Vårgårda celebrates a century of innovation | Gustavsberg

Vårgårda celebrates a century of innovation

The company Vårgårda Armatur was founded in 1920. A century later, production is still taking place in the same factory and in the same location. You might think things are still the same, but every day at work has to do with keeping pace with the rest of the world.­

In competition with the whole world

The year 1983 was something of a milestone for this innovative centenarian. That was the year Vårgårda launched a mixer featuring unique technology: a small spring that automatically shut off unnecessary flow. Like all smart inventions back in the 1980s, it was inevitably named “Turbo”. It made the mixer factory in the Swedish County of Älvsborg the first in the world to implement water- and energy-saving technology in standard household mixers. The desire for innovation has been there from the start, but the business now stands out in an important context: competition and the world itself have become truly global. Running a competitive manufacturing operation in Sweden in 2020 is quite a challenge.

Located in the heart of Sweden, Vårgårda is in competition with low-income countries that often operate with lower prices, largely because they take a more relaxed approach to regulations regarding working conditions, noise and the environment. What Vårgårda offers in response is automation and smarter, more production-friendly designs that all comply with the stringent environmental demands made on Swedish companies.

Fully 80% of the cost of a product stems from the design phase – and this is an area where we are world-class. For the past century, we have known the best way to manufacture each and every one of our products

Lars Nothall, Site and Production Manager

Quality in every link of the chain

Design in the manufacturing process is probably not the first thing end customers think of when the time comes to renovate their bathrooms, but it is a key factor that makes it possible to run Swedish production at Swedish levels of quality in Vårgårda. Even the slightly worn word “quality” takes on tangible meaning when it is applied here.

Thinking in terms of quality and the environment runs as a consistent theme through the choice of materials and every product, and permeates the organisation as a whole. Each and every employee is proud, committed and conscious of playing a crucial role in every link of the chain.

Technology is not the be all and end all. It is equally important to involve the staff effectively. We apply a flat organisation, where everyone can get involved and help develop both the business and themselves. And in that set-up, close interaction between product development and production is essential

Lars Nothall, Site and Production Manager

Quality pays dividends in the long term, and this is more evident today than ever before. Truly durable materials, products and services are always the smart option for the environment and the future of our planet. More and more people are becoming aware of this, which benefits Vårgårda.

Smart mixers. Even smarter fittings.

The mixers proudly bear the Gustavsberg name today, but equally important is the Vatette brand, under which the Vårgårda factory manufactures installation products such as connectors and valves. The products may not be quite as visible to the end user, but Vatette is a market leader. The brand is a seal of quality in and of itself, a kind of plumbing equivalent to the “Intel Inside” label on a computer.

For Vatette, too, high quality, innovation and a superior system mindset are success factors: “A connector is more than just a connector. It’s a part of an installation method,” says Lars.

Innovation that solves problems

Strangely, innovations themselves have no inherent value. What makes an innovation valuable is its capacity to solve problems. A major problem in the Swedish construction industry at present has to do with overly expensive housing. It is in this area that Vårgårda’s innovative power is proving to be part of the solution.

Building bathrooms is extremely costly, and superior plumbing solutions make a real difference in areas such as work methods and the time and money invested. Using smarter mixers from Gustavsberg combined with smarter installation technology through the Vatette brand, Vårgårda is cutting lead times in construction, improving water reliability and reducing water and energy consumption across the board. In the best case scenario, Vårgårda innovations will be making a difference for designers and fitters – and in residences around the world – for another 100 years.

Three cheers for the centenarian!