Lieutenant Colonel Bjarne Hurlen is, in many regards, a pivotal figure in the history of KONGSBERG. He, with the backing of Norwegian defence minister Jens Christian Hauge, helped steer the business in a fresh direction, building on its experience, but also investing in pioneering research, innovation and talented individuals to secure its position as a leading international technology company.
Hurlen joined Kongsberg Våpenfabrikk in 1951, after a 15-year military career that included positions with forces based in the UK and Sweden during World War Two. He rapidly moved through roles in the gun and orders departments, before becoming sales director, and then assistant director in 1955. Hauge is said to have handpicked him for the top job a year later.
Hurlen focused on updating the KONGSBERG portfolio and production processes, with an emphasis on both industrial efficiency and individual, and collective, technical expertise. He is said to have been the architect in the transformation of Kongsberg into an ‘engineering town’, increasing the number of engineers at the business from a mere handful in the 1950s to 860 in 1974.
Under his leadership the business began producing world-class complete weapons systems, computing technology, control systems and a growing number of products with civilian applications.
This collection of great minds, and on-going collaboration with research institutes and international partners, led to great advances in the company product lines. The firm went from a highly regarded ‘craft workshop’, without extensive experience of mass production, to a modern defence pioneer, producing complete weapons systems, computing technology, control systems and a growing number of products with civilian applications. KONGSBERG was now a high-tech success story.
Hauge moved on to the chairman role at KONGSBERG in 1975. He received the Kongsberg medal for his contribution to industrial development in 1985.