Industrial Expertise

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Industrial Expertise

Industrial Expertise


Sweden came rather late to the industrial field. But having adopted British and German methods of steel production in the late 19th century, together with mechanical and chemical processes for paper and pulp production, native Swedish inventiveness began to assert itself, though often in matters surprisingly warlike for such a peace-loving nation. Alfred Nobel invented dynamite and established an industrial empire before making amends with his prizes, while Bofors, a munitions factory in central Sweden, was known the world over for the light automatic cannon it produced. More praiseworthy, perhaps, was Sweden's impact upon the design of furniture and household utensils - clean, unfussy lines in glassware, porcelain, textiles and kitchenware.

Heavy industry also benefited from the well-coordinated energy program, with electrical and engineering firms and their products acquiring world stature. Major shipbuilding yards grew up at the great ports of GOTHENBURG, MALMO and Uddevalla. The Husqvarna Company pioneered sewing machines and motorcycles in the early 20th century, while the leap to international fame in automobile design was achieved in not much more than a generation. The success of the industry is apparent in the immense assembly plants of Volvo, Saab and Scania-Vabis. The Swedish aircraft industry too has gained a name for itself, especially for its single-seater fighters. As in most countries, specialized industries have become associated with particular places ESKILSTUNA is best known for cutlery; Orrefors for glass; VASTERAS for electrical components; and BORAS for textiles. The nation's craftsmen have built a reputation for skilled workmanship, though this might seem to be somewhat endangered by the ne w Swedish expertise of robotics.

Since the Swedish home market is limited, large-scale industrial developments have only been possible by looking to the outside world. There, many major Swedish concerns have established subsidiary plants, some of which employ larger labour forces than the parent company at home. The country also sells its skills abroad banking and insurance, statistical advisory services and engineering. Swedish engineers are particularly active in the Third World. building dams, hydroelectric power plants, high voltage transmission systems, timber processing plants, and silos for grain storage, as well as airfields, hospitals and public buildings. Not infrequently, the revenue derived from such projects exceeds that generated by Swedish companies at home.

Sweden's late arrival on the industrial scene had one distinct advantage; its towns were able to avoid the horrors of the slums and satanic mills that beset the first generation of manufacturing towns in other parts of Europe. Many Swedish towns are of ancient origin, and usually have at least one or two historic buildings, but most down the years have been devastated by fire, the plague of all timber-built settlements. When they were reconstructed, the Swedish love of order manifested itself in gridiron street plans. The width of streets, the size of residential lots and of public spaces was and is strictly regulated. In the larger cities, apartment blocks and tower blocks predominate; save in the suburbs, small terraced or detached privately owned houses are less common. A considerable number of towns have only a few thousand inhabitants and centre around a single enterprise a mine, a softwood processing plant, a specialized factory. In the north, where rural life is harder, the drift to the towns continues, and from northern towns to those of the south. Unemployment is consistently higher in the north, and many northerners feel that they are living in an underprivileged territory. Heavy investment in communications, subsidies for industry, the establishment of growth centres and salary adjustments case, but do not cure, the situation.

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