Ponsse Sells their 9,000th Machine!

Facilities Tour
Vierema, Finland

by Mike Crouse

To celebrate the production and sale of their 9,000th machine, Ponsee --extended an invitation to the North American trade press to visit their facilities, which we gladly accepted, thus in three weeks’ time we were transported over the span of 20 hours from Portland to Vierema, Finland.

We’d been to the Ponsse facility 14 year’s prior in 1999, needless to say they’ve had substantial leaps in growth and market since that point in time.

We were on a pretty tight schedule over a couple of days... their facilities have grown substantially as has their market reach. First stop was heading to their corporate center for an overview of the company and their families history, presented by Chairman of the Board, Juha Vidgren, with an overview of the market by Sales and Marketing Director Jarmo VidgrÇn, and the markets in North American by Area Director Marko Mattila.

The company was started by the late Einari Vidgren who was a successful logger seeking a strong, durable dependable machine, and decided to build that machine himself. One point apparent throughout the presentations was quality, and pride of workmanship, in the tradition established by the founder. All three of the his sons are members of the board and intimately involved in the vision and leadership of that company, which is a corporation that is still 60% family owned, run not by accountants but the vision and commitment to their original goals.
The factory production site had grown considerably and is spread over several acres in the otherwise small village of Vierema, and the largest employer in that area. The company in total employs over 1,000 on several different facilities.

The factory tour was led by Ponsee CEO Juho Nummela, who explained the flow of materials through the various sections of the factory, and the importance of “lean manufacturing” in the overall economics and quality control, as he led us through the factory. They were operating at full capacity with full line of Ponsse’s in some stage of construction up and down the line, all custom ordered.

Following the tour and lunch, we assembled with the both the morning and afternoon shift at the Ponsse factory to take a picture of the 9,000th machine, a Ponsse ElephantKing 8-wheel drive forwarder they’d built, and were presenting to the purchasers, Entreprises Forestieres Lemieux & Girard, Inc. out of Quebec, Ontario Canada at the plant. 

From the plant out in the field for a live demonstration of three forestry machines: Ponsse ElephantKing forwarder, Ponsse Ergo 8W harvester and, Ponsse’s newest Scorpion harvester. The star of the show was the new innovatively designed Scorpion harvester. Upon seeing it you’re immediately struck with the crane’s design, mounted behind and over the operator leaving a very clear view from the cab. The crane has a hydraulic cylinder on each side, and as was explained, “...as well as operating extension boom, it also pumps oil to the lift cylinders on both sides of the cab, so it hydraulically syncs the movement of the lifting boom and the extension boom, so it’s really easy and smooth to maneuver and operate. On ground level you operate with one joy stick.”

The Scorpion’s cab is also mounted such that the operator is literally in the center of the machine’s ring, so you’re turning on your own access. It’s very smooth for the operator both for harvesting and traversing the forest floor.

The machine was introduced at ElmiaWood this past summer, and will be at this year’s Oregon Logging Conference in February.

The following day we visited the Lisalmi Service & Logistics Center and given a tour of that facility by Spare Parts Manager Mikko Eskelinen. Immediately one’s struck by the sheer size, complexity and scope required to maintain and supply parts and service to Ponsse owners worldwide. The term “logistics” takes on a deeper meaning as you walk through multiple rows of multiply tiered storage for each part, both large and small, made over the span of the companies existence. One row of storage was somewhat different, motorized shelves that rotate the entire height of the warehouse, and held the smaller parts. The entire row was so equipped, catalogued and coded for easy access where you could rotate to the right container containing the part needed. Storage on a massive scale simplified.

Within the second level of a nearby structure was a room of cubicles, and on the top shelf of each cube are a series of nations flags, which designate which languages that particular individual was proficient in for customer service to those individual countries. While they still have parts books and service manuals, most have been brought into the computer age for easy if not almost instant access, in an array of languages. 

One can appreciate the planning, foresight, layout and logistical importance required to brings all the individual parts and pieces together to manufacture and maintain equipment across the world’s markets.

Next stop was a visit to the Toivala Forestry School in Siilinjarvi (near Kupio), where students of high school age can receive the training to enter the forest industry. Ponsse works with the school and had a couple mechanics on site to help train future loggers and mechanics by actually working on the machinery with professionals. The schools been in operation since the 50s and has been an integral part of the forest industry in Finland.

The last stop was with a contract logger’s site operated by Riiroset Ky, on UVM managed ground where they were operating a Ponsse harvesting system with a Ponsse Beaver with H6 harvesting head and a Ponsse Elk forwarder.

Ponsse was a very gracious host on the whirlwind tour, and the weather could not have been better. Our good fortune with the weather was brought into perspective the following week when we received a photo of the headquarters we were in the week before, which was receiving their first snowfall of the season ... close call.

Every time I’ve been through a manufacturer’s site I’m reminded of how fortunate we’ve been in the past 20 years having machinery better engineered and manufactured than ever before, which has allowed many within our business to log through the economic recession of the past several years with durable equipment that 20 years ago would have been dead in half the time. Certainly we operate smarter, and are more conscious of good maintenance. But the better engineering and design has played a large part. Touring the Ponsse plant reminds us of that.