Tommy Malmsten chats about Malmsten’s journey from the kitchen table to a worldwide supplier of pool equipment and it’s experience of exhibiting at every FINA Convention.
1. With technology and equipment in Aquatics constantly evolving, how does Malmsten ensure it is ahead of the curve?
At Malmsten we are passionate about swimming and water sports and there are numerous ways we keep ahead of the curve in aquatics technology and equipment.
- We follow our equipment to bigger competitions.
- We listen to our users.
- We work closely with the pool industry, liaising between construction needs and users.
- We have a product development team that meets regularly to discuss and test equipment.
- We work closely with our suppliers so we can trial new market materials.
- We work closely with a professor at KTH who is a specialist in water waves. Who better to help us understand how to improve our racing lane lines?
Our aim is to offer equipment that is both functional and able to endure the harsh pool environment – chlorine, heat and water – for a very long period of time. Too long sometimes for good business!
Here are some of the specific steps we have taken to stay ahead of the game.
- Developing a measuring technique in partnership with KTH; continued high-priority for similar research and development.
- Introducing larger discs in our racing lane lines in 1992. We found that water positioning is important to functionality and to achieve this the 50m lane line weight is 116kg.
- Optimising of material composition by extensive stress testing of the plastic in our lane lines.
- Minimising bounce back and guaranteeing correct flow-through of water energy by precise positioning of the holes in the discs and the size of the wings on the discs.
2. What are the challenges and opportunities when working in China?
Swimming is extremely popular in China, and fast developing into one of its national sports (such as Ping-Pong). This huge market could prove fantastic for Malmsten, and our challenge is to develop internal mechanisms to service and support growth. We know what we offer is professional but each global step has to be taken with great care. We want to develop a partner in China that shares our core values of quality, functionality, and customer service – and one who is willing to invest long term.
3. Having worked on numerous Olympic Games and FINA World Championships, what is your favourite memory (in or out of the water!)?
There are so many incredible memories! It is an indescribable honour to be a small part of these events as a manufacturer of sports equipment, and to be poolside to watch the world elite in competition.
- Favourite memory? I think this will have to be memories!
- When we felt we made a difference… in Rio … in London, adjusting the lane lines to perfection.
- When we helped organising committees.
- The thrilling high diving into the Donahue River in Budapest 2017, with the Hungarian Parliament Building in the background.
- A favourite FINA Convention memory was in Punta del Este in 2010. We met with the operator of the local pool who told us that he had Malmsten lane lines … We could not recall having sold any to Uruguay, so we visited his installation, and there in safe storage were the Malmsten racing lane lines he’d bought in 1982! They were still good! This exemplifies our company: amazing durability as a result of a quality product combined with good pool management and equipment care
4. How has Malmsten changed as a business since the first FINA Convention in 2010?
We at Malmsten have made huge strides since we set up as a small family-owned company in a Baltic village in southern Sweden … Today, Malmsten is a global leader in pool equipment. We have managed the growth of our workforce, product range and turnover very carefully by focusing on product development, reorganisation, and investment in processes and automation.
Below are just some of the positive developments we have made over the last 8 years.
- Manufacturing more racing lane lines than ever and shipping to new markets: South America, Australia and Japan.
- Investing in LINUS, a custom-designed robot, to assemble our racing lane lines. To the best of our knowledge we are first in our line of business to use automation in this way.
- Relocating most of our manufacturing to Åhus to make our logistics more efficient. Having production facilities locally enables us to invest continuously in research and development.
- Developing our racing lane lines in partnership with a professor at KTH, the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, who specialises in wave technology. Together we have produced a measuring probe and software capable of assessing over 200 readings per second, paving the way to the next generation of lane lines: a true wave breaker that provides ideal pool conditions for competition and record breaking.
- Ensuring we use the newest and latest materials, always free from hazardous heavy metals, through on-going partnerships with plastic suppliers.
- Installing our second-generation movable floor in Stenungsund, Sweden, with its greater long-term economic benefits than any other on the market. We have designed, manufactured and installed movable floors since 1994, always guided by the principle of “no installations on the bottom of the pool”.
- Using solar panels to cover our roofs in a further effort to be more environmentally friendly.
We are honoured and grateful that, in 2009, FINA selected us as an official supplier. This was a major reason for our participation in their Conventions: partners support each other, and FINA is an exceptional partner. We feel we belong to one big family, a family of aquatics and friends. At the Conventions we meet international swimming federations, something that might otherwise not have been possible.
The FINA Convention provides us with a unique opportunity to show the world what we can do for one another and for the sport of aquatics.
5. Why do you think the Aquatics industry is experiencing such growth? What do you think the future holds for our sport?
The Aquatics industry is certainly expanding fast and the future looks bright. There are many reasons for this.
- More and more countries are getting involved.
- Fantastic athletes are promoting the sport.
- Aquatics is very well organised, overseen by excellent federations.
- Swimming has many proven health benefits.
- Learning to swim can save lives.
- Sports disciplines have re-invented themselves over the years.
- Aquatics is inclusive. It doesn’t have to be competitive, as recent decades have shown with a steady growth in activities such as baby swim, educational programmes, masters, swim-run, etc.
- Competitions are becoming more entertaining and spectacular to watch, with records constantly broken. Competition venues are changing to have a more professional look.
- The introduction of short 50m breaststroke races and mixed relays adds spice to the sport and brings in new participants. As a former swimmer myself, I know there was nothing like this 30 years ago!
- Letting men enter synchronized swimming and adding high diving has been an excellent move.
We are helping with this expansion by designing and developing functional equipment to enhance sports activity and experience; for example, racing lane lines to reduce water resistance and stable, ultra-buoyant water polo goals to make the game faster and fairer.
6. What are the biggest challenges that Malmsten has faced as a business?
- Growing pains. Keeping up with growing demand requires hiring more people and increasing manufacturing capacity. To improve logistics, most of our manufacturing has moved to Åhus and we have invested in Linus, a special robot, to continuously assemble racing lane lines.
- Being copied. There are too many “look-alikes” in the current market – often bad copies with poor quality or design.
- Educating the market. Although not always the cheapest, we are always the best. Buyers have to know how to compare apples with apples… it takes a lot of effort to explain how products differ.
A key element in building the Malmsten brand name is “you are never better than your last delivery”. Competence and responsible sales are key. Our personnel are experts in everything from design phase to manufacture, shipping, sales and marketing. We understand how important it is fully to understand the delivery environment.
Whatever the investment, we might not always provide the cheapest option and are often challenged by short-term thinking prevalent in the buying process. Our biggest challenge is to educate those in the aquatics market so they can take good purchasing decisions based on quality products that are safe, functional and durable.
At Malmsten our foundations are knowledge, experience and passion – and from these we manufacture only the best.