”We have gone from a local to a Nordic perspective”
”It began in 1904 in Kåge, barely 20 kilometres from here,” says part-owner and MD Staffan Hällgren, pointing northwards from where he is standing in the factory, which was expanded by 700 m2 as recently as spring 2012. ”That’s when organ makers Grönlunds Orgelfabrik started up, which also manufactured chairs and benches for organs.”
Staffan relates how the range of joinery work expanded in the shadow of two World Wars, to include everything from rocking chairs to windows. It was a matter of listening to what the market wanted and being able to deliver the right quality at the right price.
From local to Nordic perspective
”In actual fact, the same market laws still govern things today, and we satisfy demand with our experience and craftsmanship,” says Staffan, waving to a lorry drive who is loading a consignment of glazed partitions and entrance partitions for a major construction project in Stockholm. ”It’s the market itself that has changed. Back then it was mostly local customers, now the whole of the Nordic project market is SSC’s home turf.”
When it comes to SSC, Klingan has been part of this unique cooperation model ever since the start back in 1959, and prior to that was an important instigator. The company has consistently contributed to development, and recognition of the accumulated value of the SSC brand is discernible.
Conscious brand builder
”A brand that has been built up over such a long period is a huge asset. In our industry the vast majority of people know that SSC represents superior knowledge and quality. At the same time we are all involved in managing things, all companies and all employees. And every single delivery, phone call and meeting with a customer affects the image of SSC. The customers own the brand, but it is us and everything we do that shapes it,” says Staffan, revealing that this former fitter is now also a budding market strategist.
”This is connected with us as a manufacturing company also working more closely than ever with customers. All our products are custom made for offices, schools, hospitals, etc. This means that our knowledge is needed from the outset to work out all the details. Consequently, we have regular contact with the sales company’s sales staff and cost accountants, the installation company’s project managers and fitters, and the project’s architects. And, of course, our advice and knowledge affect the customer’s perception of both Klingan and SSC.”
Unusual name, early exporters
The company’s image is one thing, but where does the name Klingan come from? In order to ascertain this, we have to go back to the early 1970s, when the owner at the time Hugo Gustafsson, whose thoughts had turned to retirement, began looking round for a buyer. This came in the shape of the enterprising Klingstedt brothers, who converted the business into a company under the name Klingan AB.
”The 1960s and 70s were dramatic for the company and SSC in several ways. For example, in 1964 Klingan’s premises were gutted by fire. In general, we saw a lot of growth, thanks in part to the Million Programme, resulting in rates of construction like never before. The economic fluctuations of the 1970s, 80s and 90s caused SSC to start looking for new outside markets in Europe and Japan at an early point. This drive has naturally been a huge asset and at times quite crucial to both our and SSC’s continued development,” says Staffan.
He himself joined the company in 1996 having previously worked as a contractor, among other things, and gradually developed a renewed interest in entrepreneurship. He devoted a lot of time to Klingan’s visions, which resulted in a majority takeover of ownership in 2002. The process was supplemented by a new partnership in 2005, when Fredrik Nystedt became a new part-owner, and that set-up remains in place today.
”A great deal has happened to us in the last 10 years. We have invested heavily in new technology and introduced working methods that have significantly increased efficiency. We have also made considerable advances in terms of product performance. And, of course, we can take pride in an almost tenfold increase in turnover,” says Staffan.
Full speed ahead
In April 2012 came the latest concrete evidence of growth, when the 700 m2 extension to the premises out at Hedensbyn in Skellefteå was opened. On a symbolic level you could say that the opening also celebrated the latest machine investments and implemented lean training.
”The lean work has given us fantastic order and structure at all levels. When it comes to the latest machinery the aim is to make our manufacturing processes even more flexible and efficient.
”With regard to our products we pursue continuous development to ensure even better – and even more unique – properties and performance, something that can be seen in everything from patent applications to fire tests. We are thriving in this period of growth, therefore we feel it is important to keep up the pace with constant improvements,” concludes Staffan.