We have received the sad news that Swedish/Nordic access industry veteran Alf Odrell passed away yesterday, just six weeks after his 81st birthday.
A larger than life character, Alf Odrell started his access career in November 1974 when he joined the European division of the UpRight group, which at the time traded in Europe as Vectur. Based in his home country of Sweden his job was to sell the company’s alloy tower and other access products, including the company’s self-propelled scissor lifts that were just coming on stream. As part of his remit, he was instrumental in setting up the company’s Swedish subsidiary Vectur Aluminiumställningar in Gothenburg.
As the business developed Odrell adopted a different approach to all of the other European distribution subsidiaries, which ran sales alongside rental operations. He firmly believed in selling both the towers and the scissor lifts to rental companies, and therefore not competing with them. His policy yielded positive results and over the next 18 years or so he overcame local and international competition to make UpRight/Instant the market leader in Sweden for both alloy scaffold towers and, by the 1990s, scissor lifts.
In the 1990s the decision was taken to sell off the European distribution companies and operate purely through independent distributors. Having helped sell the Swedish operation - which had been rebranded as Instant Sweden some years earlier - to Stockholm based Zip-Up Svenska, Alf Odrell said: “Well there is no need or place for me now, so you had best make me redundant and I will take early retirement.” But he was given an immediate no! and became the company’s district manager for the Nordic region. His connections with Finland’s A-Rakennusmies, which became Ramirent, spearheaded UpRight’s early move into the Russian market, becoming one of the very first western aerial lift manufacturers in the country.
When UpRight was acquired by Tanfield and then merged with Snorkel, he remained on board and a valued member of the sales team. Finally in 2011, at the age of 71 and after 37 years with the business, he retired. However, he couldn’t keep away and tagging along with a customer group visit to Italy the following year he promptly agreed to help Cela with its sales efforts in Scandinavia, becoming involved in the truck mounted lift market. He gradually faded out of that role but always turned up at trade shows and kept in touch with his old customers. As an avid, but occasional, gambler his favourite exhibition was Conexpo, purely because it was held in Las Vegas. Sadly, he missed last years event due to the growing dangers of Covid, along with ongoing mobility issues.
Many years ago, when still in his prime he suffered a heart attack, but in typical style he bounced back and it hardly seemed to impact his life, as he resumed his work patterns and appeared to abandon some of the spartan diets and recommended regimes. Well finally it seems to have caught up with him, but he gave it a very very good ‘run for its money’.
Whether you loved him or found him a little irritating, Alf Odrell was certainly a character, a one off, he enjoyed life and people, and he made a real difference. When UpRight Ireland engineering manager Brian Madden retired in 2006 he thanked some of the colleagues that he had worked with over the years, of Alf he said: “Alf Odrell, the irrepressible Prince of Sweden, who combined super salesmanship with immense personal warmth, and a gift for people.” So true – that was the real Alf Odrell.
The access industry has lost another true character.