110 years of innovation!
In 2018 Øveraasen AS celebrates its 110th anniversary. The company has come a long way since its rather humble beginnings in the centre of Gjøvik.
On 28 January 1908, the local newspaper Gjøviks Blad reported:
“Engines are soon going to be manufactured here in Gjøvik, as Messrs Hans and Even Øveraasen, of Vardal, who have spent the last 6 or 7 years in America, are setting up a company to see whether this industrial enterprise is commercially viable. They have probably acquired a patent to manufacture engines over there, and now they have leased part of the municipality's property, Wangssagen, to have a convenient place for their activities.”
The formal start-up date appears to have been 14 April 1908, according to this announcement in the local newspaper:
“From 14 April, our workshop will be open for the manufacture of engines. Orders will be taken for boat engines of 2 and 3 ½ hp, suitable for rowing boats and small pleasure crafts, and stationary engines of 4 and 8 hp. We can also offer quick, good and cheap repair work. Brødrene Øveraasen Motorfabrik [The Øveraasen Brothers’ Engine Factory], Gjøvik”
Photo from the first factory
The engine production business did well, and the products were soon known far beyond Norway's borders. Of particular importance was the patented Simplex carburettor, which was sold to many engine manufacturers. The company grew rapidly and in 1915 already had approx. 50 employees.
The engine "Trygg motor"
In 1923, Even Øveraasen presented a product that would end up forming the foundation for the subsequent development of the company. Designed for a postman who could not get through the snow on the ice between Gjøvik and Lillehammer, the company created the world's first snowplough that could be attached to any vehicle. A new leg had been created for the company to stand on, and Øveraasen quickly expanded into this sector. By the time engine production eventually ceased in the mid-1950s, the company was already long established as Scandinavia's leading manufacturer of snowploughs.
The first snowplough
The company received national and international acclaim for its products, and was honoured with various prizes, medals and awards. The ploughs were exported to countries far and wide, including Persia in the east and Canada in the west.
The two brothers Hans and Even parted ways in 1918, when Hans started his own business selling cars and motorcycles in the centre of Gjøvik. Even Øveraasen headed the company until 1946 when his son John took over the helm, after graduating as an engineer in Oslo. Three years later, John's brother Per also joined the company, taking over the management side of the business.
1946 to 1979:
The development of various types of snow-clearing equipment continued after the war. Alongside ploughs, rotary snow blowers became an important product for the business. Initial experiments had been done before the war, but during the war years, this work ground to a halt.
After the war, however, the company was looking to diversify and developed advanced saw-milling equipment, special machines for the aluminium industry, heavy goods trailers, etc. Nevertheless, the production of snow ploughs and snow blowers accounted for the bulk of the turnover. Some years saw more than 600 ploughs manufactured, and blowers such as PW 800, PW 1100 and PEX 1200 saw the light of day.
In this period, the close collaboration with the Norwegian Public Roads Authority was very important for Øveraasen. The Norwegian Public Roads Authority decided that several mountain passes, such as Haukeli and Saltfjellet should be kept open in the winter, and contracts were entered into to develop large self-propelling snow blowers, unlike anything the world had ever seen before. This project culminated in the giant PW 1400 Super snow blower. People still remember the stir these massive machines caused, as they were admired and stared at on their journey from Gjøvik up to Haukeli.
PW 800 and PEX 1200
Viking PW 1400 Super
In 1963 the company moved in to the new plant at Kirkeby approx. 2 km south of Gjøvik.
Winters back then varied from year to year, as they do today. Some were cold and snowy, others were mild with very little snow. John Øveraasen wanted to make the company less dependent on snow and set to work to develop an articulated dumper. This project was also undertaken in close collaboration with the Norwegian Public Roads Authority. The result was the Viking D 15 dumper, which quickly came to pose a serious "threat" to other manufacturers’ dumpers and normal construction trucks. However, it was difficult for David to battle Goliath (read: Volvo), and the company eventually chose to sell the rights to the Viking D 15 to Hatlebakk in Molde. The Viking D 15 is still in production today, but now goes under the name Doozan, after a spell as Moxy.
Dumper Viking D 15
In the mid-1960s, Øveraasen developed a brand-new type of rotary snow blower that could be mounted on the front of any standard loader. The blower aggregate, transmission, diesel engine, diesel tank and electrical system were all built together as a single compact unit. And thus, the modular snow blower was born. Since then over 1,500 such blowers have been produced for use at airports and on roads. Almost 350 of the PW 1350 alone were produced.
In a unique turn of events, the company had its snow-clearing expertise confirmed at the famous PIARC conference in Valloire, France, in 1971, when Øveraasen products won first, second, third, and fifth places in a capacity competition, against all the other manufacturers. Norwegian snow-clearing equipment was clearly the best in the world!
Sadly, John Øveraasen died far too young in August 1979, only 57 years old. His son Even had joined the company one year earlier, and was supported by his brother Thor Arve from December of that year. Thor Arve had just finished studying mechanical engineering in Switzerland. Together, they would continue the family company.
1980 to the present day:
With time it became apparent that the company was pursuing a strategy that would lead it to focus exclusively on snow-clearing equipment – for roads, railways and airports. Any further expansion would have to be based on a strong position at home, combined with a considerable focus on exports. Airports stood out as a very attractive market, with a significant potential going forwards. This segment had very stringent requirements in terms of safety, security, regularity, capacity and reliability. Øveraasen took these challenges seriously and invested heavily to develop new types of machinery. A particularly important product was the combined sweeper and blower for clearing take-off and landing runways, taxiways and aprons. For a while, the company manufactured these machines on license, before launching its own machine in 1978.
In terms of ownership, Even Øveraasen was bought out of the company in 1985. Per Øveraasen, who had already sold his ownership interests in the 1970s, died the same year. Thor Øveraasen thus now owned 100% of the shares in the company and was also the company's chief executive. The shares have subsequently been redistributed such that Thor now owns just over 50%, with the rest shared out among his children.
The company experienced a long period of great activity during these years. Its airport products attracted ever growing attention and slowly but surely succeeded in gaining a foothold in many new markets, with Germany becoming the largest single market. This success was especially sweet in light of the fact that the company’s main competitors were German firms. New combined runway snow sweepers, including the SB 80 and SB 90, were introduced and produced in large quantities until the company launched a brand new generation in 1997.
The requirements regarding downtime to clear snow at airports were becoming increasingly strict, and the company took a quantum leap with the introduction of the RS 400 in the late 1990s. The new machines made it possible to clear a runway system, including exits and taxiways, in less than 10 minutes. This was something of a revolution and gave the company a major boost, as delivery contracts were signed with airports all over Europe. Øveraasen thus became a world-leading manufacturer of snow-clearing machinery for airports.
RS 400 with truck and plough MK I
To a certain extent, the strong focus on airport equipment was at the expense of the company’s road equipment, but snow-blowers for use on roads continue to be an important segment, and Øveraasen is completely dominant in this area in Scandinavia.
Around 1985 a brand new and unique snow blower was developed by Øveraasen. The Twin Spin blower proved to have far better efficiency and clearing capacity than all other until then known snow blowers.
This proven design, designed for the roughest conditions, can be found at nearly all extreme mountain passes in Northern Europe.
The new, highly efficient combined snow sweepers also made it interesting to develop giant, new, self-propelled snow blowers with extremely high capacity. This new generation boasted capacities of 10,000 tonnes per hour and throwing distances of 50–60 metres. Launched in 1996, TV 1260 was a game changer on the market. Here too Øveraasen quickly became the undisputed global market leader.
With the opening of Norway’s new main airport at Gardermoen in 1998, opportunities arose for Øveraasen to win major new contracts for blowers and snow sweepers. The close and fruitful collaboration with OSL/Avinor has been of vital importance to achieve the position that Øveraasen currently enjoys as a leading supplier of snow-clearing machinery to airports all over the world.
Proving its leading position, the company won a major contract in 2005 for delivery of RS 400s to the Port Authorities of New York & New Jersey, where the three largest airports all got new snow-removal equipment from Øveraasen. Deliveries were made through 2006 and 2007: one hundred years after the two brothers left the U.S., Øveraasen was back in full force.
At the Inter Airport exhibition in 2013, Øveraasen once again attracted a great deal of attention. Behind firmly closed doors the company had developed a whole new generation of machines: the "Performance Line". When these machines were presented to the public at the exhibition in Munich, Øveraasen once again succeeded in taking a quantum leap ahead of its competitors. In the design process, our in-house engineers had worked closely with Eker Design. The new product line received the Norwegian Design Council’s Honorary Award for Good Design in 2014.
Inter Airport in Munich 2013
Today, the Performance Line products account for 80% of the company’s new sales. The UTV 430, UTV 600, TV 1000, TV 1000+, RS 200, RS 400, RSC 250 and RSC 400 all feature the new, futuristic design and have been extremely well received in the market.
TV 1000 RS 400
RSC 250 UTV 430
One year ago, Øveraasen entered into a major contract with Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for the delivery of 66 RS 400s through 2017 and 2018. As far as we know, this is the world’s largest contract ever for snow-clearing equipment.
Just before Christmas, the company entered into a contract for 40 giant machines for the new IGA airport in Istanbul. When it opens in autumn 2018, this will be the world's largest airport.
We dare claim that we have succeeded in our focus on "Norwegian Snow How" and have lived up to our name as "The Snow Professionals....."
Summary and outlook:
Activity has increased considerably, and the company currently employs 100 people in Gjøvik and 30 people in Grafenhausen in Germany. In Germany we convert towing vehicles and compact chassis before they are sent to Norway for final assembly. The company has an annual turnover of close to NOK 0.5 billion, of which approximately 75% is from exports.
The fourth generation of the Øveraasen family is now joining the company, with responsibility for key divisions and areas. Mille is chair of the board and Thor Christian is quality manager.
The company owes its fantastic development to its flexibility and willingness to adapt, skilled employees, great perseverance and incredible ability to innovate, where the customers’ needs have always been our focus. This development looks set to continue, and the company has already launched a highly advanced network-based fleet management system called "Fleet Cloud", which enables direct contact with the machines from anywhere in the world. At present, around 300 machines have been equipped with this management system, and the feedback from our customers is very positive.
Another particularly exciting project that is going to be presented to our customers in March 2018 is autonomous snow-clearing vehicles for airports. Together with a business partner, Øveraasen has established the company Yeti to develop these autonomous machines. Øveraasen owns 50% of this company, and there is huge interest from all over the world. Assuming this project is a success, which we are confident it will be, this will be a giant step into the future.
Alongside airports, the company is now renewing its focus on roads and railways, with major investments going forwards. The environment and sustainable development is another focus area, and new “green” forms of transport are expected to emerge. Øveraasen wants to be part of this development too. The project of sweeping roads with a focus on road safety and the environment is well underway, and the results are far better than expected, boding well for increased investments in this area.
By way of a conclusion, we would like to thank our customers, suppliers and other partners who have helped the company reach its current standing: with a firm foundation and clear focus on tomorrow's challenges!
The strategy is clear: "Øveraasen will further cement its position as the world's leading manufacturer of snow-clearing equipment and related systems to professional customers in roads, railways and airports."
Thor A. Øveraasen