On Thursday 23 June 1927, a child was born to Ingeborg and Johan Liadal of Haraldsgarden in Liadal, their sixth and last child. He was christened Kaare Eivind in Ørsta Church on 17 July the same year. The spelling Kaare was later changed to Kåre.
In autumn 1934, at the age of seven, Kåre Liadal started at Liadal school. The school at Bøen was not far from his home at Haraldsgarden. On 20 June 1941, Kåre Liadal graduated from Liadal school having completed seven years of education. He had already demonstrated that he was good with his hands.
Kåre Liadal Sr.
Kåre has always had a lively imagination. He built steam engines already at the age of ten. Kåre cast the housing and cylinder in zinc and got hold of a copper coffee pot whose spout he sealed off by soldering it. Later on in his childhood years, he built both a circular saw and an electric motor powered by a home-made battery. He was also behind several projects, such as an ignition engine and the first cornfield in the village.
Kåre Liadal started in his first job immediately after his confirmation, at the wood product factory Jon Sætre & Co. Trevarefabrikk.
Kåre turned various wood products and decorated many of the finished products himself with rose painting and with a wood-burning iron. He also helped to fell trees for timber for use in production at the factory in Sandvika. Afterwards, he worked for Sandvik & Co., where he played an important role in the development and manufacturing of washing machines. Kåre Liadal also worked on his own in the smithy at home at Haraldsgarden, where, among other things, he brazed various milling tools and drills for both Jon Sætre & Co. and Sandvik & Co.
A plot of land in Bjørndalen – or Bjønndalen as it is called locally – was parcelled off to Kåre Eivind Liadal from the home farm in Liadal. There, in 1952, he built a house on the property that was later given the name ‘Granly’, where he formed a family the year after, when he married 21-year-old Rannveig Palma Leira from Ørstavik. At the time, Rannveig worked as a seamstress at the textile mill called Ørsta Tricotagefabrik. She also modelled the clothes they sewed there. They later had two children, Janne Karin in 1955 and Kåre Jr in 1959.
One of the first things Kåre Liadal started to make was a system for hauling small four-oared boats etc. up slipways and into boathouses. He also made supporting legs for sofas for, among others, Møre Lenestolfabrikk in Ørstavik and Ekornes at Ikornes in Sykkylven, parts for school desks that were manufactured by Rovde Møbelfabrikk, as well as stocking driers for the Ørsta companies P.A. Øvstegård & Co. and Sætre Strømpefabrikk.
In his basement at home, Kåre Liadal also started developing the product the company is primarily known for: gutters.
On Friday 12 October 1956, the Grøvik gutter was advertised over two columns in the local paper in Ørsta, Møre-Nytt. Behind this product was 29-year-old Kåre Liadal, who had been developing and testing it for some time in the basement of his house in Bjørndalen in Liadal, and who, in autumn 1956, was now ready to put these gutters into production. Today, almost 60 years later, the company started by Kåre Liadal and his brother-in-law Jørgen Velle is very much a going concern. It may have changed its name to Grøvik Verk, but it is still located in Liadal in Ørsta.
The gutters were made in the basement of his house, and the finished products were pulled out through a hole in the eastern wall of the house. This could be a pretty unpleasant job in winter, when they had to tramp outside in the snow to collect the finished gutters. The office was in a room up in the attic of the same house.
In 1959, Kåre Liadal went on his first long sales tour to Sogn og Fjordane and further south, going all the way round the coast of Southern Norway and up to Eastern Norway to market his products. He says that he travelled around a lot and that many tinsmiths were not pleased to see him because they felt he was taking work from them (because, at this time, gutters were hand-made from one-metre sheets of zinc). He later came to cooperate closely with some of the contacts he made in Eastern Norway. ‘There was a lot of driving and many days spent on the road,’ Kåre Liadal says about his extensive travels to all corners of the country over many, many years.
The gutters proved to be a success. With increased output and six employees, the basement was soon too small. Grøvik Verk’s first factory was built on a plot of land with title number 15, called ‘Fjøra’, which was parcelled off from Nilsgarden at Håvoll. The plot was 320 square metres. The company moved into the factory at Håvoll at the end of November/beginning of December 1960, after the local sports club Håvoll IL had held a dance there on Saturday 26 November. The factory area and buildings were extended twice in the late 1960s: by 176 sq. m in 1967 and 227 sq. m in 1969. The company also took over the quay and the quayside shed, a total of 170 sq. m, in 1964.
Until this time, the company had made 5″ gutters with 70 mm downpipes. Tinsmiths in Eastern Norway wanted to see bigger gutters made from aluminium on the market, and the company started to develop new machinery. In autumn 1961, Grøvik Verk was able to also offer 6″ gutters (T150) with N85 downpipes (Ø 85 mm).
A revolution took place in the late 1960s in relation to how gutters were installed. Funnels, gutter joints with washers and new end pieces were developed. The result was that the Grøvik gutter became a do-it-yourself (DIY) product, i.e. the gutters could be installed without special tools being required.
Four new extensions were built to the factory in the 1970s. Kåre Liadal Sr has described the company’s policy as follows: ‘We were always building extensions, we got hold of some roof beams and just got started!’ Asbjørn Liadal tells the story like this: ‘After the second extension to the factory, Kåre Liadal said “That’s it, no more extensions!” Now we were supposed to enjoy the fruits of what we’d built and we had plenty of work. But things kept expanding.’
At the beginning of 1975, Kåre Liadal Sr said: ‘If the demand for aluminium gutters becomes as high as they’re talking about now, we will have to increase our output by hundreds of thousands of metres. In recent years, we have experienced growth of 30–40% every year except this year, when the increase was 50%.’
During the development of yet another type of gutter (4″, T100), new manufacturing methods were also developed. This new machine was built on the basis of the roll forming principle: instead of pulling the gutters through forming tools and then cutting them, they now rolled the material – using casters – through the machine and then cut it into pre-defined lengths while it was still moving.
The company first started glaze-coating the products around the same time, i.e. the mid-1970s. A coating workshop was first built in the shed down at the quay. An electrostatic powder machine was purchased and a conventional kiln from Hønefoss, but all the vats and the rest of the equipment were made at Grøvik Verk. Here they glaze-coated the parts but not the gutters. The aluminium for the gutters was bought ready-coated from Hydro.
By the end of the 1970s, Grøvik Verk was experiencing strong growth: in 1979, they used around 500 tonnes of aluminium, delivered by ÅSV. The output was almost 700,000 meters of gutters and pipes, and the company delivered around 20% of all the gutters in Norway that year. The turnover was approximately NOK 12 million, and output increased by 40% from 1978 to 1979. The workforce now numbered around 30, and the company would probably need another four or five once the new factory extension, work on which started in 1979, was completed in 1980.
In 1981, the company started planning the building of a separate coating workshop because the capacity for coating parts was at full stretch. IR kilns were purchased as well as a new electrostatic coating system. As a result of some experimentation in connection with the new facility, the company was now ready to start glaze-coating gutters as well. Grøvik Verk was the first company to introduce an automated PLC system (Programmable Logic Control) for coating, and three standard colours were used: white, reddish-brown and black. The coating of gutters started in 1984.
Grøvik Verk was the biggest manufacturer of aluminium gutters in the Nordic countries, and it made big deliveries to major house-building companies. Some of the gutters from Grøvik Verk were also delivered to the company’s raw material supplier, Hydro Aluminium, which marketed them in its A-roof product range as the A-gutter. In 1984, it was again necessary to extend the factory, this time by building a raw materials and finished goods warehouse.
The newspaper Møre-Nytt announced in July 1989 that ‘gutter manufacturer Grøvik Verk is a success story in an otherwise bleak building industry’. Kåre Liadal Jr elaborated as follows: ‘The only explanation I have is that were are winning market shares from the other manufacturers. There has also been a certain increase in the renovation of old houses. We have had a good winter with little snow, and people have therefore been able to carry out repairs in winter as well.’
Previously, all the elbow bends had to be cut and welded by hand. From autumn 1989, Grøvik Verk was able to deliver seamless curved elbow bends. The company saved one to two man-years on this new manufacturing method. In addition, a new machine was developed for funnel production, which meant that one operator was now able to complete a funnel in two simple operations.
In 1991/92, a total of around NOK 3 million was invested in new buildings and equipment. The expansion of manufacturing capacity, a new coating facility and more warehouse space were important factors that contributed to this positive trend. The coating facility was extended in autumn 1991, after which it comprised 600 sq. m for coating and storage. A new kiln meant that it was now possible to coat two different colours at the same time, thus doubling capacity.
During the crash in the building industry following the yuppie period, Grøvik Verk managed to maintain its position in competition with plastic and steel manufacturers. The year 1994 was a record year in terms of both output and turnover. An output of 700,000 metres was again within reach for the first time since 1986, and the company actually achieved a new record of almost 755,000 metres. That was an increase of almost 79,000 metres, or 11.7%, from 1993. Turnover increased by NOK 4.2 million, or 18.8%.
Work on installing a waste water treatment plant at the factory started in early May 1995, and the facility started up in early October the same year. It was a vacuum evaporation system built on the order of the National Pollution Control Authority. It purified the process water 100% using a system based on recycling. The company thereby became an environmentally friendly enterprise with no discharges.
Grøvik Verk launched a new aluminium gutter at the tinsmiths’ national conference in Alta in June 2005. It has the same profile as traditional gutters (125 mm) made from steel and zinc, but, in its anniversary year, Grøvik Verk succeeded in delivering this profile in aluminium. This is a product that there has long been a demand for from many customers, and Grøvik Verk hopes to win further market shares with this new type of gutter.
In 2008, the capacity of the coating facility was yet again stretched to the limit. NOK 6,000,000 was invested in a new, modern plant. It is a state-of-the-art system where the cleaning process, the coating process and the firing are strictly controlled, thereby ensuring that the products are of stable and good quality. It is also a sealed system that does not result in emissions to the environment.
The factory also continued to expand after the millennium, primarily through the addition of a 500 sq. m gutter warehouse in 2000 and a 2,500 sq. m manufacturing and warehouse building in 2004. The latest addition came in 2012, when the warehouse was extended by 1,300 sq. m. The company now has buildings with a total floor space of 11,000 square metres.
The company has invested in a welding robot that replaces one man-year of manual welding. Big investments have been made in automation of the production process for flashings, and yet another machine has been purchased for gutter manufacturing.
We now have four roll forming machines. This means that we have good capacity and a dependable pool of machinery that can deliver the four different gutter profiles and two pipe dimensions we make.
Continuous focus is maintained on developing production equipment and making it more efficient.
Founder Kåre Liadal Sr.