Scania Site Visit


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In the 27th edition of our Technology Series, we visit the Scania manufacturing plant at Sodertalje, Sweden near Stockholm. Scania is famous for producing modular engines with excellent fuel economy and power-to-weigh ratios. We’ve seen their beautiful trucks and buses throughout Europe, and they have a particularly loyal and happy customers base. We’ve stopped to talk to Scania truck operators at ferry terminals and truck stops and they have an almost fanatical devotion to the brand. They love to show off their beautifully-equipped cabs and explain the operational details of their trucks. We were really looking forward to learning more about what makes a Scania truck driver so incredibly committed to and proud of the brand. Here we’re entering the Scania Museum to learn more about the history of the company, dating back far more than a century to 1891.

 


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We started the morning with an overview and history of the company. With us from Scania in the conference room are, from left to right, our hosts Lennart Savehed and Asa Bennerstam, and our site guide, Raul Fernandez.

The company, initially called Vabis, was founded in 1891 with a plant at Sodertalje built to manufacture open goods wagons, baggage cars, passenger carriages and horse-drawn trams. In 1911, Scania-Vabis was created from a merger with Malmo-based Scania, originally a bicycle manufacturer that had expanded into engine, car and truck production. Scania-Vabis merged with Swedish aircraft and car manufacture Saab in 1969 and the new company, Saab-Scania produced trucks with the new brand name of simply Scania. The two divided in 1995, with Scania keeping the truck and bus division.

Today Scania operates in over 100 countries with 52,000 employees. In 2018, the company had net sales of over SEK 137 billion (USD 14.7 billion) and delivered 88,000 trucks, 8,500 buses, and 12,800 industrial and marine engines to their customers.


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The pictures above show how the the Scania Sodertalje facility has expanded over the years. In the first picture above, Scania only encompasses the area outlined in white and you could reach far side of the plant by water through Saltskog inlet. In the second picture, Saltskog inlet has been cut off and filled in (although a pipeline connection still exists between the lake and the Baltic Sea), and pretty much everything visible is part of the Scania headquarters and manufacturing facility.


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After the company presentation, Raul Fernandez showed us through the excellent Scania Museum. The facility is open to the public and well-worth visiting if you are interested in Scania trucks or the evolution of engine manufacturing in general. Pictured in the first photo above are some early company products, including a Scania bicycle (1900-1910) in front of a Scania motorcycle (1903) and a Vabis railway carriage from the late 1800s. The second photo is of an early Vabis petrol engine of which about 3,000 were produced.


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Pictured above is a 1903 Scania Tonneau, the oldest surviving Swedish-built passenger car. The four-seater car has a 2-liter engine produced by Kamper of Berlin. Note the wheels are chain-driven, similar to the bicycles and motorcycles they also produced.


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The first picture above is a 1910 Vabis motor waggon designed for railway maintenance. The label on the side “BFM Med Minst 3 Man” indicates that the car must be operated by a manager and three men. This is required so that the car can be lifted off and back on the tracks should a train need to pass. The second picture is of a 1909 Vabis truck initially equipped with a 15-18HP, 2-cylinder gasoline engine.


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Scania is constantly innovating. In 1949 Scania introduced the direct-injection diesel engine, first picture above, with 20% less fuel-consumption than similar-output precombustion diesel engines. To demonstrate the reliability of the engines, operators who ran 250,000 miles (400,000 km)—the equivalent of four times around the world—were awarded a badge for their vehicle’s radiator. The new engines were so good, however, that the award soon became commonplace.

The second picture is of a modern Scania gasoline engine, designed to meet low emission and noise requirements. The five-cylinder inline engine can produce 360HP and 14,000 inch-pounds (1,600 Newton meters) of torque, the same as it’s diesel counterpart.


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The two photos above show Scania engines across a century. The first is of a 1916-1919 V8 that could run on alcohol or gasoline. The alcohol version was developed to address WWI gasoline shortages and was installed in electric-drive railcars, with a gas version available for marine use. The second is of a modern 16-liter V8 diesel, a beautiful-looking piece of technology and for many years, the most powerful over-the-road truck engine in the world and one of the reasons that Scanias are often referred to as “King of the Road”.


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This year Scania is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its hugely successful V8 engine. James is sitting in a top-of-the-line Scania S-730 sleeper cab painted in the 50-year anniversary striping and with a 730HP 16-litre V8 engine. The bottommost photo above shows various vehicles over the years that shipped with a V8 engine.


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Scania recently introduced the XT range, designed for durability and high power in tough conditions. The XT includes features such as a 40-tonne towing pin at the front so the truck can be quickly pulled out of trouble without unloading. The second picture above is of a 9.3-litre, 400HP inline five modern marine engine, similar to the 13-litre version Peter Hayden is installing in his new Nordhavn 68. In selecting an engine, some of the aspects of the Scania that appealed to Peter were the Scania’s low heat emission and a built-in oil centrifuge that contributes to a 500-hour oil change interval.


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After the museum tour, we had a delicious lunch on-site with, from left to right, Lennart Savehed, Raul Fernandez and Asa Bennerstam. We are sitting in a beautifully-renovated former factory building—part of a gantry crane is visible at top right.


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After lunch, we drove over to tour the chassis and engine manufacturing plants. Scania was flying a US flag out front with a sign on the door welcoming us. We felt very spoiled.


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Here we are wearing safety vests before heading inside the chassis plant. The Sodertalje factory produces roughly 60 trucks a day. This is 25% of the buses and trucks shipped to Europe (another 25% is produced at the Scania factory in France and the balance in the Netherlands). Photography isn’t allowed inside the plants, not for reasons of secrecy, but to respect the worker’s privacy. So the factory photographs that follow are courtesy of Scania.


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Most of the assembly work in the Scania plant is done by hand. A high degree of customization is supported on the assembly line and, for complex operations with variability, robots don’t always win. The plant operates using the principles of lean manufacturing pioneered by Toyota, with the workers on the floor deciding on the best way to do something through regular meetings and reviews. We were impressed how smoothly the line ran, with people working quickly, but not frantically, and seemingly enjoying themselves.


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The chassis plant operates a single 1,200-person shift from 7am to 4pm and it takes about 7.5 hours, roughly the length of a shift, to produce a truck from the start to the end of the line. Most of the heavy parts are made by Scania, with lighter or more specialize parts such as wiring harnesses delivered by 3rd party suppliers.


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Few things at Scania could rival a tour of the manufacturing plant for interest and excitement, but one thing came close: the Demo Center, where we would be able to test drive current model Scania trucks and buses. In the second picture above, our Demo Center host Xavier Amou is giving a safety briefing. Before we are allowed out to the trucks, we needed to pass the breathalyzer test on the wall to the left of Xaiver.


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The selection of trucks and buses at the Scania Demo Center that we could test drive. This is going to be fun!


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First up was a Scania S520 pulling a 60-tonne trailer.


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James and Xavier seated on the step of the S520 after James brought it safely back home and re-parked it.


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Next up: a 370HP Scania P370 fire truck. Are we having fun? Oh, yes!


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The other two vehicles we test-drove were a Scania touring bus with a 13L 450 HP engine and the “King of the Road”, an S-cab 730. The 730HP truck is the biggest V8 truck Scania makes and is capable of pulling 250 tonnes.


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After test-driving the trucks and buses, Xavier took us out for a drive in a 13-litre, 410HP 6×6 that could climb ridiculously steep hills. Passengers ride in the back, strapped in with amusement-park-style safety harnesses.

 

The video shows the test drives from the vehicles shown above. In the video the vehicles are taken up to highway speeds, up and down eight-degree grades, and through tight corners and higher speed sweeping corners. All the vehicles were surprisingly easy to drive even for someone with little experience. You need to be conscious of the trailer WAY back there and ensure it has the clearance needed on corners. But the mirrors make it easy to see where you are, and the trucks are both quiet and easy to keep in the lane even, with loads as high as 70 tons stretching out behind. The six-wheel drive off-road experience was incredible—these vehicles are often used in military and fire applications, and to say they are capable leaves a lot out. The video shows what they can do. This six-wheel drive monster is able to safely navigate what looks to be impassible smooth rock inclines without even working that hard.

We had an absolutely spectacular day—a real highlight of our trip to Sweden. Thank you to Al Alcala, Lennart Savehed, Asa Bennerstam, Raul Fernandez and Xavier Amou of Scania Sweden for a most excellent day and to Tim Sandeman of Cascade Engine in Seattle for arranging the visit.


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6 comments on “Scania Site Visit
  1. Per-Ola Selander says:

    I’m glad my fellow Swedes are taking good care of you during your summer stay in Sweden.
    And for me it is extra fun, sitting here in Kirkland, to read and getting updates about things in Scandinavia seen through your eyes.

    Yes, diesel technology feels like it is a bit further along in Sweden (both Scania and Volvo) than in most other places. All driven by stricter environmental regulations as well as demand from the customers.
    It not that uncommon to come across an old Scania marine engine in an old odd vessel that has come up for sale.

    As for the 6×6, I am delighted to see that one (that Scania are still making a 6×6 verson), as I was driving TG30 and TG40 in the Swedish army (4×4 resp 6×6) heavy load trucks. Both somewhat similar to the Stewart & Stevenson M10XX used by the US army – and nowadays often available for cheap these days – making it a decent platform for a serious adventure rig.
    Already back in 1980 while in the army, I was looking at the TG30 and thought it’d be the perfect platform for putting a camping trailer on. The Swedish authorities has however been far to restrictive in releasing these for civilian use, and have sent them for recycling. Sad, as the platform was already 1980 far more advanced and comfortable than the US army S&S was in the 1990s.

    A fun couple, doing something similar to you two, but overland. They have however downsized from the S&S 6×6.
    https://twoifoverland.com/watch-the-ultimate-adventure-vehicle-on-youtube/

    • The 6×6 was amazingly capable and I’m sure they would make an amazing adventure RV. They are fairly expensive and aren’t as comfortable on the highway but in difficult terrain, I’ve never seen anything like it.

  2. Al Alcalá says:

    James and Jennifer, I m pleased you enjoyed your visit to the Scania Global manufacturing plant and headquarters in Sweden. Åsa, Lennart, Raul and Xavier are great representatives for us. Tim, at Cascade Engine Center, is one of the best in the business and we were very happy to accommodate him and invite you and your wife to visit us. I have enjoyed your travel stories and admire your skills as sailors, engineers, adventurers and technicians. It was our honor to host you. Fair seas and safe travels.

    • Seeing the engineering behind the engines and the care put into building them, it’s clear why Scania is becoming an increasingly common choice throughout the world. Thanks for the opportunity to see the details behind the scenes.

      For those interested in seeing what it’s like to drive a Scania tractor powered by a 1,000 cubic inch V8 diesel with 70 tons behind it, check out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XW2CSH2ZQi4&t=79s.

  3. Aymeric says:

    amazing “reportage” ! Deere should be worried if you go on a new home project !

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