Fresh perspectives

With a refreshed product offering and a focus on improving its manufacturing processes, Svedbergs looks to stay rooted in Sweden as it experiences renewed success

Founded in the 1920’s by Holger Svedberg, Svedbergs of Dalstorp, Sweden, started off manufacturing milk churns for household and farming customers throughout southwest Sweden. In 1962 Holger’s two sons, Sune and Stig, started manufacturing bathroom cabinets and since then the company has grown to build its product range and establish itself as a strong player in the Nordic markets. “Since the sixties we have developed and increased the range and now our main products are furniture, showers, baths and towel heaters,” explains CEO Fredrik Björkman. “We also do mixers, WC’s and general accessories.”

Still based in Dalstorp, Svedbergs manufactures around 70 per cent of everything it sells with an employee base of 185, supported by sales offices in Norway, Finland and Denmark. Sweden remains the company’s largest market with over 75 per cent of revenue coming from domestic sales but retailers also represent Svedbergs across the Nordic countries, Russia, Baltic’s and the UK. “At present the Finnish market is very tough as it is still going through a recession and the market is weak,” says Fredrik. “Norway is steady but positive, and Sweden is by far the strongest with a lot of new projects in the house-building sector going on.” The new-build sector is one that poses a current challenge to the company as it has traditionally always focused on the consumer market for renovations. Yet as Fredrik highlights: “One of our goals is to penetrate this market more to expand the business.”

With such a long and successful history behind it, Svedbergs has built up a strong brand in Sweden. “This is the most important thing for us in the market,” expresses Fredrik. “The brand is what we bring to the market and connected to it are a number of promises – it is a mark of quality, Scandinavian design and functionality.” Accompanying this branding is a strong focus on service: “It is important that it is easy to do business with us,” he adds. “It works really well for us that we sell through retail channels because our customers know their markets really well. Despite this, we still have to make sure we help them to sell Svedbergs products in a structured and easy way.”

Around two years ago, Svedbergs started to undergo a complete refresh of its product offering, subsequently resulting in 70 per cent of the range being changed. This started with the new Forma furniture range, which has now been followed by the launch of DK, Stil and SiD. “The changes we have made are to update our products and to develop them from the outside-in,” notes Fredrik. “We don’t try to follow current fashions too closely because it will be out of fashion very quickly, which isn’t ideal for a bathroom. So it is important to find the general design trends in the market. To do this we are collaborating with external designers who can help us in developing new product lines as this helps us to get the outside perspective on our products. So we have had two Danish designers on board for DK and two Swedish for Stil. We also recently updated our new Forsa shower door range.”

As well as working closely with designers, Fredrik is also keen to point out that Svedbergs looks to establish strong relationships with its suppliers. “We look to work with strong suppliers who will help us with solutions,” he emphasises. “For instance, we work with a company who provide LED lights for our different products and it’s important that we have someone to work with that has the knowledge for these and is able to ensure that we have the best and right components. As well as this, some of our products have drawers, so we work closely with another supplier who is able develop and deliver high quality components for this.”

Looking to the future Fredrik has a very honest and tuned in outlook. “Currently, we have a lot of different production lines, which are a mixture of semi-automatic and manual processes,” he concludes. “As we move forward we are trying to focus on where we can automate more across the different lines. In some cases we’re going from one person producing one piece of furniture to more of an assembly line strategy, which has helped us improve our productivity. Automating the manufacturing process is going to be a major focus over the next couple of years as we look to increase production capacity and sales. It is difficult to say this, but it’s a fact that if we don’t continue to improve our productivity then it will be moved somewhere cheaper, and we want to prevent that. It does mean however, that we have to take it very seriously and be open with our employees so that they fully understand what we want to achieve and we can work together to be successful.”

Products: Bathroom furniture
Sites: Dalstorp, Sweden
Employees: 150