ELME Spreader is the Älmhult company that specialises in container spreaders. A container spreader is the actual unit on the harbour crane or truck that lifts the container.
The company manufactures everything in-house. They do all their marketing, design, engineering, production and after sales from there.
They have a well-developed welding operation that is largely robotised as well as extensive machinery for producing their products. “We always wanted to do as much as possible in-house, and that’s a little unique. We usually tell people that we aren’t “local producers”, we’re “right-here” producers, says Niklas Lefévre, Head of Sales and Marketing at ELME Spreader.
ELME Spreader was founded in 1974 by Gösta Karlsson. At the time, he was a mechanical engineer with a background in the trucking industry. In fact, the company came about by accident, he tells us. Several truck manufacturers were constructing their own container spreaders at the time, but ELME began to make customized models and adaptions that became their extended arm.
As the companies began to make more requests, Gösta delivered.
“We were, and still are, mainly suppliers to manufacturers,” Gösta tells us. Over the years, Gösta has played different roles in the company.
“The first guy I worked with was a marketer. I did the technical stuff and he managed sales, but after a while I took over his job and became the company’s public face. I’ve also focused a lot on developing production and engineering,” Gösta says. What they didn’t know initially was that they were entering a business sector that has expanded at the rate of approximately 10% each year for the last 50 years.
“ELME’s container handling business have experienced an organic growth of 22 percent per year, from the 1980s until 2008. Today, we have customers all around the world, and we deliver products to several continents.”
Conducting all business activities from the same place has lots of benefits.
“It allows us to prioritise based on needs and that gives us full control of quality and availability. The fact that we make our own decisions is a strength. When everyone else started outsourcing, I didn’t understand it at all, and people didn’t understand me, but today, everyone thinks it’s great,” Gösta says.
ELME’s customers have access to a broad product portfolio, especially within the truck market, which is their biggest market. They also have products that they call “special equipment”, such as coil and lifting hook solutions.
“These products have been developed as the need has arisen. Our customers ask us for help and we produce them. Customized solutions, to put it simply, Gösta explains.
Right from the beginning, manufacturers approached Gösta with various problems and asked him for help. “I’m a bit of an inventor. It’s something you’re born with, it’s not something you can learn.
Finding solutions and developing customized products has been a part of the company’s traditions since the beginning. “We have a really competent engineering team who make sure that we develop leading edge products. Nothing is standard and nothing is special, for us.
Currently, 210 people work for the company, consisting both of employees and hired staff. As the company continues to expand, they are always on the lookout for talented engineers in both electronics and mechanics.
Niklas has worked at the company for six years, and has during his time here never met a customer who visited the company and came out dissatisfied.
“I’ve never heard of a service engineer or anyone at the top level of a global company who’s been disappointed after seeing our business here. The fact that all the work is done here, in Älmhult in Småland, impresses a lot of them, Niklas says.