Fifth generation takes over

Source: Exchange Magazine | Photo: Fredrik Schlyter | Text: Henrik Lenngren | Location: Finspång, Sweden

From a 19th-century master founder to a young 21st-century process operator. For 120 years, working at Gränges has been a way of life for the Carlström family.

Noisy and sooty. But also exciting and fascinating, with many people in motion and large machines. It may have been 52 years ago, but for JanOlof Carlström the memory is clear as day. He can describe in great detail the smell of copper and how he followed his grandfather’s movements at the cutter.

“It was something special, no question about it. But I had no idea that one day I would follow in his and my dad’s footsteps,” says Jan-Olof Carlström. Throughout his career he has been loyal to Gränges, which may not be surprising considering his family tree.

“Half of my family has worked here in Finspång. It all began when my great grandfather got a job at the gun foundry …”

His name was Frans Dahlqvist and he gradually worked his way up to master founder. He was known for the diaries he kept, where he wrote about everything from visits from foreign guests to various changes in ownership at the foundry.

Since then many members of the Dahlqvist/Carlström family have punched in and out at Gränges. When Jan-Olof Carlström began working as a mail messenger at the age of 14, he started working with both his father and his grandfather.

“I ran around and handed out mail to the office staff. It was a good job, because I learned to find my way around the place.”

That experience definitely paid off, since now as head of property maintenance, he is responsible for coordinating operations in over 100,000 square meters of space.

“I’ve tried just about everything here at the company, from constructing pallets and working on electrical design to working as technology manager. That’s what I love about working at Gränges, there’s room to grow. I’ve changed jobs and departments many times, just because it’s a great workplace where you can spend your entire career.”

In recent years he’s been joined by his son Simon, who belongs to the fifth generation of Carlströms working at Gränges.

“Just like Dad, my first memory from here goes back to when I was six years old. I was looking for tin in the junk boxes because I wanted to cast tin soldiers,” says Simon Carlström.

After becoming familiar with Gränges over a few summer holidays, and after graduating from upper secondary school, he’s made himself at home at the company.

“Right now I work as a process operator in the hot-rolling mill, where I do roll strapping. I actually fell into the job here, but now I wouldn’t want to switch. I enjoy working with the staff in the hall. There’s a great sense of community,” he says.

At regular intervals, his dad, JanOlof, who is always on the go, pops in to see that everything is OK.

“It’s a luxury to be able to see each other regularly and just say hi to each other at work,” says Jan-Olof Carlström. 

With 37 years under his belt at the same workplace, he has been able to get a close-up look at the changes in the company over time.

“The products have gone from weighing five tonnes to ten, requiring bigger forklifts that in turn require greater safety awareness. There have been major changes in that area.”

“But one thing that hasn’t changed is the constant expansion of the company.”

So when is it time for the next generation of Carlströms to start working at Gränges? Twenty-seven year old Simon smiles, waves his hand dismissively, and says:

“I don’t have any children yet, so we’ll have to wait with that question.”

“There’s a great sense of community here.”
- Simon Carlström, process operator