Thursday, 3 June 2010

It's All Very Nice

Malmo, Sweden. Image from

Last week I spent a few days in Sweden. We were in Scandinavia reviewing the manufacturing process for our timber building product. We were there for three days, which proved to be very interesting but also very exhausting.

We arrived into Copenhagen airport which is worth a visit in its own right. The building is very ordered, clean, crisp and welcoming, and gave us an excellent feeling of the Scandinavian way.

We then travelled by train through Malmo, up to the lakes where the factory is sited. As I travel around the UK a lot, I am a bit of a connoisseur of trains, and I felt this put anything Richard Branson had to offer to shame. All the trains were immaculate and very punctual, and the staff were incredibly courteous and very smart. My favourite aspect was the café / bar which was an open plan area where people on the train would gather, rather than the formal sitting down area provided in the UK.

On our first night, we stayed in a typically Scandinavian hotel, which was clean and crisp, yet minimal, in keeping with the town it was in. We had a fantastic meal and then visited a bar. As drinks worked out at over £6 a pint, we did not end up drunk that evening.

The following day’s breakfast was an interesting contrast to what I’ve experienced before. In comparison to the UK, everything moved at a much slower pace and seemed far more relaxed, and our hotel, I’m assured, was a typical Swedish business hotel. This helped to set us up for the day in a pleasant, relaxed manner.

We spent the remainder of the day visiting the factory and watching the skilled craftsmen putting together timber buildings. This is an incredible process where a team of around 35 operatives work on a line putting together a single house in a day. What was particularly fascinating was how they build the houses from the window out. The first window is placed on the flat bed, the gasket is added and the structure fitted around it. This is then pressed into place with a bench press, and then, panel by panel, the building is fabricated and stored. An articulated wagon then drives into the storage area and picks up the components in a dry environment ready for delivery. The quality of product is exceptional – not only are the finished panels of the highest standard, but all of the components utilised are too, with a noticeable difference being the quality of timber used, generated from the highest quality pine and larch from Sweden.

That evening, we visited our host’s own restaurant which was a wonderful experience in its own right. Never before have I had a restaurant opened only on my behalf, and my colleagues and I were served at our table by the Chef of this lakeside village restaurant.

The next day we made our way home through Copenhagen airport, and I have returned to the UK very impressed by the whole culture of Scandinavia in general, and Sweden in particular – the friendliness of the people, the beauty and efficiency of the area is admirable. However, I feel that this made me a bit too relaxed and I needed the tension which is so often apparent in our own wonderful country!


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