Thomas Westerholm has worked at Envirotainer for 37 years. When he first started in 1985, Ronald Reagan was still US President, Mikhail Gorbachev became leader of the Soviet Union and the first Wrestlemania took place with Hulk Hogan and Mr T.
A lot has changed since then in the world and cold chain but a lot of things have thankfully stayed the same. Like Thomas’s steady focus on the technical as well as human aspects of container reliability and safety. Little wonder that he’s harnessed all that experience in his role as Compliance & Training Manager and has been sharing that knowledge throughout Envirotainer and its global network.
Compliance in the real world
But let’s start by saying that combining technology and regulations with people and reality is no mean task. You have to ensure total compliance with strict aviation authorities like the FAA and EASA so that every container is “flight safe”. Yet you also have to understand and help the technicians who will be responsible for delivering this, sometimes on the other side of the world and in stressful environments of their own. All to make sure that containers are quickly serviced, maintained and thus always ready and available to ship their life-saving cargo when needed.
“It’s a bit like renting a car,” says Thomas. “We need to check the container for damage and prepare it for the next customer. But it’s even more important as we could be shipping insulin or Covid vaccines. And if a rubber seal is missing, it may be safe to fly but it’s not safe for maintaining the necessary temperature.”
Going above and beyond
Those extra demands take more attention to detail, a greater focus on quality and a lot of new skills. As Thomas explains: “The technicians have to be higher and higher skilled as customers’ needs keep increasing and container technology keeps developing. So they need to understand refrigeration, batteries, circuit boards and more.”
Since the early 2000s, Thomas has been traveling the world, building up the network and constantly training the technicians. And how does he get them to go above and beyond flight safety and learn these new skills? By truly valuing them as people, as friends.
“When I visit anywhere, I always go down and say hello to the technicians. And perhaps grab a pizza with them. They’re vital to Envirotainer’s and our customers’ business and I want to make them really feel part of it all.” And they do. After almost two decades of building up the network, the vast majority of those technicians are still there, still keeping the container fleet in prime condition in terms of quality, safety and availability.
Of course, with the pandemic, Thomas’s traveling had to stop – but his training still kept up the pace with remote learning via the Learning Management System in the Envirotainer Academy. As well as retaining that all-important personal quality, thanks to face-to-face online meetings and even hands-on training. Thomas explains, “We make great use of smartglasses in our instructor-led training that let us see what the technician is seeing and doing. Even if they’re on the other side of the world. That’s been very important.”
And what does the future hold for Thomas and his extended family of technicians? It’s something he’s been preparing for throughout his career at Envirotainer and he’s already started driving throughout the company and the network: Human Factors Training. “It’s the understanding that people are people. Nobody is perfect and stress or tiredness can also be major factors. So, it’s about being aware and prepared for that,” says Thomas. “Human Factors Training is mandatory in aviation. And we’re putting it into all our training.”
So if you were thinking Thomas would be cashing in his frequent flyer miles any time soon, think again. His passion for the job and his people is as strong as ever – and he knows he still has work to do.
“It’s an honor to do this job. And I’m very proud of the people in the network. Meeting them and making friends all around the world is what I enjoy most. So I’m always thinking: How can I make life better for them and our network?”
Name: Thomas Westerholm
Job: Compliance & Training Manager, Envirotainer
Family: Wife, 3 children and a cat
Hobbies: Building projects at home, cycling, skiing
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