140 years of Excellence
Journey of a Factory Manager – Jan Cleveland
Former factory manager
I retired in 2006 but have later thought to myself that I could have worked longer, Jan Cleveland as he takes a sip out of his white coffee cup.
He began working at the factory in 1958 when he was 17 years old and his first job was to sweep the floor. After a while he took one year at trade school and got an office job in Dale. There he got to try different directions in the factory, but textile was a clear choice all along.
Jan studied general textile in Sweden and got a job at the laboratory when he came back to Dale.
– I was, among other things, in the warehouse hold and took samples of random cotton bales. We received heavy bales of 250kg each that got exported from places like Texas, New Mexico and Brazil, Jan recalls. The reason for the testing of the cotton bales was to see if they had the right qualification to be used in the weaver process. At the peak Dale Fabrikker had 7 people in the laboratory, both women and men.
The Golden Years
In the 1950s the population on Dale was around 3000 habitants, approximately 1300 of them worked in the factory. The factory was both the biggest and most important employer in the municipality and there were others outside the municipality that came to work there too. Extra trains were put up in the mornings going from Garnes and it picked up a lot of commuters on the way going to work in the factory. Some of them worked from 6 in the morning until 2 in the afternoon while others started at 2 and went home at 11 in the night.
– We had dinner breaks where some of those who lived nearby went home to eat and maybe get a power nap as well. The factory had a big whistle to communicate that the break was over, Jan shares.
Why did it go so well?
The reason for the factory having a prosperous period was because of the big demand for textiles after the second world war. There was a lack of goods which needed to be covered. That was on several products, not only textile. About 30,000 people worked in the Norwegian textile industry at this point. The golden years for the textile industry got more visible in the society where many more people lived in Dale. When the demand calmed down after a while, a lot of people had to find work elsewhere. Today there are about 60% less people living in Dale compared to the golden years.
Production of textile products has the same base processes today like before, but the technological development has also played a bigger part here. Everything is much more mechanical, and the machines are producing with more efficiency. This makes them able to produce faster and in bigger volumes.
Was it a big gender difference in the factory?
– There was a lot of women working in the factory. It was very normal to use female workforce, but often for the more “boring” tasks. They were also a part of designing, but for the higher positions they were mostly men, Jan says. Its different times now with more women in the higher positions.
Dale-products were popular many places in Norway, but it was not all the products that got sold directly from the factory. A part of the finished products went straight to sales offices that they had in Oslo, Stavanger, Trondheim, and Bergen. It was people from Dale that worked in these departments and they each had responsibility for one specific area in Norway. After a while, when the marketing got put different, the products got sold directly from the company. USA and Canada have been a strong market for knitting yarns while the demand for woolen products were biggest in Nordic countries.
– Its self-explanatory, that is where it is the coldest, Jan laughs with a smile.
Knowledge about textile
Jan did not come emptyhanded to the interview. He had a lot of different things with him and told about everything from animalic, vegetable, regenerated and synthetic fibers. He knew a lot of different ways to use it and the different characteristics they had. You would quickly learn that there is a lot behind each type of fiber.
– I can’t tell you something about each of the fibers because there are so many of them. Researchers basically find new ones every day.
Textile is a broad and big field and there is no limit. Jan tells us that he always had an interest in textile because he grew up in a textile family.
– The interest in textile has probably rubbed off on me.