Work equipment for cable network construction is now being exported internationally from Joensuu. And these are not just any cable ploughs, but state-of-the-art cable network construction equipment. With this equipment, cables can be installed underground quickly and cost-effectively wile conserving the terrain and energy.

– We now have two retailers in St. Petersburg and a third one about to start in Moscow. Next, we’re headed to Sweden and then the rest of Europe, says Mika Pakarinen, CEO of Viestra Oy.

Viestra’s introduction to export was through the ExportGroove project by Business Joensuu. As the coaching programme aimed at export was launched in summer 2018, Leena Lehikoinen, Business Specialist at Business Joensuu, prefaced SMEs’ need for support by stating that for many companies in the region, profitable export is the only way to grow in a situation where the domestic market has become too small.

– It is true that a lot has already been done in many companies to promote export, but many companies are still on the fence. The need for information and concrete help is great, and that’s why we are taking action now, explained Lehikoinen.

With Viestra, Lehikoinen’s message hit the mark perfectly. With nearly 50 years of experience in ground construction and cabling, the company has spent the last two decades developing its own cable ploughing equipment. The incentive for development is clear:

– In Finland, the first cables to be taken underground were telephone cables, then optical fibre cables, and now the power grid, which has so far been suspended in the air. In cabling, competition is extremely tough. We had to start developing a cabling method that would allow us to do the work even more efficiently. Due to the winter season, we only have about ¾ of the year of effective working time in North Karelia, Mika Pakarinen explains.

Solid product

So far, Viestra has ploughed nearly 10,000 kilometres of ground for cable installation. During the cabling season, the company employs over ten people. Subcontractors are employed as necessary. Annual contracts vary from small to large.

– By ploughing, the cable can be laid over ten times faster than by digging. Ploughing allows us to transfer the least possible amount of soil, leaving minimal marks in the terrain. And since the tractive resistance on our cable plough is light, energy consumption is lower – so you get the benefit of low fuel consumption.

One of the reasons Mika Pakarinen has a strong faith in the product is that the cable plough has been developed over a long period of time and through active installation work.

– The soil in Eastern Finland is rocky, making it a very good training area for us!

The company has already been selling its cable ploughs in Finland for three years. The equipment is designed by Viestra and manufactured by a subcontractor in Joensuu.

Limits of growth

The limited domestic market and the downtime caused by winter were eventually observed in Viestra. When Business Joensuu launched its project promoting export through experience, concrete actions, coaching and networking opportunities, Pakarinen decided to take part.

– The project was definitely eye-opening! First of all, it made us stop and think about things… like how to get everything in order and how we could actually start building growth and internationalisation in our company. During the project, the company’s growth path became clear. Among other things, we made trips to St. Petersburg and Moscow. We hired a salesperson for the coming year for sales in Europe.

The export journey begun in Viestra requires a long-term approach as well as some initial financial investments, reminds the CEO. And what about economic fluctuations?

– Of course, the economic outlook has an impact, and we have to prepare for a decline in growth. But as a growth-oriented company, we can’t sit around and wait. Ground cabling is underway all the time in the world, the next big job being the introduction of the 5G network – it requires a dense network of base stations – which means cabling between the base stations.

Viestra also installs ground cables for railway automation and the light control of road traffic.

According to Pakarinen, properly installed ground cable will easily last 50 to 60 years.

– This is the case provided that the work is carried out correctly and in a safe way so that the protective jackets of the ground cables are not damaged.

No matter which kind of ground cable is installed underground, it is better protected than in the air: climate change is an aspect that is accelerating the development of ground cabling.

– Storm damage, downbursts – natural phenomena are going to increase and, as a result, infrastructure technology is going underground.

“ExportGrowth was definitely eye-opening!”