Stromsholmen springs forward

Stromsholmen AB is a dominant global producer of gas springs and hydraulic equipment for industrial machinery and manufacturing processes.

The company has existed for over 130 years, and most of the current products originate from the patent of the Kaller seal design. Stromsholmen’s operation began in 1876, and focused on the manufacturing of mechanical devices for the agricultural and fur industries. In the 1970s and 1980s, the facility begun to concentrate on the manufacture of hydraulic cylinders and thereafter gas springs, introducing the Kaller model in 1983. This gas spring design became integral in tool and die machines, particularly in the automotive industry, and has become the dominant high-pressure spring used in car manufacturing. The company supplies gas springs to General Motors, Ford, Volvo, Daimler-Chrysler and Toyota, and has distribution and service centres all over the world. Dominance within the automobile industry has seen the company become the first in its sector to receive recognition by ISO in 1994, as well as the international standard organisations NAAMS, VDI and CNOMO.

Stromsholmen gas springs have been proven to be very safe, a factor that has made it the standard dimension in its sector. Today all standard gas springs are approved for two million cycles according to the Pressure Equipment Directive, PED, 97/23/EC.

Managing director of Stromsholmen Johan Runnesson comments on the strength of its products: “I would say that Stromsholmen gas springs are very reliable in regards to service, as well as being of a very steady quality. The company prides itself on producing springs with the highest safety standards in the world. Stromsholmen has a very wide range of products, and has worldwide distribution and service availability.”

Johan explains the current status of the company: “Today, 90 per cent of the business is focused on the production of gas springs for metal forming machines throughout the world. Stromsholmen also manufactures special gas springs for waste compactors, as well as springs for spindles in milling machines. All car manufacturers use these gas springs in the metal forming die production process. The company has a strong presence in North America, Brazil, Argentina, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Australia, Japan, Korea and all of Europe – Stromsholmen supplies products all over the world.”

The success of the company is based on continual expansion, which is reliant on developing new products and solutions. This research process is fundamental in Stromsholmen’s relationship with its customers, as Johan confirms: “The facility has a dedicated research and development department, and it works with customers because this is a highly technical process. Distribution throughout the world allows the company to send out its development engineers on location to deliver products, but also to pick up new demands and needs that the future might bring. The development team is very active in this role, and encourages open discussion with its customers on a global basis.”

This relationship has seen the company develop the speed control gas spring in November 2006. Johan takes up the story of the product’s development: “The speed-control aspect of the gas spring is one of the latest products the company has developed, and it solves many problems within the stamping industry. In the return stroke of a metal-forming press, there can be problems of misalignment of the parts being manipulated, as well as mechanical overload of the mechanics of the tool and press. The speedcontrol aspects on the new gas spring reduces shock and wear within the machine, as well as enhancing the production speed of the metalforming process. As the velocity of presses increase, the speed-controlled gas springs will take away some of the impact.“

Expansion is the key ethos of the company, and an integral part of Stromsholmen’s success in the future. Johan elaborates on how product development is part of this process: “The company has a constant need to expand and develop within the market, in regards to its portfolio of gas springs. The power line spring is the latest product to be developed offering more force in less space, which is a significant benefit to the customer. A series of gas springs will now be expanded with longer strokes where they were not available before. This market expansion is one of the main focuses of the company for the second half of this year.”

To aid this expansion, Stromsholmen’s Tranås base is always being developed. Johan underlines its importance: “The facility has all the capabilities it needs, especially analysing tools, which allow rapid product progress. Quick response to customers’ needs is one of the key success factors in maintaining the company as a dominant force. Stromsholmen is world class at producing turn parts – the round part of the gas springs – and this is the main production at its facility. There is also a large surface-treatment and polishing division at the company’s base. Over the last 15-20 years, the efficiency of Stromsholmen’s machines has been developed using an online system that displays the running status of the machine, and explains why it has downtime – for instance, which parts are broken or underperforming. This allows the company to get the most out of its machines.”

Despite the strength of Stromsholmen in the market, continued global expansion in the future offers its own challenges. Johan states: “The main concern is making sure that products are always available, and that they can be swiftly delivered. Stromsholmen has an expanding variation of products available to customers, who in turn expect shorter delivery times. It is an ongoing process within the company to optimise the products it keeps in stock, as well as understanding the global market and ensuring lead times all over the world. Maintaining and improving service levels is a constant demand.”

Stromsholmen’s position in the market looks strong, as Johan concludes: “Within five years, the company expects to have expanded by 50 per cent, progressing into new markets and developing innovative technologies. Stromsholmen is successful because it invests heavily in new ideas, as well as responding rapidly to market demands. Working closely alongside customers is also important, while an efficient production facility aids the lowering of costs, and allows the company’s global distribution and sales network to succeed.”

Products: Gas springs and hydraulic products
Sites: Head office in Tranås, Sweden
Employees: 200