Back in the 1960s, the company had a staff of just a few people, making machines for the needs of the Finnish agricultural and forestry industries. However, the industry changed quickly: the following decade, Normet's tractor equipment production branched on to products used in mines and tunnels.
The company went international at an early stage.
"We founded our first marketing company in France already in the 1970s, and then began to create our network within Europe and into Africa," says Jouko Tenhunen, Product Development Director at Normet.
Now the midcap company has six global sales areas, 40 local sales and customer support offices in 30 countries, and a staff of about 900, representing more than 20 nationalities. The company's business currently consists of not only machine manufacture but also maintenance and services, construction chemicals and underground construction products, such as bolts used to reinforce bedrock.
95 per cent of Normet's production is exported. The company received the Internationalization Award of the President of the Republic of Finland in 2011.
Tekes set a high standard
Normet's turnover was about 40 million euros in 2005. The company's product development manager Heikki Ojala says that the figure jumped in ten years to 240 million euros, an increase of 500 per cent. How is this even possible?
Things turned round in 2005 when Normet's principal owner changed. This was when the company gave up their network of representatives and founded individual companies abroad. This was also when most of the current staff was hired.
"Founding individual companies in the customer interface was a strategically important decision in order for us to continue to run a profitable maintenance business. We have to be in control of what is going on in order to understand our customers' needs. This makes it so much easier to plan additional services," says Mr Ojala.
Tekes has also been important in helping us grow so quickly. Mr Tenhunen says that the cooperation has been going on for almost 20 years.
"Tekes has played a major role in terms of technological developments in particular. They have encouraged us to take risks to achieve the best possible outcome.
Tekes networks have supported Normet in demanding product development, such as the development of new products of variable design related to control systems. Another important leap has been the utilisation of automation in the machinery.
"Our development always tries to see things five years ahead. What we are working on today will be on the market in 3–5 years," says Mr Tenhunen.
From networks to partnerships
Normet has been making use of network-based product development and planning for more than 15 years. The company has plenty of strategic partners. Mr Ojala says that they want to have the best expertise for each project.
"The network has enabled us to access more people than ever could have been possible by hiring them. When you have a flexible network, you can also react to market needs much more quickly," he says.
The network has also developed into loyal partnerships. For example, when it was a bit quiet at Normet and one of our partners was short of labour, we lent 30 production employees to them for six months.
"This exemplifies the level of trust," says Ojala.
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Text: Kaiku Helsinki