In 1955, the long-standing, family-owned company AB Färdig Betong was founded by Martin Thomas, in the form of a single factory in Karlstad. Martin opened the business’ headquarters in Gothenburg two years later, where it still operates to this day, to be closer to the epicentre of Sweden’s construction market. He used this base to expand the company over the following decade, vastly increasing its geographical footprint by acquiring a great deal of the competition.
This approach set the tone for the run up to the millennium, seeing the company expand into Germany in the 1960s, the US in the 1980s and Poland in the 1990s. Today, the company is known as Thomas Betong and is a part of Thomas Concrete Group AB. The Swedish Group is still owned by the Thomas family and boasts four prefab facilities and 160 concrete factories across the world.
The group prides itself on the production and distribution of high-quality, ready-mix concrete for both commercial and private customers, and measures its success by the added value of its customer service and technical expertise. Carina Edblad, Chief Executive Officer, details Thomas Betong’s motivations a little further: “First and foremost – we are the concrete specialists. We are entirely focused on concrete and our goal is to be perceived as the best in the industry. This is reflected in everything we do and the people that we employ, as we look for those similar to ourselves, with ambitious profiles. Naturally, as an industry leader, we place huge importance on the development of newer technologies and products.
“Research and Development (R&D) is a crucial part of the business. Our founder was a real entrepreneur and instilled his passion for R&D into the foundations of Thomas Betong. Our inhouse professors work closely with several universities and we even have funding programs to support development outside of the company, due to our involvement with a number of exterior associations and corporations.
“For many years now, we have been developing concrete products with lower carbon footprints. These are available across the entire group,” she continues. “However, it was the Swedish sector, which I manage, that pioneered these products in the market. Ten years ago, we were the first and only manufacturers in the country to be working on environmentally friendly alternatives, which the markets have refused to forget, despite our competitors attempting to jump on the bandwagon. The knowledge that we have obtained over the last decade is truly invaluable, and it’s clear to see by the continuing reductions of carbon in our concrete. It’s not possible to produce all concrete without cement, which would be the ideal, carbon-free answer, but it can certainly be done in parts.”
The past is a true point of pride for Thomas Betong with its historic achievements and rich heritage, both resultant of almost 70 years of family-ownership. The business is proudly independent, which is a rarity in these modern times, unlike its major competitors that are mostly large cement manufacturers. These companies attempt to dominate the concrete and construction industries, in the hope of achieving monopolization, whereas Thomas Betong confidently sits in the middle. Without links to either cement or construction, it can focus on concrete as its absolute priority. This is part of the reason it’s one of the industry’s leaders, along with the agility granted by its ownership status.
The family-feel is extended to the business’ most critical means to success – its staff. “The people are the most integral element of Thomas Betong. Our investments into our plants and technology are worthless if we do not have the correct employees to captain them to fruition. Through careful recruiting, regular training and motivational incentives, all under the guiding arm of strong leadership, we have created a successful working culture. As a management team, we use what we call a strategic platform, from which we can observe what it is to be a member of our company, to really give them what they want.
“Another key investment that is largely aimed at providing greater customer satisfaction, but we feel also enriches the working lives of our teams, is the digital transformation we are currently undertaking.” Carina expands: “We have actually been picked as one of Microsoft’s preferred corporate partners, on account of the example that we are setting to other businesses to dare to digitise. We have incorporated a company-wide cloud along with a number of digital solutions for our customers. These include a portal that grants them access to a whole range of data, such as the moisture content of their concrete. We are striving to be as modern as possible, as a means to increase our value both internally and externally.”
Despite the extra freedoms under Sweden’s differing COVID restrictions, Thomas Betong still felt somewhat of a sting from the pandemic. Staff sickness led to slower production times across the industry and affected general plant operations, however Carina says that most of the issues were manageable through careful planning and problem solving. “Our remaining staff had to work extremely hard in supporting their colleagues who were absent, so it was still very tough on us, but we weren’t affected like the travel industry.”
Moving forward from these troubled times, the company is tapping into one of its ultimate resources in the procurement of the future it wants and deserves: ambition. As Carina concludes: “Our ambition cannot be quelled, as it’s such a key characteristic to our proceedings. Looking towards the coming years, we are striving to develop our products further and expand the company farther. The lust for getting better and better, day-in, day-out, is in our blood. Of course, the market goes up and down, and unfortunately it’s currently on a run of bad years, but even this hasn’t managed to stop us. We have still achieved year-on-year growth in revenue and profit. In terms of what is happening in the world now, the next couple of years are looking to be unstable. We’re unfazed; we’re fully confident in our abilities to find the correct solutions within fresh strategies, to continue to be a strong company.”