A few years after World War II, Ericsson took the first step in what was to be a long and successful process of decentralization and new establishment of operations throughout Sweden. Demand was increasing constantly, but a shortage of workers made it difficult to expand in Stockholm. So the company turned its sights to the rest of the country. Karlskrona was one of the first locations to be chosen.
On March 3, 1947, telephone assembly began in the new Ericsson manufacturing plant in the Swedish Tobacco Company’s former snuff factory on Ölandsgatan in Trossö. Some 100,000 telephones were delivered in the first year of operations, and by year-end there were 100 employees.
After expansion in 1948, the plant was Karlskrona’s largest civilian facility with floor space totaling 12,000 square meters. Politicians and the public were pleased by Ericsson’s investments in Karlskrona, which had been the Swedish Navy’s main base since 1680 and needed more industry.
Ericsson expanded operations and the Karlkrona plant grew successively larger. In addition to telephones, the plant also made telephone dials, and in 1956 the manufacture of crossbar switches was transferred from Midsommarkransen to Karlskrona.
In the same year, Ericsson began manufacturing the Ericofon, which would become one of the company’s greatest icons. More than 1.8 million Ericofons, or Cobras as they came to be known, were produced until it was discontinued in 1982.
Manufacturing flourished. Ericsson established operations in several locations in Blekinge County in the early 1960s, including Olofström, Kallinge and Ronneby.
At the end of 1962, Ericsson decided to build a modern wire plant in Vedeby. When the plant was completed the following year, it overtook large portions of production from the plants in Sundbyberg and Älvsjö.
In 1973, renovation of the Karlskrona plant was started that would take several years. New methods and changing volumes demanded a relocation of both personnel and production equipment. After an addition to the Karlskrona plant in 1974 that increased floor space to 46,000 square meters, it was second-largest after Midsommarkransen among Ericsson’s Swedish production units. The following year, the Blekinge units achieved a record number of 3,500 employees in four locations.
The AXE was introduced in 1976. Demand for crossbar switch frames declined dramatically, which subsequently led to the closing of the plant in Olofström in 1982.
At approximately the same time, Ericsson acquired the companies Data SAAB and Facit. This was the beginning of a focus on office automation and information technology. The purchase of Facit included production facilities in Bräkne-Hoby, and it was only natural to let Blekinge become the production center for the newly established Ericsson Information Systems AB. In December 1983, the wire plant in Vedeby was closed and totally renovated in preparation for the start of production of the new MD110 business switch.
In the autumn of 1989, the foundation was laid for a new logistics facility in Verkö just outside Karlskrona. A few years later, a decision was taken to expand this facility so that it could take over operations from Ölandsgatan and Vedeby. The Verkö facility, comprising 24,000 square meters, was completed in 1993 and inaugurated on October 14. The property on Ölandsgatan was sold to the municipality in 1992 and subsequently leased by Ericsson for the operations of Ericsson Software Technology AB.
During the late 1990s, Ericsson’s requirements for focusing on core operations were sharpened, and the Verkö plant was sold. On March 31, 1997, the plant was taken over by Flextronics Internation of the US; one of the world’s leading contract manufacturers. The adjacent logistics center, which is still operated by Ericsson, handles deliveries of business switches and system telephones from the Verkö plant to nearly 100 countries.
At the beginning of the new millennium, Karlskrona is clearly asserting its role as Southern Sweden’s Telecom City. The importance of Karlskrona for Ericsson’s Swedish operations continues.
Author: Thord Andersson & Kari Malmström