NFM had a very humble beginning, starting 25 years ago in a basement living room in a private house in Ski – which is south of Oslo in Norway. Today, the NFM Group is Europe’s leading manufacturer and supplier of equipment to the military and the police. Business idea: to protect those who protect us.
It really started with a series of coincidences. We were in a military Home Guard defence unit that needed new carrying equipment. When we did not find anything, we thought we could make it ourselves’, says Walter Øverland, CEO of NFM Group. The result was that he and three comrades settled down in the basement, where they began to sew combat vests.
We contacted the Army’s Supply Command and they probably thought we were some weirdos, but they were working on the Soldier 2000 project, and actually ended up giving us a development contract. Thus, we were up and running, says Øverland.
After a couple of years of evenings and weekends spent behind the sewing machines, it was necessary to make a choice. In 1998, it was time to quit my job and spend all my time on what, until then, had been a kind of hobby company.
We started production and employed Norwegian seamstresses, but it became clear that it was difficult to find the right people in Norway, so I traveled to Poland in 2001 and placed a job ad in the newspaper. A very enterprising lady with a university education answered, and I hired her and four seamstresses who produced vests under the auspices of a wholly owned subsidiary. Today we have over 450 employees in Poland, a number that is constantly increasing, and with the same lady at the helm, says Øverland.
Today, the NFM Group is the largest company in Europe in the area of personal equipment and protection for soldiers and police, with ballistic protection as one of the most important areas. The company is divided into two divisions. In addition to production in Norway and Poland, the company also has a factory in Ukraine.
We produce the most advanced composite materials in Norway. Much of this is secret, with unique production technology, automation and robotics. Textile production takes place in Poland and Ukraine. Today we have an assortment that includes everything from magazine pockets to modern helmet systems and bulletproof vests, says Øverland.
I am proud of the fact that we produce protective equipment for those who are going to protect us. It makes deep sense. Our task is to save lives: Humans survive because of our equipment and that benefits society, which makes me happy, says Øverland.
Walter Øverland was involved in starting NFM Group and is today the company’s CEO.
(Interview with Walter Øverland, original article published in Dagens Næringsliv)