The new 2015 models mark the most significant product range overhaul in Ponsse’s history, introducing new solutions and engines that call for major changes in the factory, says Ponsse’s President and CEO Juho Nummela.
When renewing the products, Ponsse has focused on efficiency, structural durability, easy maintenance and ergonomics. The new models’ engines will also be compliant with the new environment requirements of the EU.
– Financial cycles have shifted rapidly since 2009, and last year was the most successful in our history. We have been doing the right things, creating demand for and interest in our products.
Ponsse shows that it is possible to run a viable business in Finland and Northern Savonia, far from industrial hubs.
Nummela names three factors that have enabled Ponsse’s success: renewal, high level of education and an effective innovation system.
– The company’s quick ability to adopt new product and manufacturing technologies makes high-technology manufacturing possible in Finland. Productivity must also be at a sufficient level to make business viable here. Finnish competitiveness has been hit by the global financial crisis, which involves some risks, but we have kept both our product development and manufacturing operations in Finland.
In addition to extensive in-house manufacturing, Ponsse works in close cooperation with a supplier network. Operations are based on the principle that the suppliers must also be able to grow, make investments and network.
– Ponsse designs and manufactures its products together with its partner companies in the Vieremä business park, which facilitates communication, Nummela points out.
Ponsse’s product range consists of forest machines suitable for all kinds of conditions from harvesting on steep slopes to dense eucalyptus forests. The quality of infrastructure in the countries to which Ponsse exports products varies greatly, making spare part delivery and machine maintenance more challenging.
– Our task is to ensure that the machines work in the forest. They must be maintained so that they work reliably, even in the freezing conditions in Siberia. We need to develop our parts and maintenance networks continuously, to keep up with sales and product development. Good networks are a foundation for long-term operation, Nummela says.
Product development ideas stem from the forest
Customer-oriented approach is an important part of product development at Ponsse.
– It’s good to know how the machine operators work and what kind of needs they have. Our best product development ideas originate in harvesting sites. We also get valuable feedback from our resellers.
– We maintain regular communication with forest companies home and abroad. All our machines, frames included, are manufactured in our own factory in Vieremä. For us, the frame is an important part of the product. We do much more than just assemble parts in our factory, Nummela points out.
Ponsse’s product development and testing are also carried out in Vieremä, managed by Director, Technology and R&D Juha Inberg. The new prototype testing facility opened for business in March.
Customer needs guide product development
Nummela and Inberg do not want to venture guesses about the next technological leap in the industry. According to them, digitisation will provide new opportunities for a long time to come.
– Ponsse’s machines are increasingly monitoring themselves. As the products develop, we acquire a growing pool of data from the product network on how customers use them. This data is valuable for both production and product development, Inberg explains.
– There are numerous interesting technological opportunities. We focus on those that can enhance harvesting technologies, machine productivity and reliability as well as ergonomics.
– Our customers need reliable machines. Machine operators work in demanding conditions that require focus and quick decision-making, making ergonomics important. Spare part deliveries and effective maintenance are the ultimate deal-maker, Nummela says.
Juho Nummela (right), Juha Inberg and the Scorpion harvester from Ponsse’s 2015 series. The Scorpion boasts special features such as minimum surface pressure, stability, high productivity and excellent ergonomics. Photo: Paula Bergqvist
Participation in network programmes
Over the past years, Ponsse has been an active participant in the network programmes coordinated by the Finnish Metals and Engineering Competence Cluster, FIMECC Ltd. Cooperation with VTT and universities is ongoing in programmes such as MANU (Manufacturing Competence through Digitisation), which aims to develop supplier networks by digitisation.
In the past, research cooperation with VTT has involved, for example, reduction of vibration and safety assessment of control systems.
– FIMECC, Ponsse and VTT have established a great cooperative triangle, Nummela says.
– It is worthwhile for VTT to focus on the recognition of customer needs to provide great results. General research topics tend not to be of use to us, and more often than not, we need quick results.
– VTT readily supports product development in cooperation with companies in many industries. We are currently working on several projects to produce new and innovative machinery products. At the new VTT Ltd, we aim to deepen this cooperation and provide services that complement the customers’ own product development seamlessly. Bridging the gap between research and product development is one of our key objectives, says VTT’s Key Account Manager Pirkka Tukeva.
From a workshop to a manufacturing group
Forest machine company Ponsse was founded in 1970 by Einari Vidgrén (1943-2010), a logger in Northern Savonia.
Logging was hard work for a young man. There were no durable machines available, so Vidgrén decided to build one. His machine was robust and agile in the forest terrain. When others expressed interest in the machine, Vidgrén decided to open a factory. The company was named after Ponsse, an agile cross-breed dog renowned in Vieremä for its hunting skills.
The manufacture of first factory-made Ponsse machines started in Vieremä in 1970. Ponsse’s first harvester was manufactured in 1986, which also marks the year Ponsse started manufacturing harvester grapples and measuring devices. Demand for the products was steady, and the company already had interested buyers.
Ponsse was sold to Interpolator Oy in 1988, but as recession hit Finland in the early 1990s, the Vidgrén family purchased it back. Exports pick up, and Ponsse is listed on the Helsinki Stock Exchange in 1995. Strong growth has continued ever since.
Ponsse’s foreign subsidiaries are responsible for sales, maintenance and parts deliveries in their respective areas. To date, Ponsse’s forest machines have been sold to 40 countries.
Ponsse Group consists of the parent company Ponsse Plc and subsidiaries in Sweden, Norway, UK, France, USA, Brazil, Russia, China and Uruguay as well as Epec Oy in Finland. In 2014, Ponsse Plc’s net sales amounted to EUR 390.8 million. International operations accounted for 75 per cent of Ponsse’s net sales.
Ponsse’s machines are designed and manufactured in Vieremä, Finland. Since 2000, Ponsse has emerged a market leader in Finland and one of the world’s leading manufacturers of forest machines for the cut-to-length method. The Group employs some 1,200 forest machine professionals.