At the age of 72, one of AGA’s most-valued and longest-serving employees Bo Poulsen is about to retire. Here we catch up with Poulsen, and some of those who’ve worked with him over the years, to get an insight into his 51 years with the company.
“If you wonder why I’ve stayed for so long, it’s because I’ve always had good people around me, along with clearly defined responsibilities and excellent support from managers. I’m very grateful for that,” said Poulsen.
“What I’ll miss most are all the wonderful colleagues. Without good people around you, what’s the point in going to work?”
Poulsen joined AGA in 1964. He was still at university but, as his wife was expecting their first child, he needed a job in order to support his young family. Three years later, having finished his degree, he was offered a permanent position and in 1968, when he was still only 25, Poulsen was appointed Technical Manager of AGA Denmark – a position he has maintained throughout the years.
“The role of Danish Technical Manager allowed me to do lots of other things on the side. I think that’s what’s helped keep it interesting for so long,” he admitted.
Some of Poulsen’s responsibilities have included activities in the Global Technical Support team in Latin America, the US and the Far East, as well as evaluating new, potential assets and setting up new plants around the world. He was also jointly in charge of AGA’s operations in Ukraine for five years in the 1990s.
Henrik Brusch, REN Hydrogen Production Manager, has worked with Poulsen for more than 30 years; in fact, he hired Brusch when he joined the company in 1984. “Bo has always been 100% loyal to his employees. He’s there to support you when you have a problem – regardless of whether it’s personal or work-related,” he said.
Ragnar Ekman, Bulk & Tonnage Operation, Region Middle East and Eastern Europe, worked with Poulsen since 1976. He agrees that his social skills have always been one of his greatest assets. “He’s one of the few people who is able to combine outstanding technical and social competence,” said Ragnar. “He has a huge amount of integrity and charisma and always gets people to work with him, not just for him.”
Poulsen will leave an impressive legacy behind him at AGA. In addition to all the countries he has worked in and people he has inspired and mentored over the years, he has also been responsible for a great many technological developments.
In the late 1970s, Poulsen was one of the people responsible for developing AGA’s first Supply Optimisation Model. A version of the process – which maximises efficiency between production and distribution –was adopted by The Linde Group and is still in use almost 40 years later. Poulsen also created the existing AGA solutions for the automated filling of acetylene cylinders, as well as the technology for fully autonomous air separation units (ASUs).
Over the years, AGA has played a major role in the development of the markets for nitrous oxide (N2O) and nitric oxide (NO). In 1968, Poulsen was involved in setting up the first large-scale Socsil (N2O) plant near Copenhagen. He has also contributed to the continuous development of a process for producing NO for use as a shield gas – a market that has expanded dramatically in recent years, particularly due to the importance of NO to the medical segment.
The plant solution developed by Poulsen and his colleagues has played a large part in this growth, thanks to its unique process for neutralising and reusing hazardous waste.
Thinking outside the box
But what Poulsen is perhaps most famous for is the unique way in which he has handled challenges and dealt with tricky situations.
Ekman explained, “When AGA acquired its first company in Ukraine, Bo was sent there to clean up. By which I meant that he reduced head count, wiped out the corruption and criminal elements in the business, as well as addressing the inefficiency of its distribution and production processes. When he finally left, the employees presented him with a gift they’d bought with their own money to thank him – despite the fact he’d let more than half of the workforce go!”
“Bo is a brilliant person to have around when things aren’t going the way they should. He always remains calm in a crisis situation and has a unique ability to think outside the box,” agreed Brusch.
Poulsen is currently working on his final project for AGA – setting up an acetylene plant based on his own, patented technology, in Immingham, in the UK.
“I’d always intended to retire early; in fact, I promised my wife I wouldn’t work past 60 and here I am, retiring at 72,” he admitted. “All I can say is that the job never got boring, it kept evolving and presenting me with new challenges.”
Ragnar Ekman, Bulk & Tonnage Operation, Region Middle East and Eastern Europe:
“Bo is able to make really tough calls and still come out of it with the full support of everyone involved, because they recognise that he’s made the right decision.”
Lars Timner, retired former Head of Technology for the AGA Group:
“Bo is very competent and has a strong personality. Different people succeed in different ways. In Bo’s case, he has never trodden on people, he’s always worked together with them.”
Lars Tofte-Hansen, Bulk Process Lead:
“Bo is well liked throughout the company. He’s an old-school manager who could easily step in and do the job himself. The workers in the plants know that, which is why they have so much respect for him.”
Henrik Brusch, REN Hydrogen Production Manager:
“Bo is the first person you’d want to have around when there’s a problem and you need someone to advise you on the best course of action.”