50 years in business - A throwback by founder Björn Holmström

On September 17, Hydroscand is turning 50 years old. The company's founder, Björn Holmström, celebrates this with a retrospect of the years that have passed since the start in 1969, from the company’s inception in a basement in 1969 to the global family-owned business that it is today, with operations in 20 countries worldwide.

Hydroscand's founder and owner, Björn Holmström, has devoted most of his life to hoses and fittings. He is a person with a strong commitment, who knows what he wants. Today, Björn has the same vision as when he started Hydroscand on September 17th 1969, namely to sell hoses and fluid components from a decentralized, customer-oriented organization.

Björn has been an enthusiastic entrepreneur since childhood and has sold everything from aquarium fish to scarves, before eventually landing in the world of hydraulics and specializing in hoses.

Hydroscand is born

Björn worked as a hose salesman at a company that was facing bankruptcy, when he and his colleague, Ivan Andersson, made the decisive decision to launch a venture of their own. Hydroscand, or Hydraulikaktiebolaget Hydroscan as it initially was called, started on the same day that Björn's second youngest son, Martin, was born. 

 “It was a tumultuous day that I will always remember fondly. I was at the hospital to meet my son for the first time, I was at the bank to start up the company and I resigned from my old job, all on the same day”, says Björn Holmström.

Björn and Ivan worked hard for many years to gain momentum for the company and they travelled extensively to establish good business relations across national borders. They were extremely careful about the quality and wanted to find the best suppliers that could meet their requirements. After a while, Hydroscand won the confidence of an increasing number of large customers, who appreciated the focus on quality that Hydroscand stands for.

 As the company grew, the basement in Örby became too small and the company moved to larger premises on Sjösavägen in Högdalen.

The first branch takes shape

After a while, one of Hydroscand's hose suppliers had a problem with a customer in Linköping and wondered if Hydroscand could take over responsibility for the customer. This subsequently developed into Hydroscand's first branch.

The branch was located right next to the railway station in Linköping, where operations were conducted until Hydroscand bought the property where the branch is located today.

 Expertise and proximity to the customer

For Björn, it has always been important to adhere to the company's clear niche, namely hoses and fluid components.

“I think that we should be the best in the country in what we do. We shouldn’t expand into insignificant product groups that cause us to lose our excellence”, explains Björn.

Björn believes that the right expertise is extremely important, whether it concerns hoses for hydraulics, industry or pneumatics. He also quickly understood how expensive it was for customers when a hose broke.

“We found that proximity to the customer is extremely important. The time from when a hose breaks, until the customer has got a new one and the machine has started up again, is very precious. Our cutting-edge expertise and our wide range of hoses and fittings available in our stock, meant that we acquired a good reputation for always being able to fix a hose problem quickly”, explains Björn.

Hydroscand is growing in Sweden

The organization continued to grow and Hydroscand established itself in Västerås, Jönköping, Norrköping, Karlstad, Boden, Örebro, Ljungby and in Bergsjö, a branch which was later moved to Hudiksvall. During this period, a new company was also started in the Group, Hydroscand Machine AB.

At the beginning of the 2000s, Hydroscand established a presence in Skåne after the acquisition of Slang och Maskin. Its strong expansion meant that Hydroscand had now outgrown its premises and it therefore moved to a larger premises in Högdalen's industrial area. But the expansion continued, and only a few years later the head office and Hydroscand's central warehouse were moved to the current premises in Sköndal. In connection with the move, Hydroscand also built up its test laboratory, the Hydroscand Design and Test Centre, which enabled the company to quality test hoses in-house.

During this period, Hydroscand also gained several large customers in the automotive field, which led to the establishment of yet another company in the group, Hydroscand Automotive. In the same year, 2007, Hydroscand's specialist hose production unit, Special Hoses, was also established in Motala.

Hydroscand expands globally

In 1978, Hydroscand took over Europower's Norwegian agent's operations from a company called Anton Basberg. This then laid the foundation for Hydroscand's Norwegian company, which today includes 38 branches extending from Kirkenes in the north to Farsund in the south.

The next country where Hydroscand established itself was Finland, in 1997. During the 10 years that followed, Hydroscand established itself in Estonia, Denmark, Latvia and the UK. A new service company was also started for the company's largest customer in China and a production unit was established in the Czech Republic. 

After its successful establishment in Estonia and Latvia, Hydroscand took the step of establishing operations in Russia in 2006. This establishment has special significance for Björn and his family.

“Being successful in Russia is particularly gratifying for the Holmström family because we trace our ancestry on my mother's side back to St. Petersburg. So, we are pleased that the family has now been able to re-establish ourselves there a hundred years later”, says Björn.

From this base, Hydroscand has since been able to expand its operations to other countries such as Belarus, Lithuania, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Georgia and Armenia.

Between 2009 and 2019, Hydroscand also started operations in France, Ireland, South Africa, Romania and Iceland.

The successful HoseExpress concept is rolled out

Hydroscand started up its mobile hose service, HoseExpress, in 2007 when the first service van started operations in Stockholm. The service quickly became popular with the company's customers and it expanded steadily, both in Sweden and globally. Today, Hydroscand is the market leader in mobile hose services in Sweden, Denmark and Norway.

Hydroscand gets involved in a school project in South Africa

In the spring of 2011, Hydroscand established itself in South Africa by acquiring a business based in Johannesburg. In connection with this, Björn, his wife and friends visited the village of Appelsbosch in Kwazulu-Natal, where they were shown around at Inqolayolwazi Primary School. This visit had a strong effect on them, as the school was neglected and the classrooms were overflowing with students.

 They were surprised by the children's enthusiasm for education, despite the distressing school environment.

During the visit, it emerged that the school was in a difficult financial situation and would not be granted public funds to build more classrooms and hire more teachers.

It was decided there and then that Hydroscand would donate the money needed to erect a new building with new classrooms. This became the starting point for Hydroscand's involvement in the school and what would later include a preschool and scholarships.

Björn is very committed to the project and the support for the school continues. Hydroscand now supports the school annually with some maintenance and scholarships for new graduates. 

 “When I spoke at the inauguration of the first classrooms, I said I had a dream that this school would become one of the best in Kwazulu-Natal or maybe even in the whole of South Africa. A year ago, I was told that we are the second best school in KwaZulu-Natal. We are almost there”, says Björn.

Hydroscand in the future

When Björn is asked "What do you want from the company in the future?", he is as confident in his answer as he has always been regarding the ambition that has characterized him as a business leader.

 “First and foremost, I want the company to remain a family-owned business that my children and grandchildren can take over for generations. I also want us to be true to our basic business concept, to sell hoses and fluid components from a decentralized and customer-oriented organization”, he replies.

Björn emphasizes that proximity to the customer will always be incredibly important for Hydroscand. "We simply have to be the customer's closest hose service", he concludes.

Published at: 04-09-2019
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