Stillasservice ventured into the nineties with employees at a bare minimum, and lacking significant contracts. But the company had reached the age of majority and would soon experience better times.
Contrary to significant parts of the Norwegian construction-related business sector, Stillasservice survived at the turn of the century, although there were no more than 30 employees left in 1990. The bills were paid, management would not take the shortcut through a bankruptcy. And the rescue was once again – the Norwegian offshore adventure:
-We were already an established supplier to the oil and gas industry, and although the times were tough in this sector due to low oil prices, the industry was not struck by the economic crisis. This gave us opportunities, “said Odd Strand, chairman of the board.
What about the traditional onshore activities?
It got more challenging. Around 1991, one of the few rays of hope was that we were awarded the contract to build supply scaffold services during the renovation of Haukeland Hospital, a project that was almost a crisis action by the state
The breakthrough, Brage
It would take a few years before ‘Stillasservice’ returned to the top achieved in the eighties. Valuable jobs at Stord Yard and a major assignment on the Karmsund Bridge in 1993 led the way, but it was the hook-up (preparation of the drilling platform) at ‘Brage’ in 1994 which became the definitive turning point.
After this, much happened throughout the nineties, for example, we had the Troll B assignments and workforce for extensive scaffolding at Kollsnes. In addition, we received assignments for Troll at Hanøytangen, Tjeldbergodden and CCB.
What about the traditional yards?
Shipbuilding was minimal, but Stord became a support beam, and ‘Haugesund Mechanical Workshop’ also gave us many assignments.
Again, a result of offshore activity?
Clearly. In addition, it was very important that Stillasservice received an eight-year maintenance agreement with Umoe Haugesund, which included scaffolding on all Hydro platforms.
Scaffolding during hurricane
1994 is a year that often appears in the conversation with Odd Strand: The year when the business returned to past glories and Stillasservice again had 4-500 employees.
But in 1994, the company’s scaffolding builders also had a chance to show what they were made of: Stillasservice had built a scaffolding around the Johannes Church in Bergen. This is the tallest building in the city, and the church is also situated on a hilltop.
A January night, the strongest northwestern storm measured in Bergen since the 1940s arrived. Trees lay flat, chimneys rolled and an oil platform started drifting on the Puddefjord after it lost its mooring.
But the scaffold held, even though the winds was so heavy that a bus shelter next to the church toppled over, Odd Strand reminisce, he did not allow natural storms or sporadic economic low-pressure disturb the growth. The “small crisis” in 1998 saw no one particularly noticeable in Svaneviksveien, and by the end of the 1990s, ‘Stillasservice’ was a natural service provider for large projects at Aker Stord, such as Veslefrikk, Åsgard, Snorre and Norne.
New disciplines in the ‘Stillasservice’ portfolio
In the latter half of the nineties, management also saw that the business could expand in new sectors. ‘Nor Tek Industrial Climbing’, which later returned to the main company, was established as a specialist company in the field of rope access technology. Scaffolding workers and other professionals were trained as emerging technicians, and ‘Nor Tek’ also launched a patterned security-net to guard against falling objects, Nor Tek Net ™.
In 1997, the development of the first habitats also began:
-An offshore customer failed to solve the challenge of performing offshore hot work safely – and gave us the challenge. We managed to develop a habitat system that worked, summarizes Odd Strand.
The Habitat and TT efforts coincided with the increasingly internationally oriented business towards the late nineties, and in 1999, the company had customers in nearly 20 countries.
At the same time, some traditional areas of expertise began to disappear:
-We had many welders, plumbers and mechanics on the payroll, but this legacy from the first years was almost gone on the tamp of the nineties. For example, the welding workshop disappeared, where we also performed training for welders, when we moved the warehouse from Svaneviksveien to today’s warehouse at Mindemyren.
So even if today’s StS has a wide range of services, there were even more areas 15-20 years ago?
-Yes, if we count the number of disciplines, that’s probably the case.
Is this a common feature of all the players in the ISS industry?
-All companies have their own style, but the trend is to make companies more and more specialized, “says Odd Strand.
Recruitment and education
In the nineties there were also major reforms in the school. Was this important for Stillasservice?
-Although we did not notice the effects of Reform 94 at the outset, we now know that developments in the industrial professions have not been positive. Here the county authorities must take part of the responsibility, they did not follow up the intentions of the reform. But scaffolding was in any case established as a separate subject. It happened in 1990, and we were strongly involved in this, “Strand says
– and draws another, perhaps slightly overlooked move from the nineties:
-The male dominance in the industry finally finished! The girls applied for, and got many different jobs in Stillasservice.
What about the foreign recruitment?
-In the late nineties, there were many English people in ‘Stillasservice’, especially at ‘Veslefrikk’, but also the Danes and the Swedes, were now seeking Norwegian jobs seriously, Strand said, nevertheless, that these processes took place gradually:
-This is true for most of the decade: After a tough start, the big dramatic fluctuations ended happily, “says Odd Strand, chairman of the board.
As a result, ‘Stillasservice’ gained the opportunity to consolidate operations, which enabled the processes that led to the establishment of the ‘StS Group’ in the early 2000s.