From the first pointer telegraph to the latest 3D printer technology for turbine components – the story of Siemens’ success in Sweden extends far back into the 19th century. When the company established its first presence in Stockholm 125 years ago, it heralded the start of a successful partnership that has continued to this day. The number of employees has grown from 13 to 4,200. Join us on a journey through a history of exciting projects and technological innovations.
In 1853, a mere six years after the founding of Siemens & Halske in Berlin, the young company delivered its first modern telegraphy devices to Sweden. Like most of Europe, the far north wanted to benefit from the new communications technology known as electric telegraphy. The goal of the Swedish government was to build its own national telegraph network, and it found the right partner in Siemens. When the first two national railway lines from Stockholm to Göteborg and from Stockholm to Malmö – each accompanied by a telegraph line – finally entered operation in 1856, Siemens devices were used. Although the Berlin-based company continued to deliver additional telegraph devices in subsequent years, it took several more years for it to become fully established in Sweden.
Major commercial success began to come in another field: power engineering. Here, too, Siemens was already a leader. To better penetrate the Swedish market, Siemens founded its first agency in Stockholm in 1880. As was common practice at the time, the foreign company was represented by a local expert. “Mechanikus” J.E. Erikson was a fortunate choice. He happened to have contacts in the Swedish Royal Court. At a ball, he became acquainted with the technically-minded King Oscar II who, in 1885, entrusted Siemens with a highly prestigious order: installing the first electric lighting in the Stockholm Palace.
This brilliant success paved the way for more: Siemens became an important partner in the expansion of Sweden’s electrical infrastructure. Among other things, the company supplied two generators and the associated installation material – worth a total of 480,000 Reichsmarks – for the Stockholm power station.
Between 1890 and 1891, Siemens filled additional orders to supply installation material for power plants in Halmstad, Sundsvall, and Hälsingborg from its agency. However, due to the growing volume of business and increasing local competition, a decision was made in Berlin to open the first Siemens company – Siemens Tekniska Byrå – in Stockholm in 1893. The new company had three offices, a warehouse, and a small repair shop. By 1894, seven office workers, five technicians, and one errand boy were already working for Siemens, and revenues reached 500,000 krona. Five years later on December 27, 1898, the subsidiary became a stock corporation and was renamed Svenska Aktiebolaget Siemens & Halske. Siemens wanted a stronger presence that would secure its position in the growing Swedish market. The effort proved successful: During the first year following the name change, the now 18 employees had already handled six large orders for lighting systems and power plants – including for the Royal Swedish Naval Administration.
By 1903, Sevenska AB was Siemens & Halske’s sole representative in Sweden. With the founding of the Siemens Schuckertwerke GmbH in Berlin that same year and distribution of the “light-current and heavy-current engineering” business areas between the two parent companies, the Swedish company became the sole agent of both Siemens companies as of 1904. Two years later as part of the corporate restructuring, the Stockholm representative office again changed its name, this time to Elektriska Aktiebolaget Siemens-Schuckert. The heavy-current business in particular developed so successfully over the following decades that Siemens set up its own production site in Göteborg in 1938. In 1928, the company was renamed once again. As of October 9, it was called Elektriska Aktiebolaget Siemens.
The company’s field of activities also included medical engineering. Starting in 1913, only the occasional electro-medical device, such as x-ray systems, was being supplied to hospitals or scientific institutions. This had changed by 1926, when Siemens acquired a share in the Erlangen-based electro-medical company Reiniger, Gebbert & Schall AG. As a consequence, the company’s agency in Sweden, EB Elema, also became associated with the Siemens company and was the basis for Siemens-Elema AB, Solna, founded in 1971. It became one of the leading manufacturers and providers of electro-medical devices.
Following World War II, the Swedish Siemens company changed its name once again. The reason for the name change in 1953 was the desire to clearly establish its association with Siemens while at the same time identifying it as a Swedish company. This was guaranteed by the name Svenska Siemens Aktiebolaget. But that wasn’t all. For reasons of space, plans were made to gather together the various sales and administrative offices of Svenska Siemens that had become scattered throughout Stockholm in a single location. A large plot was already acquired for this purpose in 1953 in the heart of the Swedish capital. In close cooperation with Siemens’ construction department in Erlangen, an imposing 15-story high-rise was designed and ground broken in April 1960. In January 1963, a large ceremony was finally held to inaugurate the new Siemens building. A Stockholm newspaper, betraying a hint of admiration, entitled its story, “New high-rise alters Stockholm’s skyline.”
The first years following the end of the war in 1945 were tremendously challenging for the Swedish Siemens company. It took almost a decade for the level of orders to stabilize. One reason for the difficulties of the post-war years was the collapse of the supply of goods from Germany. Until well into the 1940’s, Siemens in Sweden was dependent on deliveries from the German parent companies. It wasn’t until after 1945 that it gradually succeeded in building up its own production capacities and becoming more independent. Between 1955 and 1965, there was tremendous growth in the area of light-current engineering, mainly thanks to telecommunications technology. When Sweden hosted the Soccer World Cup in 1958, Siemens was given the prestigious job of equipping the nation’s first TV station in Nacka near Stockholm and setting up the Stockholm-Göteborg-Malmö television radio relay line. This enabled TV images of the World Cup, which started in July 1958, to be received all over Europe. By the end of the 1960s, Svenska Siemens had become one of the largest Siemens companies outside Germany, with about 1,300 employees and annual sales of over DM 200 million.
In Sweden as well, the focus of Siemens’ activities in the new millennium is on digitalization. Social responsibility – or Business to Society – also means advocating for sustainable management and consistently implementing it. Siemens helps cities and communities throughout Sweden to work in energy-saving, energy-efficient ways by providing technical equipment to schools, hospitals, and office buildings. Siemens itself is forging ahead by setting a good example: In 2017, the company moved to new headquarters in Solna near Stockholm, in a state-of-the-art building that is energy-efficient in accordance with the highest standards. Siemens is also investing in electromobility and, in 2011, embarked on a strategic partnership with Volvo to develop electric cars, which was expanded to include electric buses in 2015.
Purchased by Siemens in 2003, the gas turbine manufacturer Siemens Industrial Turbomachinery AB in Finspång, Sweden, has been building turbines for the global market, but has a history that stems back to the early 1900s. The two inventor brothers Birger and Fredrik Ljungström, at that point located in Nacka outside Stockholm, needed a place for realizing their new venture, their patented steam turbine. They scouted the factories in the small town of Finspång, which is situated in what is often called “the birthplace of Swedish industry” thanks to an abundance of iron ore, water and forests resulting in plenty of iron works and skilled metal workers. Here, the two brothers found what they needed and in February of 1913 they opened their turbine business under the name Svenska Turbinfabriks AB Ljungström, STAL. The turbine operations at the Finspong location are still on the cutting edge of turbine technology, which today also includes the area of digitalization. In 2016, the company invested some 20 million euros and opened the world’s first additive manufacturing workshop for industrial production of power components in metal. This process, also known as 3D printing, promises to become a key future technology and the Finspång workshop includes prototyping, serial manufacturing, and repairs of turbine parts. Objects are built layer by layer from sliced CAD models on the computer and produced directly using special printers. With additive manufacturing, production and repairs can be performed in up to a tenth of the time, and development cycles that normally take years can be reduced to months or even weeks.
As in the 19th century, when the Siemens success story in Sweden began, the company continues to be a technological pioneer today, and is a reliable partner to Sweden on its journey into the future.
Dr. Ewald Blocher
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