Founders: Odd Strand, Ole Paulsen, Bjørn Paulsen.
When Odd Strand discovered the new steel scaffolding system that came to Norway, he discovered how much easier and safer this could make his working day. He was the first in Western Norway to focus on the new system, and shortly afterwards, in March 1972, he formed the company AS Stillas Service, which laid the foundation for today’s company, StS.
In 1972 scaffolding made of steel was an incredible innovation. For the first time, a standardized system of scaffolding parts with gripping and fastening connections was built. In the past, the common scaffolding was mostly used wooden components that had to be screwed together. Although aluminum systems have taken over almost the entire market, there are still applications where the use of steel scaffolding is recommended. Over time, the steel scaffolding system was improved and was further developed into what is now called Industrial scaffolding.
Aluminum scaffolding was introduced in Norway in the early 80’s. StS used it from 1983. The advantage compared to steel is a significant weight reduction of up to 50%, which has a positive impact on both economy and safety.
Ever since the start in 1972, StS has been working with cover and, among other things, developed own cover methods. In 1972, the annual turnover was NOK 150,000 and the service range included Scaffolding, covering, rigging and transportation.
The Pioneering years
From StS magazine 01/12, Odd Strand reminisce about the 40th anniversary in 2012.
It all began when three young men took the scaffolding department out of the mortar and paintings companies they managed and moved into the old butcher house plot at Sandviken in Bergen.
They were six men in the beginning, StS Group’s chairman Odd Strand, who was 27 years old and full of courage when the new company settled in Sandviken.
Wrecked premises were no obstacle at the start, and yet the car queues were not a big problem through the district. As warehousing, the entrepreneurs used the old barn where the fjord boats had a few roots a few years earlier, while the office team took place at home.
More importantly, the butcher house plot at Sandviken was at that time a central transit route for the entire city of Bergen area.
The seaside location also foretold that Stillasservice would quickly address maritime tasks: the age of oil had come to Norway, the premises in Sandviken were fixed, management eventually left home office – and there was no shortage of work:
We soon got a foothold in the shipbuilding industry in Bergen, reminisc Odd Strand 40 years later.
In practice Stillasservice was a single supplier when the BMV group needed external scaffolding assistance, we got an entry at Aker Stord and helped build Statoil’s first refinery at Mongstad. In addition, we delivered services to Ankerløkken Florø and Sterkoder Kristiansund, yes, for the most part shipyards. Aker continued to build new H3 platforms, we worked with the Condeep platforms and participated in the construction of the Brent deck in Verdal 1974 and the Statfjord project at Stord 1976, to name a few projects. In addition, we also got in place an extensive onshore business.
It was busy days and in a few years the number of employees grew to closer to 150. But the oil industry was still fresh and in the early years there were some relaxed attitudes towards safety and working conditions in the industry, something Odd Strand was very skeptical about:
This was quickly remedied by the government and oil companies. The 1977 Working Environment Act provided an important framework for the business, but also the Deep-Sea Driller accident at Fedje in 1976 and the Bravo blowout on Ekofisk B in 1977 made the security awareness increasingly important, Strand said.
He believes that in fact, the oil companies were driving the safety work forward.
This is the opposite of what many thinks?
-Yes, but we found that the big companies were always concerned with safety. This was a good help for us who worked in the field when we tried to safeguard our employees against accidents and injuries.
Another problem for a new company that was going to work with the real major players was the payment routines of the day:
It was quite normal that it could go many months before invoices were paid, especially many foreign companies were experts in the art of postponing payment for as long as possible. At the same time, we had to pay our people cash each week.
-Yes, I have often laid out on long tours with the car full of money bags so people would get paid, laughs Odd, and recalls the classic battle against asynchronous ferry routes and bad roads in the western part of Norway.
New routines and seamen onshore
But by the end of the 1970s, the times had changed a lot. Not only was a new law in place while computers and new banking services eased the administrative burden; More importantly, both the shipyards and many shipping companies were in a heavy crisis. Shipyard by shipyard was closed or had to restructure, while Norwegian seamen were replaced by more affordable labor from the East.
But on land there were still jobs for good seamen:
-We consciously chose to recruit new employees among seamen, as well as skilled workers from the shipyard and construction industry. They had a wealth of knowledge and expertise we could use, especially when the insulation and surface treatment services were in place. These became important employee groups in Stillasservice, and several of the old sailor’s still work in the StS group today, says Odd Stand.
When the decade was nearing the end, operations were consolidated and staffing stable. The pioneer years were over, while ever increasing traffic problems and the need for better premises made Stillasservice move to Mindemyren. But that’s a story that belongs to the 1980s.