The first industrial suburb of Stockholm was established at Marievik in Liljeholmen in the 1860s. It was also here that the Swedish State Railways (SJ) established several facilities, which began to be phased out in the 1920s, however. Marievik’s outstanding location – with access to harbour, railways and arterial roads – resulted in several companies establishing operations there, including steel wholesaler Söderberg & Haak in 1920 and Odelberg & Olson in 1935.
Ragnar Söderberg’s daughter, Barbro Montgomery, has recounted what her father said as they drove past Marievik by car: ”That’s where we are, and that’s where Odelberg & Olson is. But we’re bigger”.
Söderberg & Haak became a Swedish pioneer in efficient inventory management. One of the first punch card facilities for inventory operations in Sweden was installed in Marievik in 1937. Work studies regarding inventories were initiated in 1948 with new schemes introduced shortly thereafter. A computer facility from Saab was installed at Marievik in 1965.
Transport equipment within the warehouses was also modernised, with portal cranes, mobile cranes, overhead cranes and forklifts. Around 1950, the iron lifter was put into operation. It was a truck with a lift assembly in the front, designed at Söderberg & Haak.
Total space expanded from 6,000 m2 in 1920, to over 60,000 m2 in the 1960s. The warehouse was one of the absolute largest of its kind internationally, with some 60-70 lorries arriving daily, plus additional transports by railway and ship.
Söderberg & Haak expanded their storage capacity in other locations as well. As previously mentioned, the warehouse in Gothenburg was relocated in 1958. In Malmö, operations moved from Nyhamn to a combined office and warehouse facility in Industrihamn in 1938, where a large indoor warehouse was erected in 1960. Three years later, a warehouse opened in Sundsvall, and in 1965 Söderberg & Haak purchased 80,000 m2 of land in Köping to build a warehouse for customers in the Bergslagen region. All of the warehouses had harbour and railway access.
At the end of the 1960s, iron and metal inventories were expanded to include facilities for pre-processing such as clipping and flame cutting of sheet metal, cutting of sheet metal and bars, and blasting and priming of sheet metal, beams and bars.
Sister companies Söderberg & Haak and Larsson, Seaton & Co. (Lasco) opened a new joint warehouse facility in Hisings Backa on the Göta River in 1969. At the same time, Söderberg & Haak moved its Gothenburg office into new premises adjacent to the warehouse facility. In Malmö, a new warehouse facility with offices went into operation in 1974. That same year, the decision was made to embark on a three-year reconstruction of the Stockholm facility in Marievik.
Several hardware companies were acquired in 1973-74 that delivered steel, metals, tools, machinery and other goods to industry and construction firms. Some of those companies also maintained retail operations.
The goal behind the acquisition of industrial and builders supply companies was to get closer to small customers who were more difficult to reach from the five main warehouses. Söderberg & Haak were able, through the new distribution system, to guarantee that certain products were always available, thereby allowing the company’s customers to minimise their own inventories, a concept that was launched in 1974 with the slogan ”warehouse free purchases”.