The story of Optronic begins in 1974 when AGA Geotronics was divided into two divisions and a production unit was placed in Skellefteå.
It is a region characterized by entrepreneurship and in Skellefteå there was also at this time a history of working with optics. Also important was the state aid for the relocation of companies and the fact that Rudolf Wiklund, then CEO of AGA, had his roots in northern Sweden.
But finding engineers who could work for the company was no easy task. The Green Wave environmental movement was at its peak and for many young people life in rural areas, without access to modern technology, was more appealing than a career in electronics and applied physics.
Six young engineers, however, saw the possibilities. They joined the company and began manufacturing long-distance measuring instruments for AGA.
The first technology shift
In the following years, a major technology shift changed the market: The US military sent GPS satellites into space, marking the birth of today’s GPS technology. As the benefits of the new technology became increasingly evident, the instruments manufactured by AGA in Skellefteå became obsolete.
AGA was forced to close down production in Skellefteå and the employees had to choose whether to relocate with the company to Stockholm or buy the unit in Skellefteå and become a subcontractor.
They chose the latter and formed Eloptricon. It was then a company with ten employees who together decided to develop their own product line. After a brainstorming session that yielded around 100 ideas, it was decided that three of these had potential: one instrument for the quality control of rubber, one for vessel testing and one for the control of crankshafts.
The third idea later led to business with both Volvo and Saab.
A new ownership group steps in
The first owners invested heavily in development but soon realized that they lacked both the necessary funding and knowledge of marketing. Eventually they decided to sell the company to Saab Combitech, which owned the company for three years before it was bought in 1987 by the Brothers Pähr, Mats and Anders Lövgren, who are still in the ownership group.
The Lövgren brothers owned several successful and growing B2B companies and saw great potential in the development market for optical sensors and applications for the industry. They also understood the importance of a strong customer focus. This resulted in the basic question that Optronic always works from: How can we make our customers more competitive?
Specialists in optoelectronics
Part of the answer was to develop specialist expertise in the field of optoelectronics and to target companies in the international marketplace. For the new owners, the focus was then to reach a critical mass in production, in order to establish a platform for continued development.
The challenge of developing high competence while achieving production goals was tough but the company was confident in its niche as a developer and manufacturer of subsystems based on optoelectronics.
During the 1990s, the company continued to build on its strategic pillars, which included the chosen focus, volume increase and risk management.
During these years Optronic added a lot of experience to its Board of Directors. One of the people chosen for the task was Rudolf Wiklund, who was a board member from 1989 to 2007.
100 million a milestone
Despite challenges such as the Swedish economic downturn in the early 1990s, Optronic maintained its course and achieved a turnover of SEK 100 million in 2000.
To finance the development work, Optronic has over the years established collaborations with both customers and universities in northern Sweden. Universities have been important in recruiting new talent for the company, which has further stimulated the company’s development.
In order to move even closer to the market, the company also established an office in Stockholm.
Proof of Competence
After major investments in both increased production and knowledge development in new technological areas, Optronic gained an increasingly strong position in the market. The stable business led Optronic to go up a gear and form the Optical Metrology group, which consisted of the companies Optronic, Fotonic and Farmic. Fotonic offered 3D cameras based on time-of-flight technology. The company’s business was aimed at industry and among the customers were leading international companies in the automotive industry, among others. Farmic was a company focused on optical sensors for agriculture and the agriculture sectors.
The close connection to Optronic was maintained because the competence in development and production was of great benefit to both Fotonic and Farmic. The high level of expertise in the smaller companies attracted a lot of attention in the market and in autumn 2017 the international group Autoliv acquired parts of the Group – including the companies Fotonic and Farmic. This was largely due to the extensive expertise in, among other things, LiDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) that existed within the companies.
Autoliv’s acquisition is a testament to the market-leading knowledge built up within the company and Optronic has since established a close collaboration with Autoliv.
The acquisition has also meant that Optronic has streamlined its business and is now focusing even more on its core business; taking care of the entire life cycle of products containing optics and advanced measurement technology.
And this is an important key to Optronic continuing to attract business from leading international groups that see the benefits of the company’s long experience, knowledge and efficient manufacturing. Optronic remains being owner-managed and the Lövgren brothers are still in the ownership group.
Although the years have passed and a lot has happened, Optronic’s goals have not changed much since its inception. It’s still about finding solutions that make the customer more competitive. And their success shows the customer surveys where Optronic is at the top among the market’s players.