My journey takes me over a small, avenue-lined country road towards Lutter am Barenberge. My knowledge of Skandix AG is rudimentary, and I'm curious what to expect. Skandix is a supplier for Saab and Volvo spare parts, and a little bit more. Spare parts can also be reproduced, filling one or the other gap. So I expect a medium-sized hall, a sizeable warehouse and a few employees. Let's see!
Lutter am Barenberge is a manageable village on the edge of the Harz Mountains. It's a small industrial area, and I guess Skandix is the biggest local employer. I park next to a Volvo V70 that belongs to my interlocutor, Mario Schütrumpf. He's seen me a long time, comes out of his office and invites me to a cup of coffee. A good start, I've been on the Saab tour for a few days. Every milliliter of caffeine is welcome. And helpful.
Mario invites me on a tour of the company. It is already clear to me that there is more than just a hall. We run through offices, sales, customer service, purchasing. The rooms are bright, modern and the atmosphere is friendly. We are suddenly in the anteroom of the board and founder Matthias Volk. He takes his time and, as it happens, is busy with a new spare part for the Saab 9000.
Saab spare parts challenge
I learn a lot about spare parts and how to manufacture them using the fast method. And about the special challenges in the Saab case. While one can use old factory drawings for the reproduction of parts of the models up to 1993, the search for documents for the models built from 1994 onwards is very difficult. Often no construction documents are available! Why is it? Hard to say. Either everything was destroyed in Nyköping or Trollhättan, or the plans are in the hands of NEVS, the bankruptcy attorneys, the museum or another party. Not easy, nor the topic of my visit.
Skandix therefore has to redraw every spare part that goes into production for Saab. To do this, you buy originals, analyze them and reproduce what Saab technicians developed 20 or 30 years ago. In some cases, complete vehicles are obtained and dissected. On the site, I later learn, there is a hall with old Saabs and Volvos just for this purpose. Finding manufacturers for the new edition is not easy. The number of pieces is always relatively manageable, hardly any producer bothered about it. A good, long-term relationship, fair interaction with one another and sensitivity are required, Matthias Volk tells me. Yes, and of course patience and financial strength. Several months, sometimes more than a year, pass from the very first drawing to the first delivery to the customer.
Mario and I say goodbye to Matthias Volk. The tour takes us through the main warehouse, which is much more extensive than expected. On the shelves are the brands that every Saab and Volvo driver knows and needs. The spare parts that are particularly in demand are waiting here for their dispatch all over the world. The Skandix AG delivers its goods to over 110 countries worldwide, more than 800 parcels leave the company every day. The focus is on the many small and wearing parts, without which no Saab works. The task is clearly defined: keep the vehicles working on the road. And as long as possible.
Even more space for Saab spare parts
Too small, says Mario. The warehouse is too small, bursting at the seams. There are two other halls in which additional parts are stored. Which are not handled as often. He shows me the workshop where the company tests spare parts on the vehicles. Not everything works right away, in some cases millimeters are decisive for success or not. Unfortunately, there are always examples of this. Convertible windows for Saab, for example, which were too short by the decisive millimeter and therefore could not go on sale. Daily business with old Swedes - it's not easy.
But it works. Mario shows me a collection of parts that are newly made for Saab. Indicator lenses for the Saab 96, hydraulic cylinders for the classic 900 Cabriolet, guide rails for the engines of the 900, other parts for the last 9-3 and the first 9-5 generation. More is planned, and an average of 2 new spare parts for Saab or Volvo are put into production in the Harz region every month.
The Skandix AG, it is a German success story in the Swedish niche that cannot be that small. The future demands, and above all it demands more space for even more spare parts. What I missed on my tour are the parts that you don't necessarily need. But would like to have to make the Swedes something more beautiful. Beyond all the seals and wear parts that are essential for us. It is the problem of space that calls for reason. For a while, but the construction of a large hall with office and administration is in progress.
New building with 12.000 square meters of warehouse
Around 12.000 square meters of storage space will be added in 2020, and construction is progressing. It emerges somewhat to the side of the current buildings and cannot be seen at first glance. Because the shell is nestled in the landscape of the Harz foothills, does not rise to a demanding height. Unusual, I think to myself. Willful, says Mario. His board of directors, Matthias Volk, is concerned with environmentally friendly construction and under no circumstances wants to put a complex of concrete in the landscape. Not a memorial for future generations to ask what you might have thought. With sustainable building materials, adapted to the landscape, Skandix AG is planning for the future.
Goes well with Saab!