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The constant change.

Long tailwind

Swedish industry has had a tailwind for a long time. This tailwind, or boom to use a more economically appropriate word, has largely lasted for quite some time, so long that we may have started to take it for granted. We have come to expect constant increases in profits and to see the looming shortage of future skills as the only major threat. We have forgotten the basic premise – that everything is constantly changing. It goes up – and it goes down.

We got a reminder during the pandemic years of 2019. But after the initial fright, Swedish industry could largely breathe easy. Things almost went back to normal, except that we learned to hold effective meetings on Zoom and Teams. Here I may add a disclaimer that it differed between industries, I am making a rough generalisation. But by and large we regained our composure and carried on “as normal”.

All conditions changed

Then came February 20, 2022, and Russia entered Ukraine. Suddenly, all the assumptions we had been comfortably leaning on changed.

“It feels like a lump in the stomach,” said Marie Svensson of the industrial services company Tjeders in an interview published in Tidningen Näringsliv.

She was not alone in feeling a lump in her stomach. Borders were closed and deliveries from Ukraine were stopped. Business in Russia ceased. Higher fuel and electricity prices, component shortages and general uncertainty about energy supplies. The clouds of concern were gathering and the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise began publishing weekly updates on the consequences for Swedish businesses (anyone getting flashbacks to Anders Tegnell and the pandemic’s constant press conferences?). Now inflation is rising too.

Meanwhile, life goes on. Week adds to week and the wheels keep rolling. It’s actually something that never changes. Because even though external circumstances can swing, most of us still go to work. CNC operators program their machines, sawmills saw incoming timber and chemical companies make shampoo, window cleaner or AdBlue. It’s just business as usual. And lucky it is.

The unexpected becomes the normal

I guess it has to do with the way we humans work. When something unexpected happens, a strike, a pandemic or a war, we can be filled with horror. We get scared, worried and wonder what will happen next, when things are no longer as normal as we have become accustomed to expecting. Then something happens to us. The unexpected becomes the new normal. Some of us manage to shake off our worries faster than others and keep on working. Others need a bit more time to adjust to the new “normal”. But eventually we all adapt to the new circumstances and everyday life rolls on again.

It’s a bit like they say in Hollywood: “The show must go on”. Whether it’s filming a movie or making a truck. Because without our industries and other businesses, Sweden will stop. And that’s not possible.

“Even though external circumstances can turn, most of us still go to work.”

Industry Hardback
Industry Hardback
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