A job that would take ages at the production facility in Södertälje is completed at Laxå Special Vehicles in just two weeks. All work on special versions of cabs and chassis is carried out in a red brick building in the former railway hub with its 3,000 inhabitants in Närke County.
“Scania can do everything we can, but it takes a long time for them to put it into production. If a customer wants a sixth axle fitted, we fit it. Essentially, we never need to turn down a customer who wants their vehicle converted,” says Håkan Larsson, the departing Managing Director.
1,200 years’ combined experience
The strength of the organisation is its ability to cope with complex orders. Whether this is because the employees have almost 1,200 years’ combined experience of special-purpose vehicles or because the longer “takt time” means that there is more scope for devoting extra attention to the vehicles or a combination of the two – the job gets done.
Scania will once again become the majority shareholder in Laxå when Larsson leaves the company after having worked there for almost 30 years. He has now done most things many times over and feels ready to let someone else take over – for the sake of his own development and that of the company.
“We’ve always had good backing and support from Scania, but at a bit of a distance,” says Håkan.
The challenge that lies ahead is to remain true to the basic concept: that of being the agile little company that is simultaneously growing.
“Being as successful as we’ve been is a curse in itself. We need to retain our identity. If we become too much like Scania, we’ll lose what makes us unique,” says Larsson.
Bought out Scania
Laxå was established in 1999 when Larsson and his colleagues, Lasse Forsberg and Anders Gruffman, bought out Scania. There was a decline in the number of projects and they were concerned about the business.
“We thought we could do it better ourselves locally, and what was needed was entrepreneurship,” says Larsson.
It was with a nervous handshake that Larsson and his colleagues sealed the deal with the then MD of Scania, Leif Östling, who is reported to have said, “Lads, you now need to start rowing”. And they have kept on rowing ever since. The company, which was founded back in the 1960s under the name of “Fordonsskräddarna i Laxå”, has grown from 40 employees when Larsson, Forsberg and Gruffman took over to the current 150.
“In the first year, we built three vehicles in our chassis workshop. This year, it will be 500,” says Larsson.
Started as an assembler
They were tough years, but Larsson is from the region himself and started working at the company in 1989 as an assembler. He has been both a design engineer for the current cab generation and CrewCab and been involved with no less than three generations of Scania trucks.
Something Larsson keeps coming back to is the workforce, which he believes is what makes Laxå SV such a great company.
“You can find machinery and equipment anywhere, but not the sort of expertise we have. It’s a mind set that lives and breathes flexibility,” he says.
Today, there are many new people at the company, but there is a solid nucleus and plenty of knowledge is being passed on. Laxå is like a miniature version of Scania, but more specialised. Whether they’re building a 7-axle truck for China that has to accommodate the largest concrete pump in the world, or working on one of Svempa’s customised vehicles, it’s all in a day’s work for Laxå SV.
“This is Scania’s strength and ours too: people who like their company help each another to progress. We’re like a family company and everyone is close by,” says Larsson.
A note that stood out
Larsson explains how an employee had gone to Scania for a meeting, which was held beside one of their many planning boards. There were around 800 Post-it notes on the board – or at least a very large number. But there was one note that stood out. A note on which someone had drawn a big heart.
“In the middle of it was Laxå. That’s how I feel. I like Scania. But I love Laxå,” he concludes.