The forest industry has been one of Sweden’s most important basic industries for more than a hundred years, and it usually accounts for 17-20 percent of the manufacturing industry’s turnover, value added and the number of employees. Sweden ranks third among the world’s countries in terms of total exports of pulp, paper products and wood products.
The forest industry is well spread throughout the country and is traditionally located to coastal resorts with deep export ports and along inland waterways. In several counties, the forest industry accounts for more than one fifth of the manufacturing industry’s employment (primarily in Västernorrland, Gävleborg and Värmland counties). The leading forest groups also have extensive operations abroad.
Forest industry companies
|Forest industry company with the largest turnover in 2015||products|
|Svenska Cellulosa AB, SCA||pulp, hygiene paper|
|Stora Enso Oyj||pulp, packaging board|
|BillerudKorsnäs AB||pulp, paper, cardboard|
|Southern Forest Owners Economic Association||sawn timber, pulp, paper|
The largest sub-industry in the forest industry is the pulp and paper industry. It was already capital intensive early on and the processes have become increasingly high-tech. The production of pulp and paper has been integrated and the workplaces have become fewer, larger and increasingly dominant in each place.
Since the end of the 1990s, demand for graphic paper has steadily declined and exports to the US and countries in Europe have shrunk. The large forest groups are facing the change in the paper market in different ways. Some do this by specializing in special paper grades and increased production of wrapping paper and gift boxes (Holmen AB) or coarse packaging material (BillerudKorsnäs AB). One of the two largest forest industries, SCA, is developing various types of hygiene paper and tissue, while the other large forest group, Stora Enso, focuses on new, renewable biomaterials that can replace plastics and aluminum in, for example, food packaging.
About 70 percent of all paper used in Sweden is recycled and is used as raw material in pulp production for newsprint and packaging material. Compare pulp and paper industry.
The sawmill industry has also undergone major structural changes. The number of sawmills has more than halved since 1980, while production per sawmill has more than tripled and export volume has doubled. The largest sawmills are part of large forest companies, which usually have their own forests and a versatile production. There are still many private, smaller sawmills that buy the raw material in the timber market. Compare sawmill industry.
Steel and metal industry
Iron production and export of pig iron, bar iron and processed products thereof were of major importance to the Swedish economy for several hundred years. Globally, the Swedish iron and steel industry is now quantitatively insignificant and Sweden accounts for only 0.3 percent of all steel trade. However, Swedish specialty steel companies have found niches where they have become world leaders, such as high-performance steels.
The largest market for Swedish steel is found in the major EU countries, mainly in Germany. Even in the US and in the last decade China is increasingly importing Swedish special steel.
Since the Swedish steel industry is highly specialized, we have to import a large part of all steel used in the country, especially standard grades (commercial steel). For history see the iron and steel industry.
In 2015, there were two ore-based steel mills, the SSAB-owned in Luleå and Oxelösund. Both manufacture commercial steel, mostly for export. In Höganäs there is also an ore-based iron sponge plant. The other ten steel mills use scrap as raw material and are focused on producing special steel, mainly for export. They respond to demand in specific product niches and are prominent in the global market with highly refined steels and products with high security and resilience. All of these ten steel mills except one (in Halmstad) are in Bergslagen. In addition, there are fifteen steel processing plants, such as rolling mills, forging mills, wire drawers and pipe mills. The products therefrom go mainly to the construction industry, but also to heavy engineering and metal products.
In Sundsvall is an aluminum smelter that produces aluminum by electrolysis of imported alumina. Älmhult in southern Småland also has an aluminum smelter, but the raw material is aluminum scrap, both domestic and imported.
In Boliden-owned Rönnskärsverken in Skellefteå, copper and lead concentrates are melted and refined from Boliden’s own mines, but also from other deposits. At Rönnskärsverken, metals are also recovered from scrap electronics, and in Landskrona there is the only smelter in the Nordic region for the recovery of lead from waste batteries.
Mineral Vending Industry
The mineral goods industry manufactures non-metallic, mineral products such as cement, concrete, glass and ceramics. The largest companies in the industry are those who make the building materials cement and concrete.
Cement production has been in Sweden since 1874, in a total of fifteen locations. Mergers and closures occurred early and now cement is only manufactured in two places (Slite and Skövde), all with good access to the raw material limestone. Nowadays, the majority of all domestic cement comes from Slite in northern Gotland.
Concrete is by far the most common building material in Sweden. It is made mainly of cement and local deposits of sand, gravel and stone. In order to minimize heavy transport of raw materials and finished goods (pre-mixed concrete, concrete elements), production is spread throughout the country. The cement and concrete industry is severely disruptive to the environment and works with stringent environmental requirements.
The production of glass at the glass mills grew in the early 18th century. Eventually, three completely different product categories emerged: flat glass (for windows, motor vehicles), packaging glass (bottles, jars) and household, lighting and ornamental glass. Compare glass industry.
Ceramic manufacturing has undergone a major change. Since the production of sanitary ware in Gustavsberg was discontinued in 2014, such only exists in Bromölla where Ifö Sanitär AB has one of the Nordic region’s largest factories for the production of plumbing products. Several companies with the production of household china, stoneware or earthenware have ceased. On the other hand, technological ceramics are increasingly being developed and produced which are used in high-tech processes and products. These new materials have exceptional material properties such as extreme hardness or temperature resistance.