out is when I had the pleasure of installing and commissioning ProMV (Multivariate Data Analysis) at a customer. The customer has already had a substantial history of storing production data for a number of years, so there is plenty of background data to model. This is a really good system to use for monitoring and modeling large amounts of process data. In this particular case, we wanted to try to create models that can predict quality and analytical data based on process input quality parameters in combination with a large number of process parameters. We succeeded very well. It means that you can now, through an online interface, see much more clearly where you are in terms of the process and what you can expect in terms of the quality of what is currently being produced. The actual analyses come from the laboratory several hours later, so you can to a large extent actively steer towards better quality in real time and then only confirm this with the official analyses afterwards. The system also notifies you if it suspects that you are going to land "off the board" and also tells you which process parameters are deviating and in which direction to adjust them to get back on track.

The models are also helpful if you want to develop new recipes or change something in the overall process. You can then use the model to get an idea of how the remaining parts of the process would be affected positively or negatively. You can also use the system to compare different occasions for the same process and thereby get a clear picture of what distinguishes the different occasions. This is very useful in the context of process optimization. "


Projects of this kind can have a positive impact on society, and when it comes to heavy industry, it has historically had a very large negative environmental impact. With the ongoing transition to green manufacturing, in all branches, this will have a major impact on environmental work. Project solutions of this kind contribute greatly to the sustainability of society from now and into the future. These are things that Per-Åke and his colleagues are very good at, and of course they do everything they can to help customers' efficiency and their development in positive directions.

Per-Åke's final words answer the question of whether he would recommend Plantvision as an employer.
" I would gladly recommend Plantvision to anyone who is looking for a job and who fits our profiles. It's a great team to work with here. For both new and old customers, I can also promise that there is something with us for most people."


We thank Per-Åke for the chat and wish him all the best in his future assignments and, not least, as a lamb farmer on beautiful Gotland.


Per-Åke Södergren

Role: Senior Expert Consultant
Team: Technology
Location: Kista

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