This year, 2014, AP&T is celebrating 50 years as a sheet metal forming equipment manufacturer. The journey began with three small engineering companies out in the Swedish countryside.
In 1964, Stig Gunnarsson and Jan Merlander founded VIBAB, a tool manufacturer, in a small community called Blidsberg in the Swedish countryside. The rod cutting machines that the company initially sold were never much of a success. The business really first got off the ground when they decided to manufacture press tools for various industries. The company was sold to Junga Verkstäder in 1974, and Tord and Jerker Andersson took over in 1980. Even if customers were still limited to the Scandinavian market, development during the 1980s was positive.
Quicker chrome trim with hydraulic presses
Around 150 km further south, Bertil Åberg founded Lagan Press in Lagan in 1964. It all started with styling accessories for American cars – the kind that car enthusiasts referred to as chrome trim. Bertil Åberg imported and sold these types of accessories, but felt the American manufacturers were much too slow to deliver. He started looking into the possibility of starting up production on his own. He was introduced to hydraulic presses in Germany, and decided to build his own in Sweden. Orders soon started arriving from other manufacturers. Lagan Press thus became the forerunner of hydraulic presses in Sweden.
Presses with larger press tables open up the export market
At the end of the 1960s, two of Lagan Press’ employees discovered a way to make more stable hydraulic presses for more operations on the same press table. When Bertil Åberg was not interested in Håkan Sallander’s and Bertil Jonsson’s idea, they decided in 1970 to move to the nearby town Tranemo and start up Tranemo Hydraulmaskiner – in part a competitor and in part a supplement to Lagan Press. The company was successful and grew with export and a subsidiary in the U.S.
Whole greater than the sum of its parts when three become one
The three companies competed for the same customers during the 1970s and 1980s, but they each had different strengths. Lagan Press was a deep drawing specialist, Tranemo Hydraulmaskiner a large press table specialist and VIBAB a tool and automation specialist.
Håkan Sallander at Tranemo Hydraulmaskiner was the one who first recognized the opportunity to be had by creating one strong and united company. In autumn 1989, AP&T was born with the notion to offer customers complete production lines from one supplier with responsibility for the entire installation. The concept was named One Responsible Partner®, and it is still one of AP&T’s most competitive advantages. The company had a clear aim from the start – to compete in the new international market.
Niche specialization key to success
In the 1990s, equipment for forming cavities for the domestic appliance industry and the computer case market helped AP&T build successful niches, and with the company’s knowledge of the customer’s product and the right production solution, it could supply complete production lines. AP&T has experienced success in the 2000s as a supplier of forming equipment for heat exchanger plates and parts for roof drainage and ventilation.
Trucks inspiration for more efficient press robots
In the 1990s, AP&T began to modularize its products. Development and design were focused on producing a small number of base modules that could be combined into many different products. It was a little like building with Lego. Inspiration was derived from the automotive industry where Scania had come a long way in creating different products with a high degree of shared components. Modularization enables quicker product design and production. Ease of service also increases as does the possibility to upgrade and rebuild the products in the future.
Hot market for press hardening
Press hardening technology experienced its major breakthrough ten years ago. AP&T produced functioning solutions early on, and thus got a head start when the technology made a commercial breakthrough.
AP&T has experienced strong growth since then as a knowledge partner to the automotive industry where AP&T is currently a leading supplier of complete lines for press hardening. Some of the company’s customers include Fiat, VW and Volvo.
In September 2014, an entirely new development and production facility was inaugurated in Ulricehamn, Sweden. The company’s global headquarters will also be located there. Fifty years after the company was formed, AP&T is now a global company with its own sales and service in Europe, North America and Asia.