Having all the right skills gathered under one roof creates shorter lead times and increases the rate of innovation. This philosophy is fundamental to ANAB, the sharpening machine manufacturer that leads the industry from its premises in Ås.
Sharpening machine manufacturer ANAB is at the forefront of product development in its industry, with five employees based in an industrial estate in Ås, a small village located just outside Östersund in Jämtland. It all started in the year 2000 when company owner Anders Nilsson decided to start his own business after 20 years of professional experience in the industry.
“I bought out the sharpening machine part of a German company that had been a big player for 120 years, they then continued with the sharpening of band saw blades and circular saw blades. Today we are each world leaders in our respective niche areas,” says Nilsson.
Reaching the number one position in the market has been achieved thanks to large and long-term investments in in-house research and development. In fact, 40-60% of the components in an ANAB machine are produced in-house.
“It is often those components for which we see development potential. Doing such a large part of our own production means we can be quick on our feet and keep up a rate of innovation that nobody else in the industry can rival.”
For the last few years, Sima Brunner has stood at the drawing board. Brunner credits the company’s high rate of innovation to great openness to new ideas and very quick processing times.
“Sometimes it doesn’t even take a day between my getting an idea that I sketch out and it going to Kenth in Production, having been bounced with Byström in Electronics along the way. Before the day is over, we can have tested the idea and gotten a practical view of a quick prototype.”
Brunner completed his studies at KTH (Royal Institute of Technology) in spring 2019 and remains in touch with his former student friends who speak of completely different circumstances when it comes to expressing their innovation abilities at their places of work.
“Many of them work in larger organisations where product development may be located in Östersund, production in Germany and the finance department in Skåne in southern Sweden. The processing time from idea to a testable prototype becomes way too long, which I believe can strangle the individual engineer’s ability to innovate,” explains Brunner.
Over and above having all the relevant skills in the same building, close mutual work with the end customer is also cited as one of ANAB's success factors.
“The most important prerequisite for being able to have such fast processes as ours can really be attributed to the very close dialogue that we have with a couple of our end customers. Over the years, Simon Näslund in Dorotea has taken many unfinished products on board to test their resilience and assess how relevant they actually are out in the field,” says Brunner.
The last in the line of innovations is a clamp aimed at reducing one of the most important factors affecting chain sharpening, namely vibration.
“We probably have an unofficial record for speed of product development with this new clamp. It took about two weeks to go from idea to usable final product, and Näslund reckons that it could increase his productivity by 20%. In short, we have moved the clamp from the drive link up to the rivet to reduce the vibration of the chain.”
Anders Nilsson laughs when the slow processing speeds that Brunner describes from former workplaces come up in conversation.
“Things have to move quickly, and all ideas must be thoroughly discussed, even bad ideas emerge for a reason, and they can be localised and maybe form the basis of another, good idea. We are now making major investments in new CNC machines so that Sima and Kenth can keep up their fantastic rates of innovation,” says Nilsson.