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The Government has stepped in, saying it also wants to see lower prices.
Large Swedish building contractors Skanska, NCC and Peab have indicated they will build bathrooms in their factories. Naturally, plumbers don’t like it: maybe in future they will only ‘plumb in’ the installations. Kristianson doesn’t see this as progress.
Heat pump technology is a big business in Sweden, which is a leading country in heat pump equipment. The big manufacturers are NIBE, Thermia, IVT and CTC. It was a record year in 2006 for manufacturers, which sold a total of 127,000 units. Air-air heat pumps dominate with a market share of 41%, but the water heat pump industry is experiencing rapid growth at 42% over the previous year’s figures.
In Sweden there is a very influential group of plumbers called Comfort. The group sells and installs bathroom, heating, water and plumbing products and has an annual turnover equivalent to US$525 million.
It seems many installers are dealing directly with the manufacturer, a practice in operation for some years but now gaining in popularity. Kristianson says some of the bigger installers are buying directly from overseas manufacturers – a growing trend.
The biggest wholesalers are Dahl, Ahlsell and Onninen.
There are many globally recognized manufacturers in Sweden, such as Gustavsberg (now owned by Villeroy & Boch), and Sanitec, which owns Ifö Sanitär and Ido Badrum. There is also the Finnish company Uponor, which has many factories in Sweden and maintains a strong position in the market.
Mora Armatur and FM Mattsson are two big companies in sanitation (shower products and bathroom faucets). Now they have the same private equity owner and work closely together to produce their product range in the same factory.
The Danish company Danfoss has bought heat pump manufacturer Thermia. Danfoss has the ambition to be the largest heat pump manufacturer in Europe. The German company Bosch Gruppe has bought IVT, the biggest Swedish heat pump company.
Two other big Swedish brands in the HVAC sector are Alfa Laval and Nibe, both listed on the Stockholm Stock Exchange.
Like other developed countries, Sweden is suffering from an ageing workforce and, through VVS Företagen, is undertaking a recruitment and education drive as a priority.
Kristianson says the local plumbing sector has to attract and train more than 1,000 people a year to service the country’s growing needs. At present, this is a popular career choice and the plumbing sector media are playing an important role in maintaining the momentum.
“You can always get a job as a plumber,” Kristianson says. “Now it is four or five candidates for every training place. To be a plumber is more attractive than becoming an engineer, and on the same level as becoming a doctor.”
One enormous plumbing project is the Preemraffs refinery in Lysekil, in the west of Sweden. The US$1 billion project began in 2005 and was unique in the huge amount of piping and tubes it required. More than 200 installers/service men were needed to construct and assemble the 3000 tonnes of piping.
Kristianson believes the plumbing and HVAC sectors will continue to have a high status.
Our thanks go to Lars Roselius for his assistance with this article.