Why does the most innovative manual handling equipment originate in Sweden?
With some of our leading products, the intuitive lightweight Pronomic lifting trolleys, the responsive Movomech overhead lifting systems and our heavy duty lifting tables originating in Sweden, as well as many products from our competitors, we are often asked why Sweden seems to have the monopoly on intelligent handling systems. Sweden is thought to be 10 years ahead of other countries in its focus on ergonomics and here’s why:.
1. A historical focus on accidents in the workplace
Official statistics recording accidents at work have existed in Sweden since 1906. Similar data was not collected in the UK until 1974. This early focus on occupational accidents and injuries has effectively given Sweden a “head start”.
2. High levels of unionisation in Sweden
Sweden has seen consistently high levels of union membership throughout recent history. In 1983, for example, over 80% of the Swedish workforce were in a union as opposed to only
14% in the US. (Dan MacLeod, 1983). The graph below shows a similar picture with very high Swedish unionisation compared to the other example European companies.Figure 1 – From OECD Stats - https://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx?DataSetCode=UN_DEN Visited 1 August 2017
Swedish unions have been responsible for, amongst many other things, insisting on continuous improvements in working conditions. The unions provide a well-organised structure in which to raise and resolve ergonomic issues and concerns.
3. Sophisticated Industrial Relations
Historically, and today, an unusually high proportion of companies belong to Swedish Employers’ Associations. These associations work closely with unions to ensure that workers’ rights, including the right to a safe working environment, are met and issues resolved. This direct communication, with minimum government involvement, has meant that new innovation and ideas can spread quickly and problems are resolved more immediately, leading in turn, to a broad policy of ergonomics in the workplace with each company adapting the policy for its own needs.
4. Very low historical unemployment figures
The full employment policy of the Government up until the late part of the 20th century resulted in very low unemployment figures. In the early 1970’s unemployment was as low as 1%. This meant that employers needed to offer outstanding working conditions to encourage people to work for them, with safer, healthier environments a big pull factor. This culture of prioritising workplace safety has prevailed despite recent unemployment rises.
The labour reforms of the 1970’s adopted by the Swedish parliament, including the Work Environment Act of 1977, is more far-reaching than many European counterparts. The law gave people more say in their working conditions, considering issues such as stress, monotony and work systems as valid areas for concern.
In such an environment, it was inevitable that topics such as ergonomics would flourish.
6. An elevated level of R&D
In research conducted in 2010 by the European Commission, Sweden was ranked as the leading country amongst the EU for innovation. There are a range of reasons for this:
a. The comparatively high labour costs of Sweden have forced companies to invest in new innovative products that demand high premiums rather than engaging in mass-producing manufacturing. The following graph shows European labour costs in 2016 taken from Eurostat.
Figure 2 – Data from Eurostat, http://appsso.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/nui/setupDownloads.do, visited 2 August 2017
b. The generous cradle to grave welfare system, that includes cheap or free higher education, has helped to create a risk-friendly environment with tax deductions given for people who privately invest in start-ups. Such a risk-free culture nurtures new entrepreneurial innovation.
7. A flat management structure
The prevailing flat management company structure in Sweden, where the intern’s ideas are given as much respect as the manager’s, fosters free thinking and genuine innovation. Unusual ideas can come from anyone in the business rather than being limited to the thoughts of a few individuals.
What does this mean?
This means that, by working Advanced Handling for your lifting and handling needs, you are getting the best of both worlds. In 2008, we joined the Sunnex Group, working alongside Swedish partners who have spent many years designing and perfecting our Pronomic lifting trolleys, our Movomech overhead lifting equipment and our massive range of heavy duty static and mobile scissor tables.
Working closely with our Swedish partners, we now supply and manufacture these lifting units in the UK, providing expert local support, superb aftercare and reduced lead times to the UK market.
Furthermore, our expansive range of lifting trolleys, overhead lifting systems, lifting tables and stackers as well as our experience in providing a bespoke solution is unrivalled in the UK. This means that we are not interested in pigeon-holing your needs to match the short range of units many of our competitors can offer and selling you a product. We will take a step further and look at ALL the specialist lifting alternatives available to suit your exact circumstances and offer you a solution that will be the most efficient way of lifting and moving in your application.
Come to Advanced Handling for a history of Swedish ergonomic excellence in design combined with an unrivalled product range, superb aftercare and local, straightforward supply, installation and ongoing support - all from the UK.