mandag 12. juni 2017

Companies That Give Up on Norway

Here in South Norway we have a major crisis in the demise of thousands of industry jobs, mainly on shore. This is not just in the oil industry, the trend for companies to outsource abroad has hastened in the last three years, despite many of those companies actually being profitable at the time, or having been profitable for decades and reaching a crisis to sort out.

In some of the companies, outside the offshore oil business, which I have worked with I see that they have actaully quite thin gross margin. This is a big signal for any high wage, high skill economy that things are not going well. Production and engineering services companies need to have high value added products. The issue is that very often they are letting their customers have high margin products by continuing to respond to calls for more competitive pricing. They often loose a focus on cooperative innovation on costs in the supply chain, and instead go back to their workshops and start cutting corners with materials, manhours per unit designs for manufacturing ease rather than long term durability and ease of repair.

There are two alternatives here of course. You firstly offer innovation and not just some flashy USP type 'difference', but something which offers more to the end user. This is often more revolution than evolution! It is then the time to find out which customers are quick adopters and willing to cooperate on new technology introduction, or if you can achieve a branded draw-throuugh in the supply chain where customers down the line are specifying the innovation or brand. You can then command a higher margin, and perhaps in your innovation design you have included process and material savings- more being less, the main goal of margin-management.

The second is to find the customers who truly value your product by putting prices up in line with margin desires, and on a wide product range, reducing to the most sold, and the already highest margin products. High volume, low margin products in a Norwegian SME is just a route to dig your own grave, because you actually incur higher costs through out the company  in the noise of making more stuff. To some this sounds like a viscious and respectless 'creaming strategy' but it is in fact for two companies at least I have advised on other matters, a survival strategy they should follow before it is too late.

Admitting defeat in production and completely outsourcing while having just an office based company in Norway is seemingly all 'knowledge economy' strategy and good stuff, but in fact for either a new innovtator or an  established company it can be a road to hidden costs and crisis in customer confidence. For both companies, the switch to overseas production is usually to low cost countries like Poland, the North of Spain, Portugal, Brasil and the Far East with China being particularly popular a few years ago. In an ideal world you should be able to send a set of drawings, part lists and specifications to a contract manufacturer and let them get on with it, turn key, but for an SME in Norway what they have to understand, even at the larger end of medium size, is that on a world basis they may be a small customer to a large supplier. The reverse can be true, that the SME choose a small CM or one with sub suppliers who are small and do not have in particular the quality assurance infrastructure.

Qaulity assurance is the over riding main issue with outsourcing. Second  to this is project coordination such that they are delivered in time. The two factors above work very much against Norwegian businesses abroad, who are not prepared to pay the cost for having an effective inspection and project management prescence on site. That costs a lot of money per head, per product. The supplier is often in a position in these countries where credit is less available and they live more from cash flow,  and in addition working capital levered short term loans in the author's experience. This means there is a pressure to finish your project and argue about it later, especially when a larger spend customer has new orders or larger orders to be finished.

In essence for the offshore and shipping industries, the demands on quality for GL-DNW of American Bureau of Shiipping certification means that all production systems and all manufaddcturing procedures are qualified by the SME. In some equipment, for each item, every single critical stage of constrcution of every individual product has to be overseen and inspected, such as welding or electronic wiring for example.

Quality is in practice a combination of a quality system, excellent design, ownership, pride in work, experience on the workshop floor. In outsourcing you risk losing absolutely all of these, especially if you have taken several rounds of price negotiations. The negative side of forcing price down with a work shop to the lowest nearest bid, is that you risk being a cheap and quick customer. They operate in the same way as any business, man hours per project per unit, and that is where you risk losing most on the quality side. You also risk being the sacrificial cow for postponements if you are marginally profitable to the supplier.

Quality is one thing that can cost companies very dearly if there are deviation at factory-acceptance-test time, or failures in operation. It is very much related to practical on the workshop floor experience with a documentation system reflecting this. When you outsource, those two elements have to entwine with the supplier and that involves an investment.

One area of Quailty in terms of ISO systematic development and initial deliveries to customers stands very much in favour of domestic production in house or in geographically 'cosey'  workshop. Even when this prototyping and and first-of-type-to-market stands at a loss in a larger serial production of the product or is a risk venture on outset, it is worth keeping production facilties local such that the degree of involvement with the practical realitty of the product is immediate and many employees can contribute with no travel costs. This type of lead engineering also can help integrate further into your customer's innovation processes and set you apart as a higher value partner rather than an also ran supplier on the three bid rounds process.

Quality is an unavoidable cost which in turn should be passed on to the customer in BOTH a higher out price and within that a higher margin than for lower qaulity assured production.

An area which is though a major source for revenue in Norway which is in danger of loosing traction due to the decimation of domestic production is life cycle servicing. There are some companies in specialist areas of safety equipment or other critical items for offshore, who make far more money from a delivery in its' lifecycle than when new, because that work is all then very high margin, up in terms of 50% on labour and travel costs and often quire astounding the matter of 80-100% for parts and other materials. Apart from being an income source from the customer, it is also a point to integrate to the customer on, and discover if they have new purchases, are interested in wider upgrades or innovative replacements. Additionally, if they have stopped buying, to then find out reasons as to why.

In terms of manufacturing experience on site this means that those who built it and designed it are very often best placed to be able to fix it or predict what will wear out on it first. Losing this knowledge base through cross board redundancies can be very costly when highly qualified service engineers with no product history are confronted with the on site complexities of ageing products.

Really quality and life cycle are the two areas which western manufacturing firms in general should be focusing  on in terms of maintiaing about average margins. Instead of letting some customers determine a falling top line while the cost line increases, SMEs in Norway would be better finding not what new product to sell, but which new form of relationship to build and which bad form of relationship, the cost driven one, to walk away from. This may mean  of course finding new customers on a global basis, but it means also better integrating to some existing customers and becoming a supplier who solves problems -at a cost - which then avoid costly mistakes down the line in terms of quality failures and poor serviceablility in the field.
 

onsdag 7. juni 2017

Hvorfor er det lettere å få en ny jobb når du sitter i en stilling enn når man er ledig?

Det er en liten gåte. I Aust Agder sitter det en i fire i voksen alder uten jobb og en del yngre som ikke får lærlingsplass. Ledigheten mynker hvis ikke det stuper nå for denne kvartalen. Varigheten av folks ledighet er ikke en statistikk som vi høre mye om, men de over 18 måneder er i et stigende tall i Agder fylker.

Flere enn en i fire NAVver i Aust Agder. Det er et svartehull for ledige arbeidsplasser som bare kan sammenliknes med Finnmark med hensyn til utlyste stillinger. I tillegg til skyhøy ledighet blant voksen og god vosken folk,  er det mange uføre mennesker som er syke eller tja 'syke' nok til å NAVver hele livet. De skal ikke forsvinne fra NAV uten flere lave terskel jobb. Men de uten jobb som er ofte fullstendig overkvalifiserte ta opp de jobbene fordi det vil være i arbeid slikt det er lettere å komme i en bedre jobb.

Det er en liten paradoks her selvsagt, vi alle har hørt om. At det er alltid lettere å finne en ny jobb når du allerede er i en jobb. Eller egentlig ikke helt sant. Hvis du er kvalifisert eller i et bestemt industri eller strørre konsern, då er det mye lettere å skaffe en jobb 'internt' til firmaet eller industrien. Hvis du sitter på kassen i Rema, då er det kanskje ikke så sannsynlig at den lille ventejobben vil bære frukt. Oppsigelsesperioden stiger etter fastansettelse, butikkbransjen vil også ha lojale medarbeider som ikke forsvinner overnatt til tross for ryktet om mye midlertidig sysselsetning. Faktisk mange gode kvalifiserte folk blir sittende i en 'ventejobb' og mange yngre mennesker med bachelors går flere år fra en ventejobb til det neste. De blir stemplet med lave ambisjoner og initiativ for å bygge en karrière i det det lærte på universitetet, tross for etterspørsel i deres yrket. Yngre, ivrige folk begynne å forbi kjøre dem i hele prosessen.

Men senere i livet er en ventejobb sett på som positiv. Du har vært utsatt for nedbemanning, du kanskje ellers skulle har gått ledig, og en jobb i en hagesenter er engasjerende for deg mens du venter på den nye jobb med stor J i livet ditt. Nå i Aust Agder man konkurrerer ekstremt om ikke bare slike ventejobb men også arbeidspraksisplass som har muligheter å få deg en vente jobb ved erfaring eller avlate for videre ansettelse som NAV inngår. Man konkurrerer med kvoteflyktninger og 'yrkes NAVvere' som er plassert ut i de laveterskel jobbene. Situasjonen er svart og vi kan kanskje forvente at de mange millioner krone regjeringen setter inn blir brukt på flere attførings -konsulenter som smiler og er veldig glad i å hjelpe andre mennesker men har ingen evner til å skape reelle arbeidsplasser for folk som er ledige.

Hovedsakelig det er lettere å få en jobb når du sitter i en jobb fordi man lukter ferskt vare. En fangst, En kupp. Du kan løpe fra dag en når du flytter fra jobb som er likt eller i det samme kunnskaps området, då blir du fort i gang og tilbringe nye kapasitet umiddelbart.  Verdt å vente de tre måneders oppsigelsestid. Kan begynne i en jobb i morgen? Altfor lett-vindt, billige vare.

Største av alle to helt forferdelige fordømmelser mot arbeidsledige folk er  1) De har noe dårlige grunner for at de ble sparket eller valgt som mindre verdt når nedbemannings kniven falt.  2) De er late og mangler en viss motivasjon eller noe sosiale evner som bidrar til at de er ledige og då lukter de dårligere.

Som sagt er ventejobb en veldig, veldig god idee hvis det er noe for deg og kanskje en ventejobb åpner nye veier er til et nytt yrke? Det er også nettverk å vurdere. I jobb og omkring. For eksempel å jobbe i en vente jobb i det offentlige ofte føre til en bedre jobb i en annen etat eller avdeling. En bekjente av min som er innvandre slet med å få jobb til og med hun jobbet deltid midlertidig i kommunen, og så ble hun anbefalte til en jobb i NAV som saksbehandler med sosiale klienter. Jobb i butikk er dessverre på bunnen av muligheter for slike nettverking, det har få muligheter for selveste heltidsjobb. Men en jobb i butikk kan føre til en høyere vurdering av deg i din etablerte nettverk. Så er det 'Walmart økonomi' biten at du kan jobbe egentlig 50%, NAVver ved siden av, og står på CV som i jobb og ikke uten.

En annen sak som jeg leser om er at arbeidsledige folk er for ivrige, slikt de lukter enda vondere tydeligvis. De smisker og pisker opp CVen og vil viser seg fram som super motiverte kandidater som kan utføre jobben bedre enn noen har noensinne. Men de artikkelen overdriver en del. Kanskje. Eller er Janteloven så sterkt at man skal alltid under-selger deg selv og la dem leser mellom linjene? Jeg har uten å være helt oppmerksom på det, over-solgt meg selv inn på et par stillinger i mitt tid her i Norge og i utland. Jeg presterte ikke helt etter forventninger og små feil som ellers skulle ha gått i glemmeboken, ble til svarte merker og spørsmåltegn.

Det største grunnet til at folk i jobb får jobb, uansett oppsigelsestid, er at det er veldig dyrt å ansette i Norge, og en nye ansatte må være veldig produktivt i stillingen. Feil ansettelse koster ikke bare i rekruttering avgifter, men også i tapt produktivitet. Snitt lønn i Norge er 550k NOK med sosialeavgifter og diverse godteri er det nærmere en million krone per år i kostnader. Hver ansatte i en bedrift som har folk med høye ferdigheter/kunnskap/osv då må beregne enn omstilling relaterte til den stillingen av minst 2 millioner krone. I Aust Agder er lønn betydelige lavere for 'on-shore' arbeidere men inntekten til lokale service bedrifter er også vesentlig mindre. Det er verdt å vente på den riktige personen enn å ta inn en som kanskje ikke er helt 'opp og løpende'. Verre for meg, det er 'team fit' i bildet- hvordan en ansatte som skal investeres i med opplæring og innkjøringsperioden passer inn i laget og med hvilke positive evner vil de takle jobben deretter?  Jeg passer ikke i alle lag, særlig når sjefen er en liten selvgod Hitler og jeg har medarbeider som gjerne dumpe noe av deres verste oppgaver på meg.

Folk i jobb får jobb mer ofte på de to hoved grunner. De er opp og gående i det systemet, arbeidsflyt, kundegruppe, teknologi, programvare, verktøy eller generelt fag og ikke hjemme med et usynlig spørsmåltegn på CVen. Så får de høre om jobb, og dessuten anbefalte for jobb før jobben blir utlyste. I det offentlige og private med forskrifter om dette, vil stillingen bli utlyst bare som en bekreftelse at den interne eller bekjente kandidat er god nok, og fordi det kreves av organisasjonen eller lovverket. Dessverre er det ofte slikt at prosessen med to runder intervju foregår allikevel som er kjedelig. Intervjupraksis ja.

Jeg er en NAVver nå, føler som yrkes skattesvindler egentlig. Jeg får ikke en sjanse til å jobbe selveste gratis mellom tiltaket som regjeringen kom med i fjor. Det blir ingenting av. Flere muligheter, men ofte i bedrifter eller etater som forventet kutt i budsjett. Nå forventer jeg svært lite av den nye innsats/tiltak pakke når det ankommer Sørlandet og blir svelget av innleide konsulenter og midlertidige rådgivere. Tja, så jeg skulle søke om en slikt stilling meg selv! Mitt alternative er egentlig å ta en liten ventejobb noen timer i uken for å få enn litt bedre ventejobb med flere arbeidstimer, til å få neste antageligvis ventejobb med litt dårlig lønn men fastansettelse og så videre til og med jeg pensjonere meg selv. Slikt føles det. Og jeg må virkelig kjempe om å få en dritta møkka jobb som de uten kvalifikasjoner skulle heller ta og ha som inntekt i stedet for NAVving etter de vandre ut av skolen for siste gang.

mandag 8. mai 2017

Happy Birthday Fred Nordman !

Today is liberation day in both France and Norway. 72 years ago many boys born on the day or the following week were given the first name Fred, which means Peace in Norwegian too.

Happy Birthday Freds ! You have lived through an amazing peace, uneasy with youur Russian neighbour, but reconcilled with your once conquerors and united in many ways with Europe and the democratic world, and a go to touch stone for peace negotiations indeed, as the long tradition of Nobels' snub to Sweden for his peace prize continues to influence international politics, with today Japanese news perhaps being the first to report that peace talks between the US and North Korea will take place in Norway.

Me, well Fred is just a nickname and a useful handle for ranting and discussing the hypothetical, a bit like Kirkegaard but not as profound nor as influential. I hope that you Freds in the dales and cities of Norway, along the fjords and half way up the mountain live many more years in peace and security.

torsdag 23. mars 2017

Utrente Gubber Oppmuntres til å Delta

Med litt grått hår og første tegningene av en god solar-panel for opplading meg selv når eg fyller 60 år, er det nå eller aldri for å komme i form.

Jeg var nokså topptrent som 21 åring, med et hvilende hjerterytme på 36-42, og på sykkel 8 timer minst fra April til Oktober, pluss langtur i de skotske fjellene i blant, pluss litt kampsport, svømming osv. Jeg er ikke noe idrettsmann i utgangspunkt, uten særlig talent og uten kanskje en "VO2 Maks" som er i nærheten av noen som virkelig var trent da.

Nå sliter jeg med norske forhold som middelalders idiot i spandex-bokser. Jeg liker dårlig å løpe. Jeg liker dårlig skiføre som er enten blaut eller isete. Jeg er ikke villig å ta min 'god' eller min trofast terrengsykkel ut på veiene som er saltet eller skogsveier som har tilfeldig isflekker i skyggene, når det er ingen skispor. Jeg prøvde løping is skaugene i fjor, men jeg fikk, som i alle forsøk før i tiden, skader og en dårlig rygg.

"Ærlige Unnskyldninger. Jeg er i for mye
 av et tidsklem for å være føresnobb" 

Ærlige unnskyldninger- jeg er i for mye av et tidsklem til å være en føresnobb. Løsning kan være å flytte på meg til Lillehammer og bo på hytte der oppe ved Sjusjøen. Og så reiser til det mystiske, varme landet som heter Syden, som ikke er i Britiske feriebrosjyre forresten, men som Nordmenn er kjempe glad i å besøke.

Jeg giddet ikke gidder en gidd for å bli med i en treningstudio i fjor, og holdt meg til sykkel tur om vår og sommeren og krysset fingrene når snøen kom i store mengder i seint November. Det ble lite av, og det var ikke ideelt, men gøyal var det i en uke. Silkeføre et par dager! Og her på Sørlandet! Då besøkte jeg Vegårshei og Kleivvann på besøk i Aust Agder og fikk stor skiglede! The Joy of Ski ! Ah! Å! Ø!

Men problemet er at jeg mister formen litt i de månedene mellom sykkel og ski, og sommer svømming som det blir mye av nå i ferskvann, er nesten utbrent når det gjelder gjenværende effekt så snart skistaver finner plass på potene mine. Jeg har ikke god nok form for å komme i form!!

Jeg ser for meg at jeg kan bare løse dette problemet ved å kjøpe rulleski. Eller bli med i en studio med fancy 'turbo' ski maskin som isolerer musklene i et litt kjedelig, fastbundet,intense, svette,  innendørs type tortur foran mange andre, bedre trent og noen skeptiske kjerringer som flirer på sarkastisk måte.


 "...det er mye bedre for kroppen min 
å ikke ha hviledag hver annen dag, 
men i stedet til å trene to - tre dager på rad"

Men det som var godt med sesongen var en liten oppdagelse om treningsform og planer - det er veldig usikkert i disse dagene om vi får snø med brukbar skiføre i mer enn en uke, og hvis jeg må ta oppdrag i "supply chain" konsulent-tjenester et annet sted uten tid for å gå på ski. Altså, når snøen kom i November og jeg var ledig (og fattig!) for oppdrag, var jeg ute og gikk på ski ofte, særlig når jeg så de blå tallene i langtidsvarslet på Yr.no, forsvinner til fordel for syv plussgrader. Pøh!

Men jeg fant ut at jeg nå er jeg blitt gubbete og at jeg ikke er så trent og heller ikke forventer " å pushe" meg selv, å gi bånn gass med det første. Det viser seg at det er mye bedre for kroppen min  å ikke ha hviledag hver annen dag, men å trene to-tre dager på rad. Innenfor de rammene har jeg fått mye større fordel enn å holde meg til å trene tre dager i uken men ta det med ro i og mellom hver trenings tokt/økt.

Hviling er mest viktig etter at man har påført en stor belastning på hjerte, lungene og musklene. Så er det viktig å la immunforsvaret å komme seg fordi det dempes ved de hardeste øktene. Ole Einar Bjørndalen er paranoiker over at han skal bli smittet og bor på egen bo-bil med luftfukterapparat slikt han ikke blir tørr i neseborene og halsen og utsatt for virus.  Kroppen reparerer seg selv, og hjerte pumper langt og høyt en god stund etter de tøffeste eller lengste turene. Men for en gubbe som meg, jeg ikke oppnår slike ved sesongstartet. Jeg vet jeg begynner sakte og jeg vet at det skal være litt vondt, og nå vil jeg unngå så mye av det. Kroppen min er klar for en ny belastning neste dag slikt det lære seg å bli trent igjen.

Det er ikke så rart. Vi egentlig huske ikke når vi folk fleste som har tullete litt med å komme i kjempe form når vi ikke en gang hadde nådde 24 år gammel, at det var vondt og vi fikk skader, og vi måte tøye, og at vi hadde noen større smerter som betydde vi måtte hvile en helg eller glipper en konkurranse. Vi bare glemmer alt om hvor hardt det var, og huske hvor bra det var å være så trent, og hvor raskt vi kunne , hvor langt, hvor lenge, osv osv.

 En eldre kropp (under 75 -80 år) trenger litt mer tid å komme seg i form, og vil aldri oppnå toppformen en 21 eller 33 åring vil avhengig på hvilken idrett de var med i. Folk flest blir letter skadd fordi de ikke har trent hardt i flere år og de trekker for hardt! Det tok meg tre år, tre sesonger å komme i så god form som jeg var på sykkelen, delvis fordi kroppen fortsatt å vokse men også fordi sykkelsport er tøff særlig når du er litt større. Det skulle kanskje ta meg like langt med 8 timers trening per uke for 'å runde merket ' i Birke'n nå. Har jeg tid til slikt tull?

Ok, så treningsøkter to eller tre dager på rad før litt hviling. Selvfølgelig er det variasjon i treningsøkter  Med skitur og på sykkelen er det alltid en del interval-trening, det kommer med fremgangsmåten i seg selv. Men det er å tenke gjennom litt når du skal først ut den første dagen i en to -tre dagers serie.  Å ta kroppen opp til høyt fart litt raskere og vare litt kortere tid, eller å varme opp godt og å tøye seg før enn lengre tur?


Etter min mening skal silkeføre benyttes til lengre tur i langsommere tempo, med mye fokus på teknikk frem for konsentrasjon om intensitet.

Men det er ofteste skiføre som har største betydning for meg i alle fall. Silkeføre og då er det fristende å gå hardt inn på det fordi føret tilgir mye smått i dårlig fraspark og staking. Men då er det nøyaktige tidspunktet å planlege to mil som skal slukes. ( 2 mil forresten, i litt 'pace' er langt for meg, mer om dette snarlig) Langtur med fokus på utholdenhet og teknikk, nyt det gode føret til å føle maks glid og effekt fra fraspark og dobbeltak med fraspark. Konsentrerer deg om pusting og å holde 'hjulane i gong' ved den høye virkningsgraden i spark-stak-glid ligningen at du finner fram til i de første halvtime.

"Jeg Streber å Bli Mosjonist. 
Jeg er Bevegonist!"

Vi har langs kysten ofte skiftende forhold i været og til følge, skiføret.  I år er jeg glad for å ha fått 'pelskledde' "skin" ski, fordi en dag er det blå, så neste dag blir det lilla, så over til rødt og så clister men vent litt, her kommer ny snøfall og ti kuldegrader. Skiene funker jo og ikke blir slit i løpet av en sesong i henhold til en god universal-klister jobb som for meg, på siste ganske trøtte, myke ski, varte kanskje 2 mil maks. Jeg har blogge ganske mye på engelsk om de, men de hjelper. Med så skiftene og ofte dårlige fører (hmm, hvis det er flertall i føre), isete i skyggene og blaut der solen smiler ned hele dagen, det skulle være en hel sesongs eksperiment å bruke mye tid på gode smøring- eller clister- jobb og sammenlikner skiene i en halvtime. Føre har ikke vært bra i snitt, men skiene får feste når det teller. Så lenge det er tekstur og krystaller i sporene så vil skiene finne feste, og en veldig god del glid uten at man ligger merk til pelsen som er i midten som en 'brasiliansk' jobb på yngre damer. Når det er blaut og renner litt vann, så suger de en del grunnet være venusberget på bunnen, og når det var kram snø, var det for mye spenn i dem.

Igjen vil jeg si at jeg ofte har ikke tid  til å trene 8 timer hver uke. Eller jeg gidder ikke nok for å slkive ut tiden med familie og koseblogging osv.....Jeg strebe faktisk å bli mosjonist. Jeg er bevegonist! Jeg beveger meg opp ut av sofaen i blant når føre er greit nok. Jeg finner på lite fysiske aktivitet , ikke nok i allefall, i de saltet, skittne måneder mellom sykkeltur og skitur.

Jeg tok min aller siste skitur i går. Deilig og litt slitsomt i påskeføre med et underlag av is. Motstanden noen steder var stor men det var fordelaktig for å få mer ut av treningsøkten. Korreksjon, hvis jeg får en unnskyldning for å reise til fjells så tar jeg det som siste skitur før neste vinteren kommer i september. Hvis jeg får meg ut i påske då gir jeg litt tips til dem Northug og Nordhaug ;-)

















onsdag 22. mars 2017

Atomic Skintec 4000s - Are skin Skis the Way to Go for Training and Fitness Skiing?

Just to give my own personal skis and experience over a few hundred kilometers on them. To summarise, as before in an earlier blog, the ski's are pretty much as good as the conditions.

 You can't expect to really get the most of a ski with a hard arch tension and a mohair insert which will have some friction and waterlogging effects, on the type of conditions we get here need the coast.


'Last Couple of Day's Conditions. We often get thaw back to this and then new snow in spring. At least it was firm and the slush wasn't too deep today.


Today the conditions were actually not bad because the ice had been churned by the machines not that long ago, and the sun as you see was melting the structure a fair bit to a softer texture. In truth it looked like a far better day for skate skis.

The ski went well today, but it made me think about how much better a good clister job would have done on a slightly softer pair of skis. There is the dilema, you need then more than one pair of skis anyway! 

Today proved though that the skintec works on any condition where there is compacted snow which is still crystaline. Blue through purple to red hard waxes, and purple to silver and of course universal clister to the point when clister will work better on harder surfaces ( but suffer abrasion down to little again after 15 km) 

For list lovers then: Plusses and Minusses: 


+ Works on Wax Conditions with Old and New Laid Tracks
+ Works in the wetter easter snow
+ Really good kick and glide in 'silky' blue and purple with firm track bases.
+ Perhaps in lillac/ blue conditions, you can scale a steeper hill before fishboning comes in
+ Seem to avoid icing while keeping good grip in Zero conditions or mild air on cold tracks too
+ (ski not skin) The arch tension in the ski is good for glide and double pole with kicking
+ Works better than wax it seems in the mid lane out of the tramlines
+ Can skate on them usually because they do not 'snag' on the mid lane and they are high tension


- Doesn't work at all on very icey (where ice clister would be best) or very hard, transformed compacted tracks
- Doesn't work well at all on fine, cold new snow. 
- Gets waterlogged it seems, and looses some traction
- Can suck on downhills when waterlogged 
(ski not skin) The arch tension in the ski is a little hard for soft conditions

They Suck - But Not Often


That would be the biggest issue there above underlined- I noticed these spring days that the skin will suck right down on even a fast down hill when the ski finds a soft spot or the contour fills the arch, and it is like putting the brakes on a bike on. 

Then to release it you have to rock back to your heels and the ski flies off again, which is of course to be expected with a pretention in that arch matching 100-120kg skiers. On a faster section you can forgive this a bit, but not if you were racing or if you then needed to step out of the tram line, or one ski plough brake, because that might knock you off balance with a thump. 

This also shows itself in undulating terratory when it gets wet or porridgey in the tracks- the ski will not glide well, although you dont feel it like brake blocks coming on, it just is there. 

I would guess that the ski skin glider / protector sprays are the way to go. I tried and HFC shoe polish style rub a couple of times, and I think it helped with waterlogging, but also I think I lost a little traction when I needed it most in the shadowy sections where the tracks hadn't started melting.

Ski For Your Weight and Style


Here comes a little of the rub. Atomic have made a training ski which is used by some pros in their team, which has quite probably a very consistent arch tension (spenn) due to carbon being used in the construction. They are a mid to high range ski, depending on your tastes and local shop and prices. However they have made the 208 cm model a monster ski which a 125kg, 2 m high giant could use as skate skis. They have a tension which is just too much for soft conditions, and quite hard work in good conditions, while in the hard conditions it seems it works against itself too, but does allow for a really fast poling ski. 

So what were they thinking of? There are very few competitive skiers over 90kg let alone 100kg, so an advanced, stiff semi racing ski is not going to be ideal for the presumably less fit buyer and actually less trained yours tuly.  Well I did get a pair of these on the tension tester machine, and 208 was correct because the feeler gauge just got to the tip of the skin with some tiny friction the last inch or so. But the thing is that the skin is quite slipply in fact in glide phase because it seems never to pick up ice crystals, it brushes them backwards of course! Also this 4000 version is a built in skin, unlike its immediate predecessor which looks very similar as a ski, which has the magnetic removable insert, with two versions. So they maybe placed the skin too far forward. 

Another guy I met and paced with had the Fischer trainer-tourer skin ski with the thinner, twin skins and a traditional groove. He had poorer glide, yet about the same grip, and he didnt seem overweight. 

Skis vary as do conditions, so I would say have a think about your average conditions and if you have a good old wax pair for softer conditions, or if you want a skin ski for soft conditions and then a hard 'clister' ski for hard conditiions. The longer the insert, and the broader it is, the more it will create possible friction and waterlogging. Get the skis on the test meter and see where the feeler gauge meets fur ! Then do the floor test too for old times sake, both skis with a sheet of A4 paper under. 

I would say buying two pairs of skin skis is going to be a bit of a bad thing to do, a soft and a hard, because then you get into conditions where the skin doesnt work anyway  ie new snow, or ice, or waterlogged when the arch is not that hard in the ski. You are better thinking if you do most of your skiing on high mountain conditions to get a skin ski and then a soft ski for blue waxing through to the spring thaw melting and harder conditions for clistering them up. Some ski areas in the Rockies and Canada, tend to get a large early dump of snow and then the tracks get older and firmer for most of the season. So that would suit the idea above, a harder skinski and a soft, loose day and end of season waxed ski which is softer in arch tension.

I conclude this year, being the sixth not very great season in a row after two seven month -blue and lillac stonkers in 2010-2011, that it is the conditions and not my skis which are the issue!! However I can see that I need a softer pair of skin skis,  and I need to get hold of a pair of clister skis, again not quite as hard as the 4000s because I feel I need a quicker contact with clister - to be able to feel how hard I need to 'paw' or slide on the harder base conditions. 




With shorter seasons, the hard spenn skis are tough to work up to pace on, a bit like a high geared track bike needing more power and technique to be built up over time. 


So picking your ski is a bit of a Science for your own personal art - a soft ski is easy to get up and going, but will limit your speed and development of a powerful kick (perhaps!) Even for a new beginner a soft ski can be a mistake for mountain conditions, especially if they are investing a bit of money in the sport there and then. 

A hard ski - correctly measured for your weight that is, not too hard -  will allow you to grow in style and keep 'the wheel rolling' - for example double pole with or without kick will be much more effective and once good in technique, energy efficient on a hard spenn ski. 

A medium spenn ski is going to be a good allrounder for your style as a fitness skier I would say, because you are most likely concentrating on diagonal style. Also it will help you build up strength for the season, rather than for the ski,  like with mine! When we perhaps see a skin ski in shop like this, we look for approximately right length for your height and then check the arch tension for your weight. I would say take it down 10kg and see how the feeler works, then up 10 kg too. Here you get an idea for the different loadings caused by hard or softer bases, and can see how the ski might suck too much if it is too soft. I say you can allow for some feeler 'rub' on the skins at the front on your own weight, and not be looking to have the skin off the snow completely ie feeler guage all the way forward and into plastic before it finds friction. Mine are about an inch and a half of friction on the scale, perhaps then two to two and a half would be better, but then that would suck more on wet conditions.

lørdag 18. mars 2017

Birkebenrennet - Do-Able for Me ?

Birken run went today in glorious weather with a massive margin on the win for Martin Sundby, surviging even a Skidoo attack on the closing miles! Unfortunetly that was all which I have seen televised today as I was hoping for the type of coverage from the national channel akin to the BBC, which is NRK here.

Seemingly NRK had called the ski run's organisers bluff and not paid for TV rights at all, perhaps I am cynical. Anyway this was the very year I would want to see the course on TV and hear the race reports from different competitors, or participants as many are, on conditions, ski waxing etc.  I have half a mind to train up for it!

The run is 54km which at current appaling fitness level would take me 5 hours odd, at a measly 10km/h,. and that is without thiniking about the weighted rucksack you must carry all the way. The furthest I recall logging in a session has been 22km, on a partiuclarily crisp day when I was a little under clothed and got cramps in my legs. I could have managed 30 km. Also my skis seem a little slow, I was on my fast touring skis, not my atomic training slim n' straight ones. It was only a couple of km longer than my very first day on skis at Geilo, when the instrtuctor said I was a little fool hardy doing the 'round the fjord' 14km after our session first had been up about 6km. I couldnt walk the next day for any distance and the thought of snowboarding which I had planned for the next two days,  sent me back to bed with a hot drink.

Ski choice though is important for getting the most efficeincy out of your efforts of course, as is waxing or having the right conditions if you have 'furry soled' waxless like my Atomic Skintec 4000s. I noted Sundby was going like a train with relatively broad skis, presumably because of the extra weight he had to carry, and perhaps some soft conditions. Oh, breadth, length and arch tension..... how many pairs of skis to think about!!

Ideally then you may want to have a soft pair , possiobly a bit broader for new snow or slushy conditions to encourage float and make kicking adhesion work better. These would then not be skin skis, because these are conditions they do not work in, not all that well. In new snow they grip badly at lower temperatures , typical blue conditions, while in sliush they get waterlogged. They have an advamntage in zero conditions though, which you may experience underway.  Then  you could have your hard pair as skin skis, which would cover any older snow condtions right up to very firm, but not glazed conditions.

An akternative to both wax or skin skis, would be using Start grip tape, with a good application using a hair dryer or wax iron to a very clean, rubbed base. This stuff realluy does what it says on the box, and covers much the same range as skin skis,  but tackling loose and wet snow much better. It is very resistant to wear in normal conditions, and tends to neither pick up too many hard crystals nor hold onto them that long. They have a race version I have not tried, but this would be a good alternative if  you get to try them out on your skis first in a range of conditions, and get the length of application right, which in my experience is longer than clister zone, but shorter at the front and at the sole than a blue wax job. I had one applicatiion last a couple of months in mid winter, doing maybe 200 km in total, before though just two days 15km total took them down to almost bare.

Skinsks have the appeal for runs like Birke'n in that they dont need to be rewaxed as long as there are crystaline conditions and clean tracks without new snow, hard ice or slush. The issue with climbing is that you need a soft wax like purple to get under way and do the major diagonals on the way up (VR 50 VR 55 swix recommended today, on a clister binder with melted in green base known as a pro level endurance job) while the temperature usually drops and snow copnditions become mountain over the top and towards Sjusjoen. Soince there seems to be a good degree of double-poling (staking) once the first ascent is out the way, you could do a 'pocket only' job with lillac wax and hope it is grippy enough yet wears off enough so as not to clog with the colder, harder crystals over the top sections of the course.

Skin skis then today, would have been ideal with a range expected at my start time of almost zero at the start and down to minus 3 to minus six on the highest points. There would be little risk given the tracks were of course run through the night after any last snowfall was expected and done with decent weight onto a good base prepared in forehand. However the wrong arch tension could have made a messy day for you. Skinskis also by in large have a clister zone insert, which ends half way down the sole of the foot. So you could add about three to four inches of wax, or dare I say clister or even grip tape if conditions were to be loose or particularily hard on some portions of the Briken or any other run.

My 4000s are a bit too hard arch tension (spenn) for my current style as soon as the snow base becomes a little soft or gets icey. However it looked like they would have done fine today, and I would have been able to pole effectively much of the slack way down from the highest point witthout hindrance. However I think I could compromise with a little less in order to train up in longer, lighter tours and build my technique a little more, especially in the 'keep the wheel rolling' double pole with kick, which for me suits a softer ski I think. A softer skin ski may be a mistake though, because the skin might drag too much. However what really tires you physically and mentally is back slipping or not getting your effect of double pole kick over the semi fast sections. Staking over flat and softer snow down hill is very tiring, although fast for lighter skiers, it is not as efficient for a big skier like me as double with kick I beleive at least.

So I would be opting for about a 10% less stiff skin ski for the distance as in todays blue/violet, or over to older,cold hard snow and up to zero conditions. For pluss conditions I would opt for a softer pair of clistered skis with a green spray and ironed in wax, and rilling and glider done by a pro at the specialist shop here. For a new snow forecast , or possibility for a lot of wind blown snow, then I would opt for the same softer skis and do a day wax ontop of a good base and blue mid layer. VR seems to work a lot better in terms of durabilituy than no flourinated Blue and Lillac, but beware the temperature ranges are little different than standard wax.

Back to training up. Because we often have soft, new and melting snow here near the coast, I could not see myself doing forty km training sessions on my 4000s 2.08m long planks. I do see skins work well because one day it is blue, the next red, so purple so clister and I would save hours on end stripping and reapplying waxes. My 4000s would then be used for shorter, intense sessions where I practice sustained glide and timing the repowere after each glide phase on each leg optimally. You just cannot be lazy with them, they need a hard press down each time to release that carbon fibre insert.

Training up means about 8  hours a week until two weeks before apparently, when you do one last full lenght run or even 60km and then you scale back to intensity, before a light session three days out, and just stretching and suppleness two days up to it. To come in at 12km an hour, in just under five, then I would need to do that 8 hours a week for about three months, which would require either a good old fashioned winter, or access to a cabin above 500 m. lacking that, a gymn with specialist ski machines would help, or even roller skis of course. We are lucky to have 15 km of fairly gentle cycle lane alongside the route of the main road, with very little fish bone  and only a couple of iffy downhills for yours truly. It really is an option with short sessions with the ratchet on, and longer round tours with skate style for endurance.

Given though very silky conditions on the day with snow just a couple of days old, and a stable temperature profile, ort one which favours skin skis, then I can see i could complete it with a lot less training, and having actually not done the whole distance before. But that would not really give me the satisfaction of peaking out from a good season.

Logistically it is annoying and expensive, but some clubs get packages together win bus and hotel combis to get you there and back., and there are some showers lorried in i believe. A bath tub is what is needed, and a sauna after, so an overnight stop in telemark somewhere on the way home, with poissibility for a morning swim in a heated indoor pool would be the ideal. All in all this is looking at not much change from a bout a thousand pounds, for entry, bus,. hotel and food. For me that would make it once in a life time.

If next season proves to be a good one, with an artic oscillation and the scandinavian high dominating from early winter, then I am determined to trian up for a 42km run, either the Telemarkhelten or one of our own concotion with my offshore mates if that does not match, or it is blown off or too cold. I am then not fussed if it becomes 42km on mountain touring skis, or in nicely laid tracks, as long as it isnt four times round a 10km course.

So I need three things, A softer pair of skis, skin or not, a good winter and a goal of 42 km before I decide to invest time and money in a future birken,. Next year it reaches 80 years old, but for me what ever year I do it will be the right year for me!




































lørdag 11. mars 2017

XC Ski Season 2017 - And Goals for 2018!

Here we are again! Another short season, helped out a little with a dump in late november which gave us some fun for a week or so back then.

Summary of the Winter 2016-17 then:


Conditions:

 Variable, with shallow bases making the whole set up a little firmer than last winter's dump. Ideal test for using skintec 'furry' skis which performed well on almost every day, from new snow, wet easter snow to hard snow.

Fitness: 

I found that I respond much better to going out several days in a row rather than every other day. I could literally feel the tone and condition in my muscles coming on over the course of the first three days I got out at the beginning of February.

For me personally this is a bit of a break through in training philosophy, because before I used to do a hard hour sweat sess', rest day, long easy session day, rest day and avoid going every day.

Double poling and double pole with single kick have been techniques I have worked a little upon, especially the latter, and had pretty good response.

Due to the shallow snow I found that I was getting much better efficiency for all the techniques, with some days when the skin was giving ideal kick-glide pay off, being as if my skis were electrically assisted.

I have varied my training with up to three hour, steady sessions but always with some pushing of my envelope. No sessions have been less than an hour, and I have tried to peak in the shorter sessions after a careful warm up, and attempt a warm down.

My back as usual has been crampy the first few times out, especially with a bum-bag, so I will need to do more pilates and find a new, specific exercise for the classic langrenn stance.

Technique: 


This winter (in the spell in November too) I have been concentrating solely on classic style. This is because I wanted to really test out my new Atomic Skintecs to see if they were the allround training ski I was looking for ( I got them for a bargain 600 kr in VGC!!). They have proven to be as good as the conditions!

The hard 'spenn' ie stiff pre-tension, of the Skintec I have with carbon section in the walls, is challenging for me but I have concentrated a lot on getting the style of pressing with the whole sole of the foot as the hip swings under the body weight. In soft conditions I have had to use a more 'bull pawing' technique with the ball of the foot so as to get the ski in and down to attain grip and this is quite tiring.

Also I have been trying to get the swing forward to work such that the ski lands more parallel and does not clap down. I have exagerrated this a bit and also tried to find glide and fit tempo to glide, with great success. Before I was trying to stick to a tempo and perhaps miss glide opportunities.

This year I failed to concentrate more on balance and manoevrability which lead to me losing my bottle on what may be the last day of the season. As mentioned, skate skiing should be part of my first few hours out of a season to get back that sense of balance and confidence to power off and step turn on one ski.

Double pole with kick has beena  technique I found difficult and I felt outright clumsy using it. Now though I have been able to improve my timing/coordination and sneak the ski forward before kicking and it all seemed a lot more natural this year, with very surprising improvments in speed over 'slack' sections where poling alone is slow and diagonal a little too 'glidey'. This year the shallower snow has no doubt helped my improvement in this technique because I found last year that it was sucking me of energy for little actual propulsion on my newly aquired, stiffer skis. I was either not getting kick or having to dig and brake a little in finding it last season.

If anything this year I am most pleased then, with my improvement in Double Pole with single kick, because it should be an efficient technique in 'keeping the wheel turning'. I found I had really amazing return on investment so to speak when using this, with the profit in speed and maintaining momentum vastly outweighing the input of energy and concentration.

Having said all this I do now see that the racing brigade in the club and especially the sixty somethings, have much better efficiency than me. They are at least 40kg light than me though, and forty years more experienced than me, so I win on moral handicap. I see that my fitness only needs to come on about say 20% to enjoy training runs with the better folk in club, while my technique for the day's conditions needs a bit more work perhaps. If I am serious about trying to keep up with the better guys in their easy to medium sessions, then I had better get a softer pair of skis for softer conditions.

Skis: 


I have been soley using my Atomic Skintec, and found them to be excellent if conditions are not fully 'polished' hard, concrete like, or on the other end of the scale very soft. New snow with a lot of air (kramsnø) presents a problem which may mean I revert to my broader tour skis on such days which float my weight much better.

I havent used my skate skis at all this year for various reasons, having only combi boots and classic poles holding me back a little, but more that there has been gravel or soft conditions in the mid sections of the runs, and the best place for beginners like me in this art, was only opened last week and will be closed later today when the rain sets in unfortunately.

This is a real shame because I am moving job to Østfold where they often have very little snow in winter, and I would like to get into roller skiing in skate style as a form of out of season training. Also as I noted yesterday on what may be my last outing, my balance on hard, rilled suurfaces was really poor so a few sessions out plodding around on skate skis would have helped once again!

I recommend that anyone interested in taking up the sport or doing back country tours, learns first to skate on skis because it will improve you balance and general manoevrability enormously over just sticking to the tram lines and sliding your skis as most new beginners do.

Goals for 2018


Well I suspect I need a big goal, and that would be today's run in fact, the Telemark Helten (Hero of Telemark) in Rauland. This is a 42km race with varied height but is not as extreme as Birk'en and for me a lot more manageable logistics from home.

This will mean training sessions of up to 4 hours, or two three hour sessions in a day, which will mean using winter holiday to get the miles in to the legs while enjpoying varied scenery and good conditions up in the mountains rather than purely relying on the now variable and poor lowland conditions we seem to be getting in south Norway now.

I aim to start the season on skate skis, or perhaps try Skikes or roller skis in the summer even. THis summer I will concentrate on cycling with a comnbination of steady sessions, hill climbing and sprinty interval sessions. I also intend to do some elg hoofing in the autumn up in woodlands, once the salt gets put on the roads. I find my brisk walking helped this year because I pushed it to over 10km once or twice a week, and kept up a good series spurned on by borrowing a neighbours dog. But it isn't quite intense enough. I should be able to join a gymn and work on treadmills and weights, plus pilates.

Over the summer I have to loose some weight !

Equipment next year


I have stretched my combi boots out this year too, despite them being a little worn in places. Jens Stoltenberg has a pair! They help a bit with ankle control on longer down hills and if you of course want to skate a bit, which you can usually do very well on skin skis btw. The boots have a mediocre lining which has given way around my spurred heels, and are patched over with spinnaker tape for now. Next year I need two sets of boots and a set of longer skate poles! So I am in for quite a big hit in terms of cash.

I would like to have a softer pair of skis for softer conditions next year, but there is a company which will machine out sections of the sole and stick in what looks like velcro (and probably is). Otherwise grip tape does a good job until it gets hard in the tracks.

Given my boots survive and I get used equipment then I would be better spending the cash saved on some Cabin tours with pals, to enjoy 'blue wax' conditions and do some longer days slow, steady training.

I will also have to look at cleaning my skins and maybe using a spray on them. I used a roll on glider over them which has seemed to give benefit, if a little loss of grip perhaps, difficult to say in this year's variable conditions.

Given wads of cash, I would like to have another, softer pair of skin skis which would be the alternative for those times i have been slogging away.