From Kinnarps to Stavanger

There are a number of ways of getting from Kinnarps, in the village of Kinnarp, in Sweden to Stavanger in Norway - of which flying is regarded as the only sensible option. However, not if you are travelling with more than  tonnes of office furniture in your luggage! With a warning of the first snow of the season fresh in our memory we began our long drive towards the perhaps wintry, but nevertheless beautiful, Norwegian coast.

My assignment is to accompany a delivery from Kinnarps in Sweden to Aker Kvaerner in Stavanger, Norway. The starting point is no. 7 of Kinnarps 14 different loading bays. The principal character is Roland Linder, delivery assembler with 36.5 years at Kinnarps.

The journey begins at Kinnarps shipping department. Martin Friberg is foreman and comments: “We load about 30 containers per day, equivalent to about 1000-1200 cubic metres. In total 80 people work here.To get everything done we work 3 shifts; day, evening and permanent night shift, every day apart from weekends.”

“Our job involves, as so much else does, supplying the right thing to the right place at the right time. As we work with order controlled production, with no actual stocks, all products go directly from production to shipping. This guarantees fast and secure handling where in principle there are no risks of errors or mistakes, guarantees Martin. For us, the right place means loading to enable everything to be unloaded without re-stowing. We only use corrugated cardboard and blankets as packing; for both environmental reasons and in order to gain volume by avoiding unnecessary air in the load. We're on time, we expect we will leave Kinnarps on schedule, through good planning – and perhaps an extra spurt when the departure time approaches, concludes Martin with a broad smile.

At 13.00 precisely we leave Kinnarps in wonderful weather; plus 3 degrees and brilliant sunshine - but with the threat of snow and bad weather ahead of us! We are sitting in a 380 hp Scania turbo diesel with 8 gears. Among many other technical refinements it is equipped with a chipped engine, hydraulic suspension and ABS on all the wheels.

Driving to Norway is a 25 year old tradition at Kinnarps. The first trips were to Oslo. Kinnarps trucks now travel to places all over the country, not least to Stavanger where there is at least one load a week.

According to the new European regulations, which were introduced in the Nordic region about 10 years ago, in principle you are allowed to drive for a maximum of 9 hours with a 45 minute break. The tachograph provides continual documentation of whether you are complying with the law.

“Personally I think it's a very good thing, both for traffic safety and for us drivers. It also means that there are a lot of overnight stops along the way. For my part, I always stay in the cab; in my one room flat with a steering wheel and I sleep just as well here as I do at home. Actually it really is perfectly comfortable and very close to work,” laughs Roland.

After a few hours driving we start to approach the Norwegian border and the new customs station in Svinesund; completed as recently as June 2005 - and still showing clear signs of the inauguration. From a distance it looks as if the buildings have been covered with colourful winter butterflies that are flapping in the biting wind. But when we get closer we see that they are small punched maps of the two neighbouring countries, Norway and Sweden, in different colours. It is pleasantly decorative as well as an excellent symbol of neighbourliness.

The journey continues in dizzyingly beautiful terrain. Southwards all the time, past Sandefjord, Larvik, Porsgrunn, Arendal and pretty soon we are down in Kristiansand. Meanwhile it has become late and rather dark. Roland is starting to approach the limit for his 9 hours driving and we decide to spend the night in Flekkefjord.

The next morning we monitor the weather report with considerably greater interest than normal. There are warnings of snow in many places in Norway, but so far only in the mountains. We continue the journey and immediately after Flekkefjord the ascent becomes constant. The engines growl - and all the time it feels like it is getting colder and more slippery. But at the top of a ridge we pass a sign with the place name Bue: “It gets easier now” says Roland, ”in principle it's downhill all the way to Stavanger.” It will get warmer; in other words no treacherous ice or snowfalls are going to catch us.

It suddenly strikes me that I see Roland as a driver; but his correct title is actually Delivery Assembler. What does that actually mean?

“Being a travelling assembler, Roland laughs, or an ambassador for Kinnarps if you prefer. Our goal at Kinnarps is to produce and supply our products in an unbroken quality chain. For my part, as delivery assembler, it involves both responsibility for the transportation and ensuring that the furniture is unloaded and assembled correctly. But also it quite simply means being on site and answering questions concerning just about everything concerning Kinnarps.

“So much the better that is also involves a lot of useful exercise,” says Roland, “it would be much worse simply to drive and never have to do any physical exercise.”

We are approaching Stavanger, shrouded in mist, rain and 6 plus degrees. We turn into the district where Aker Kvaerners is located and drive down the steep slope towards the huge facility. Roland leans on the horn for the final metres as if to inform everyone here I come with office furniture from Kinnarps. And it is a happy reunion, one after one the ‘boys’ come out, say hello and banter for a while. Without doubt, Roland looks like an extremely welcome delivery assembler!