Husqvarna – how a Swedish company reinvented itself for more than 320 years

I have a very old coffee grinder in my possession.  It is a Husqvarna No.5 cast iron grinder, which I inherited from my father after his death in 2016.  It probably dates from the late 1800’s or early 1900’s.

After restoring it (essentially dusting it off and giving it a good paint), I’m now using this to grind malt when I make beer.

Huge was my surprise when I did some research on this piece of antique kitchenalia, to find that the Swedish company Husqvarna did not only reinvent themselves over the years, but are actually doing very well!

What I found was a very modern website for starters (see http://www.husqvarnagroup.com/en).

This company was founded in 1689 (yes, that is correct!), and is still going!  Albeit in quite a different form and providing a totally different product range now.  A short history is given below (from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Husqvarna_Group).

1689 – Rifle factory: The drillingwork at the waterfalls in Husqvarna, southern Sweden, is the first large plant. The state-owned rifle factory had some 1,000 employees at the beginning of the 18th century. The company was spun off from Husqvarna Vapenfabriks Aktiebolag in 1959. Shotguns were produced for 300 years, the last in 1989.

1872 – Sewing machines: When demand declined, it turned out that the machinery for production of rifles was well-suited for producing sewing machines. The operations was divested in 1997 and Husqvarna-branded sewing machines are now produced by the VSM Group.

1874 – Kitchen equipment in cast iron:  Husqvarna starts a foundry to produce details for sewing machines, a large part being the base frames. Soon the assortment was broadened to include such products as kitchen equipment in cast-iron and later on stoves and ovens.

1896 – Bicycles:  Bicycle production begins in the Huskvarna factory. Several patents are registered. The last bicycle is produced in 1962.

1903 – Motorcycles:  The first motorcycle, which could reach the impressive speed of 4–5 km/hour, was produced in 1903. Starting in the 1930s, Husqvarna’s lightweight engines helped make some successful track racing and motocross bikes. Husqvarna’s first titles in Motocross World Championship came in 1959 and 1960. The operation was divested in 1987 and is since 2013 part of the KTM family.

1919 – Lawn mowers:  When Husqvarna acquired Norrahammars bruk, the product range expands to heating boilers and lawn mowers. The first test with a lawn mower powered by an engine was done in 1947.

1959 – Chainsaws:  As demand for bicycles, mopeds and motorcycles declines, forestry becomes increasingly important. The expertise in engines is now utilized in new areas and the first chainsaw is produced in 1959.

1968 – Power cutters:  A saw rebuilt to a power cutter in 1968 was the starting point of what today is the business area Husqvarna Construction.

1978 – Electrolux acquired Husqvarna.

1986 – Motorcycle division sold to Cagiva.

1995 – Robotic lawn mowers:  The world’s first solar powered robotic lawn mower was launched. Sales of robotic mowers did not take-off until 15 years later.

1999 – Husqvarna acquires Yazoo/Kees:  Husqvarna acquires Nebraska-based lawn mower manufacturer Yazoo/Kees.

2006 – On its own feet:  The company was spun off by Electrolux.

2007 – Acquisitions of strong brands:  The acquisition of Gardena in 2007 made the Husqvarna Group the European leader in consumer watering products. Acquiring Zenoah brought a strong brand and geographical expansion in Japan.

2008 – Expanded presence in China:  The acquisition of Jenn Feng and the construction of a new plant for chainsaws and other handheld products gave expanded presence in Asia.

2009 – Demolition robot:  Husqvarna launches its first remote-controlled demolition robot.

2013 – Chainsaw chains:  Decision is made to invest in a new production facility for chainsaw chains in Huskvarna.

 

Some of the well-known brands owned by Husqvarna, are:  Gardena, Weedeater, and Flymo

The company managed to reinvent itself every few years, building on core competencies from one product range and era to another (e.g. using their skills in cast iron production and their investment in a foundry to produce the bases for sewing machines, but also kitchen equipment like my beloved No.5 coffee grinder).

(Yet, Husqvarna is not unique, and by far not the oldest company still doing business.  For a list of the oldest companies, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_oldest_companies).

The lesson here is that, unless businesses adapt to changing times and an ever-changing external environment (e.g. political, economic, social, technological, climate, legal), they might just find themselves falling short and even going out of business.

Husqvarna and many others have managed to stay relevant over many, many years and decades (some over many centuries), and are therefore still around today.

One can do a full case study and business analysis on why Husqvarna and others have managed to survive for so many years.  But that is not the purpose of this post.

It started off with a old coffee grinder which is now used for grinding malt for making beer.  And just wondering where it came from.  Turns out Husqvarna is still alive and well, yet I doubt that you will be able to buy any cast iron coffee grinders from them….

 

 

 

 

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