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Sweden pushes global marketing.

The European Community (EC) becomes a unified economic entity in January, 1993. That act promises to reshape the competitive forces governing the world's manufacturing structure. One country that has put the political wheels in motion to become a bigger part of that restructuring is Sweden.

Sweden is currently a part of EFTA (European Free Trade Assn), which since 1972 has been trading freely with the EC in manufactured goods. With EC-92 (the economic unification of the European Community countries) on the horizon, EFRA and the EC started talking economic merger in 1989. In addition, Sweden is in the process of initiating its own action to become a member state of the European Community.

An agreement between EFRA and the European Community may be effected by the time EC-92 becomes a reality, but full membership for Sweden isn't expected before 1995, a government official feels. Several factors have to be resolved before Sweden's application can be approved, including its neutrality. Either way, it's sure that Sweden will become a bigger player in the world economic and industrial game in the future.

It's already well on its way. Sweden is known for its tennis stars and herring dishes. What is less well known is that the Nordic nation is home for quite an industrial base-especially considering its location and size. Latitudinally it is on a parallel with Alaska, but because of the proximity of the warm Gulf Stream it doesn't suffer the severe weather extremes. It's known as the Land of the Midnight Sun because during July and August the sun doesn't set. About the size of Texas, it counts a population of only about 8.6 million.

Even so, it can boast of being home for two world-class auto manufacturers--Volvo and Saab. Saab-Scania, the parent of Saab auto, recently formed a joint venture with General Motors and transferred its entire passenger-car operation to the new organization.

Volvo, in addition to producing a car popular with the Yuppie set, has captured the attention of the world's manufacturing community because of its management philosophy of building cars with teams of workers as opposed to the more traditional assembly line.

It's finding, however, that the concept is not the end-all in manufacturing manufacturing management. One of the personnel people there admitted to a group of US journalists that Volvo is finding out the hard wa that the can't totally replace foremen with rotating team leaders. Not everyone can, nor wants, to be a leader.

Even so, Swedish companies continue their search to improve the workplace, extending their philosophy to the design of the workplace and ergonomics. Saab uses teams of eight to 12 workers and job rotation in an effort to alleviate job boredom.

Beyond developing appropriate management techniques, Sweden's ability to create challenging jobs, because of its limited domestic market, depends on its ability to create exports. The Swedish economy is heavily dependent on trade for its continued prosperity. It exports about a third of its GDP (gross domestic product).

As such, many Swedish firms are world leaders in their market areas and export more than 90% of their production annually. Unlike US firms, they grow up thinking internationally.

Here are some examples:

* Sandvik, a leading cutting-tool manufacturer, appears to be about as close to a world company as possible. It exports 97% of its production and has 29 companies, 35 production units, and 12 training centers in 50 countries. It's set up to deliver anywhere in the world within 48 hr from Sweden. It even has a separate sales company to service Sweden, so customers there get the same treatment as a user around the globe.

* ESAB, a leading supplier of robotic welding systems and mechanical cutters, generates 92% of its sales outside of Sweden. Almost a half are to Western Europe, a fifth to the US, and only 15% to bordering Nordic countries.

* ABB Robotics has 25,000 robots on the job--in 14,000 Europe, 8000 in the US, and even 3000 in Japan. It has production facilities in Spain, Norway, and the US, in addition to its home base in Sweden.

* Seco Tools has 17 subsidiary companies and a number of agents and distributors in some 40 countries, including Carboloy, which it bought in 1987. It does more than 90% of its selling outside Sweden.

* Hand-tool manufacturer, Atlas Copco, which counts Chicago Pneumatic as a subsidiary, does 92% of its business outside Sweden. It markets in 50 countries

and, like Sandvik, guarantees delivery anywhere in the world within 48 hr.

* BT Systems Group, supplier of material-handling and warehouse systems, counts 80% of its sales outside its home base. It is a leader wit more than 6000 AGVs (automatic guided vehicles) in service around the world.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Tooling & Production
Date:Aug 1, 1991
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