Joensuu-based ViiMet Oy manufactures welded and machined parts. After ViiMet joined the Digikarjalasta kajahtaa project by Business Joensuu, the company also started to invest heavily in personnel training.
CEO Olli Rissanen and his business associate Ari Niskanen bought the company seven years ago. Established in 1986, the company had accumulated a large amount of investment debt, which ViiMet has now cleared in three different investment packages.
– We have invested in new machining and welding technology, digitalisation, and quality and management systems. The three investment packages total more than three million euros, says Rissanen.
The amount is significant for a company whose turnover was EUR 3.45 million in the previous financial year. For this ongoing financial year, Rissanen estimates that net sales will rise to approximately 3.7 million. Currently, the company has a total of 26 employees. Since 2012, ten new employees have been hired.
– In a recession, investments can be scary. In an upswing, you can blame the fact you’re busy and not invest. There’s no perfect moment for investing; you just have to do it. Because if you don’t, your investment debt will only grow – it won’t just disappear, reminds Rissanen.
Machines, equipment and technology are key avenues of continuous development at ViiMet, as their customers include the forest and construction machinery industry. Once the company had amended their investment debt and technological capabilities, the time was right to focus on personnel – and take a critical look at the company’s employer image. ViiMet has realised that the best quality is produced by content and committed personnel.
– We genuinely want to be a good employer. The more committed our personnel are, the better the whole thing works. That’s why we were determined to train our people, says Rissanen, who swears by the Lean management philosophy, stating that he could not have imagined a more perfect match than the project by Business Joensuu.
In two years, ViiMet has practically doubled the training hours of its personnel. In the span of a year, the company has spent about 20 hours of training time per person for the company’s 26 employees.
– Most of the training has been related to Lean methodology, such as material flow management and workshops. In a way, our entire way of thinking has been turned upside down over two years. Before, people were waiting around for orders, but now the whole thing is based on people thinking for themselves and everyone’s desire for development.
The deepest essence of Lean
ViiMet had already been introduced to the Lean management philosophy in 2016.
– Unfortunately, we took a wrong turn in the beginning; we started from too high up with no real foundation! We had educators who used foreign terms that our personnel did not understand at all. There was “yellow belt”, “green belt”, “six sigma”, “3K”, “5S”… we had heaps of tools but no insight into what Lean actually meant.
With the Digikarjalasta kajahtaa project funded by the Regional Council of North Karelia, Markku Paloniitty from Demaic Oy was chosen as ViiMet’s Lean educator. Before that, the ViiMet entrepreneurs had taken a benchmarking trip to Germany, and more recently to Japan in November.
– Finnish SMEs are well ahead of the curve in digitalisation, but in Japan, Lean thinking is in their blood. In Japan, we became aware how the Lean philosophy can be used to advance things.
Markku Paloniitty from Demaic has been able to make Lean a concrete part of ViiMet’s everyday operations. Rissanen, who has faith in the power of Lean, would like to go even further.
– Finnish people tend to still associate Lean with work only, although they should extend the Lean philosophy to their entire lives. Even at home, you’re bound to have unnecessary waste when your things go missing and end up in the wrong place; important everyday stuff that’s nowhere to be found, explains Rissanen enthusiastically.
“The more committed our personnel are, the better the whole thing works”