12-year-old Stairon challenges the engineering industry with open-mindedness

Stairon 12 vuotta

Industrial service provider is a creative problem-solver

The word creativity is rarely associated with machine shop operation. The core of the industry is ironclad metal expertise, no question about it.  When creativity is viewed through problem-solving, we are already closer to what is expected of a modern industrial service provider. It is the ability to solve customer problems in an exceptional way.

Timo Kylä-Nikkilä, CEO of Stairon, is happy to shake the dusty image of the sector and challenge traditional ways of thinking. He believes that today’s successful mechanical workshop combines creativity, technology and service in its expertise.

“This has always been done” thinking must be forgotten and we must start looking for original solutions to customer problems, “says Kylä-Nikkilä.

The machine workshop’s traditional operating model is undergoing a change

As a result of the entrepreneurial change implemented at Stairon in 2019, the company has continued to develop and modernise its operations with the aim of being an industrial service provider that will solve the customer’s challenges and the most desirable partner in its sector.

– The competitiveness of Western companies is constantly in the spotlight. In global competition, the competitiveness of a common supply chain formed by all companies in the value chain is crucial. On our part we want to actively develop this integration in cooperation with the actors in the chain. One plus one must be more than two, says Kylä-Nikkilä.

– The development of a functional and cost-effective entity requires clear investments and will from both the supplier and the customer. Holding on to many traditions in the industry will deactivate and stifle activities, as priority is given to avoiding mistakes instead of bold solutions. This is exactly what Stairon wants to challenge and solve together with customers.

Stairon’s problem-solving ability is always based on strong expertise in industrial manufacture. Now the best practices are being developed at the cutting edge of technology, so to speak.

– In addition to the machine and equipment base, we have invested strongly in different information systems to support customer and supplier integration. Of course, the utilisation of digitalisation remains a huge potential throughout the supply chain – the development of data volume, speed and diversity is continuing.

Stairon guides young people to the field

The roots of Pansio-based Stairon go back to the 1960s. Since 2009, the Stairon name has been used since the Metso Paper Turku Works business deal. Over fifty years ago, the company focused on the design, manufacture and product development of air conditioning systems for paper machines. Stairon currently serves technology industry operators, who represent more than ten different industries.

According to Kylä-Nikkilä, the multidisciplinary nature and in-depth expertise of the activities are competitive advantages for Stairon. The strong expertise of the Pansio factory has succeeded in refining solutions for a wide range of industries, including the energy, mining, shipping and food industries.

According to Kylä-Nikkilä, the continuity of operations must be actively ensured. The image of the machine shop industry is not as streamlined as many others. The shabby workshop image should be adjusted to better reflect what everyday life currently predominantly is in the manufacturing industry. This is how the most talented young people are brought to the industry.

– The future lies with young people from educational institutions. Cooperation with educational institutions is a competitive advantage for us, and we will use it to ensure that we have also the best experts in the future.

There are also many experts in the machine shop industry who are about to retire in the next few years. By offering young people training and on-the-job learning opportunities, their experiences, learning and knowledge will gradually transfer to a new generation.

A modern company invests in digitalisation and responsibility

Stairon is increasingly managed through knowledge. Digitalisation and automation seek cost and resource efficiency and respond to future challenges. One of them is sustainable development. It is part of global development that does not ignore the engineering industry either.

– It’s important to identify megatrends. Environmental awareness and thus evolving requirements for resource efficiency, renewable energy and renewable raw materials. The growth, prosperity and education of the middle class in developing countries increase awareness and purchasing power. The consumer of the future is responsible and conscious. All these will ultimately also affect the activities of each industrial company directly or at least indirectly.

A lot has happened in twelve years of Stairon. And the pace of change is hardly slowing down. Kylä-Nikkilä emphasises that when a company calls itself a service company, it must also act accordingly. Often that means the courage to think differently. As when Stairon developed a method for servicing the internal surfaces of cruise ship exhaust pipes through rope work, enabling uninterrupted operation of vessels.

– The future Stairon wants to solve even difficult problems. Throw us a challenge! We are ready for this at Stairon, says Kylä-Nikkilä.

Stairon’s 12 years

  • More than 1500 implemented customer projects
  • Services for more than 100 industrial operators
  • Deliveries to over 50 countries
  • Equipment manufacturing for more than ten industrial sectors

Co-operation stemming from shared values

Co-operation with Vema

Vema Lift, a manufacturer of rescue lifts and rescue vehicles based in Kaarina Finland, and Stairon have worked together long-term and intensively in connection with products that require co-operation in manufacturing and product development. Stairon has claimed their position commendably. 

– Stairon can boast with robust expertise in industrial manufacturing, good understanding of the importance of quality and Finnish origins. We value these things greatly, Vema Lift says. 

Vema Lift’s history covers over 1,000 manufactured units delivered to 40 different countries. The company is now part of Nordic Rescue Group, together with Saurus Oy which manufactures rescue vehicles. A forward-looking company also demands a lot from their partners. 

– Our company manufactures and markets rescue lifts and vehicles worldwide. Naturally then, it is an unquestioned prerequisite that we can be certain of the quality of our products. Stairon has been a key supplier meeting these requirements for Vema Lift.

Partnership grows from openness for change

Without communication and openness for change, partnership cannot work as expected and in a forward-looking way. 

– Proactive approach to manufacturability related questions of our products has brought additional insights to support our design work. Straightforward communication on the part of Stairon’s professionals has been the key for effective co-operation.

Change is always present. Many devices which are in the product development phase still undergo changes during the manufacturing stage.

– Stairon always reacts to changes openly, Vema Lift summarises. 

– It has been exhilarating to see how extensively Vema Lift’s staff have participated and their open mindset for new proposals when presented with common challenges. Open business culture yields the best results, and I believe that is the case here too, Antti Reivonen, Sales Manager at Stairon, comments.

Learn more about Vema Lift, Nordic Rescue Group and their high-quality products at www.vema.fi

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Developing mechanical engineering and production technology

Työnjohtaja Toni Kangas

Decades of experience and strong expertise in the workshops has convinced the former shipbuilder that Stairon has the keys to success. The new foreman believes in the power of development and shared expertise.

When young Toni Kangas found himself in a machine shop, he knew there was no turning back. He has always had a passion for mechanical engineering, which has guided him on his career path. He first spent 20 years working for ABB doing stamping and from there he joined the Meyer shipyard in Turku, first as a foreman and then as a development engineer. At the same time he acquired new skills from Turku University of Applied Sciences, from where he graduated as an engineer of mechanical engineering and production technology. He started as a foreman at Stairon in November 2020.

Toni Kangas is the first machine shop industry professional within his family, and right from the beginning what attracted him to the industry was the changing nature of the work.

“There’s a lot going on all the time. Interest remains high when you can influence the development of the industry”, Toni says.  

Toni Kangas

Development begins with a need

Toni, who describes himself as productive and precise, says that he is a developer who strongly identifies with Stairon’s motto.

“The machine shop industry is often stuck in its ways and likes to do things according to a familiar pattern. We at Stairon want to challenge the status quo. If you want to succeed in the field, you have to have expertise, a good team , and the ability to create something new. All of these building blocks can be found at Stairon”, he says. 

Toni is looking forward to being able to develop the company’s parts manufacturing operations in particular. Better processes solve both production and customer challenges. Toni mentions that development work should not be based on the joy of development alone. The work should always result in something tangible.

“A good example is a pilot I carried out for Meyer, where we did certain work steps differently. It eventually resulted in big savings for my then employer. Let’s see what great things we can achieve at Stairon!”

The alphabet of a good working life

Toni wants to be not only a developer but also a fair and trusted foreman who helps his team achieve their goals.

“In order for everyone to succeed in their work, we must account for people’s strengths and work on weaknesses. When everyone can do their best, we create strong skills and quality together”, he says.

Taking responsibility and valuing co-workers and shared expertise were the first things Toni noticed in his new job. Working with professionals has also made it easier to settle into the new job.

“People here have long careers and solid professionalism, so it’s easy to be the foreman”, he laughs.

When we ask the 46-year-old expert what is the most important thing working life has taught him, he is quick to answer. “Work, learning something new, and co-workers. Those are the building blocks for a good and well-functioning work community”, he says.

Kari Lintuvuori is passing on skills and knowledge to future experts before retiring

Lead, serve, help. This principle has carried Kari Lintuvuori, now retiring, on his career from a helper to a foreman. In his 45-year career, mainly in Pansio, he has seen many changes in his line of work, and the business in general. Now he is passing on the know-how of a Service Advisor to future experts.

In August 2020, foreman Kari Lintuvuori retired from his job at Stairon’s aluminium department. He has not left Pansio, however. In his new role as a senior advisor, he helps the new supervisory staff. His long career has taught that tacit knowledge must be passed on to the successor.

“This team is a kind of a brotherhood – I couldn’t just suddenly quit it. It takes me seven minutes to drive from home to work. I need to drop in here every now and then to see how things are going”, Kari Lintuvuori explains.

Senior Advisor – part of Stairon’s strategy

Kari Lintuvuori now serves as a Senior Advisor at Stairon. It means that in his retirement, he is committed to the development of the operation as he passes on his expertise to younger  specialists of the future. The role of the Service Advisor and supporting it are part of Stairon’s strategy. Stairon has many experts with long careers, whose know-how is worth its weight in gold. This so-called tacit knowledge is something the company wants to foster.

Project Director Kalle Ahopelto, who has been receiving advice from Kari Lintuvuori, feels that the help of the Senior Advisor is especially important in his own work.

“It has been easier to join the group with an experienced and skilled person as a guide and advisor. I have received thorough answers to every question I have asked, often accompanied by a story from years past that touches upon the subject.”

Information related to carrying out projects is seen as especially helpful in pushing the work forward.

“The greatest benefit has been Kari’s knowledge of what we must and should take into consideration, or what we should do early enough before the start of the project”, Kalle Ahopelto says.

A man taught by his work

During Kari Lintuvuori’s career, his line of work and the business in general have changed dramatically. For example, in the 1970s, military service was tantamount to resigning, which is why the shipyard refused to hire him afterwards. But being a plucky sort of guy, he walked straight to the shop steward and ended up getting a job at the Pansio factory of Valmet Paper Machines. When there was no more work at the packing plant, Kari Lintuvuori asked the department engineer for other work.

“Much like Rokka in the war novel The Unknown Soldier, I asked if they needed someone who could do the job well. I went to Hall 6 where they needed help in welding beams that were 13 metres long.”

Kari Lintuvuori was interested in welding and he went on to complete the training of a welding advisor at Laitila. After that he was hired to weld sheet metal.

“The helper boy system of the 1970s was practical. You could see what kinds of jobs were interesting and you could learn on the job. Gradually, as my skills increased, I got to do the work on my own.”

The 1990s gave Kari Lintuvuori opportunities to work in projects both in Finland and abroad. Paper machines and wood dryers had to be installed and repaired.

In the 1990s Kari Lintuvuori also noticed inadequacies in work planning at the workshop.

“The products were more complicated, and the tolerances were stricter. Working methods needed to be more systematic, and this was achieved through work planning”, he explains.

The group produces the results

In the late 1990s and early 2000s corporate mergers and deals changed the name of the workplace a few times. First, with the merger of Valmet and Rauma in 1999, production was outsourced, and the name was changed to Metso Paper Turku Works. Then in 2009 Metso sold all the shares of the factory to Stairon.

“At that point, product-based teams were established and I was selected to lead one of them.”

Later he was named foreman. Kari Lintuvuori feels that as foreman, the input of the whole team is the most important.

“It’s the team that produces the result. And the work ethic here is high. The task of the supervisory staff is to supervise, serve, and help”, he says.

Kari Lintuvuori believes that his extensive career experience helped him as a supervisor.

“It is important to understand the big picture and to know how things operate in practice. Taking my own path has been important. The work taught me. During my career I had more than ten different kinds of supervisors, one of whom served as an example to me. I also wanted to be a good example and pass on the tradition”, he says.

Kari Lintuvuori (right) helps project manager Kalle Ahopelto solve challenges faced by a supervisor.

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Stairon gives interns a smooth start in the metal industry

Practical experience is the best teacher when studying for a vocational degree in the metal industry

Stairon wants to support future professionals in the industry by offering students opportunities for internships. Given its long history, the company can guarantee its internees a workplace ringing with knowledge and ability.

Eetu and Santtu are from Turku and are students attending a vocational programme at Ammattiopisto Spesia. They spent six weeks at internships at Stairon learning their trade and accumulating expertise in the field. In the opinion of these young men, their brief stint at Stairon was a fun and educational time. Read further to see what other ideas have come to them during their stay.

Eetu and Santtu got many valuable lessons from project manager Aaro Kivistö.

How did you end up in the metal industry?

Eetu: My interest in the metal industry came from my grandfather who worked for 50 years as a metalworker at a shipyard. He had his own workshop in his garage, and we did a lot of metalwork together there.

Santtu: My father did metalwork at a plant in Taalintehdas. He sparked my interest in the metal industry.

How was work at Stairon?

Eetu: I have really enjoyed my time here! I got to work with some great colleagues at Stairon. The place has a good vibe. I always got help and advice.

Santtu: This is a nice place to work, and the atmosphere is great! I get help whenever I need it. This is why I would also be interested in applying for a permanent job at Stairon in the future.

What did you learn during your internship?

Eetu: The internship has taught me a lot about serial production and manufacturing, covering the entire course of the process from the first steps to the final finishing.

Santtu: I’ve learned a lot about production work. It’s been great to try a variety of different tasks.

What has been the coolest part of your job?

Eetu: I can’t pick out just one thing as so much has happened. My entire internship has been cool!

Santtu: It’s been great to see the paper machinery equipment being produced. It was interesting to hear my colleagues describe how these machines work.

What would you like to do next?

Eetu: I still have a year left in my studies. After that, I would like to get a job, of course. However, the goal before that would be to find a summer job in the field, perhaps even here at Stairon.

Santtu: Next spring, I will graduate from school, and I plan to apply for jobs in the metal industry after that.

Interested in an internship at Stairon? Send us a message and tell us more about yourself!

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Rope work in the exhaust pipes of cruise ships

Imagine a worksite 30 metres in length, and 120 to 140 cm in diameter. The temperature is +40 degrees, and the amount of light is zero. In addition, the workspace is vertical, so the work is carried out hanging on ropes. This is what the worksite of Marko Lipponen, a long-term Stairon employee, has been like for years. He maintains ship exhaust pipes on cruise ships around the world.

– ‘Our job is to go through the ship’s most difficult spot. We work while hanging on ropes,’ Marko Lipponen relates.

Safety first, says Marko Lipponen.

‘The exhaust pipe, or the funnel, can only be accessed from the top of the funnel or through a small manhole opened at the foot of the funnel.

– ‘Experience has shown that, when working in the funnel, it is easier to proceed from the bottom up than coming down the chimney.’

Machinery and men are lowered into the exhaust pipe using ropes. Work is carried out both by hanging on a harness and on top of a work platform lowered down the funnel.

– ‘Once the working method is clarified and learnt, working inside the funnel goes well. I haven’t suffered from claustrophobia or fear of the dark. Working on a harness easily tires the backs of your thighs, but fortunately many tasks can be performed on a platform, where you can stand.’

Occupational safety is imperative

Men working inside the exhaust pipes of cruise ships are trained to rope work. They have been taught by, among others, the mountain climbing specialist Ari Piela, who is the first person to have climbed Mt. Everest from the Tibetan side.

– ‘We were given very good training in rope work in Pansio. We carefully studied different sorts of lifting styles, knot fastenings and lowering devices. There are always several men on the site to ensure that everything’s in order and that the work is done safely,’ Marko Lipponen adds.

Since occupational safety is carefully managed and the work is well-planned, no occupational accidents have occurred under the difficult conditions.

– ‘Of course, with the manholes open, the draught in a long stack is strong. Because of this, fairly large amounts of debris come loose from the funnel walls, which then keep on falling into your eyes and ears. Good safety equipment have saved us from them as well.’

In Marko Lipponen’s view, the high temperature in the workspace is something that should be taken seriously.

– ‘The exhaust pipe is as hot as a furnace. Plenty of water must be taken along, and the work shifts must be divided into working periods of a few hours each, so that you don’t get totally exhausted in the smokestack.’

Seven times across the Atlantic

Marko Lipponen has been working in Pansio for 30 years. He began the rope work on cruise ship exhaust pipes in 2014. Since then, he has become familiar with the world’s seas.

He made his first trips to Australia. Since then, he has been working a lot on American cruise ships in the Caribbean.

– ‘One year I crossed the Atlantic seven times. As part of my work, I’ve also sailed round South America and visited Alaska,’ he says.

He has been happy with travel work.

– ‘I’ve never had the feeling that I should change jobs,’ he laughs.

When travelling around the world, he has noticed that working in different cultures requires a lot of patience and adaptability in particular.

– ‘Even though we plan the work carefully before leaving Pansio, we always encounter some surprises at the site. And even if we we’re operating on the vessels of the same shipping company, they may have major differences in the working cultures and systems. On board a ship, it is always the captain who makes the decisions.’

The work has also made Marko accustomed to fast departures. Normally, the trips are well-planned and scheduled, but Marko remembers that there have been times when he has had to take off at two hours’ notice.

During the coronavirus pandemic, all travel work has been suspended. But Marko has his mind set on the seas of the world – even in his free time.

– ‘I had planned that I would celebrate my 50th birthday by taking a Caribbean cruise. But we can’t get there right now. Now I have to celebrate my birthday on the riverboat Jokke or the ferry Föri,’ he chuckles.

Something old, something new – Introducing Antti!

Antti Reivonen (MSc – Tech) joined Stairon as Sales Director and member of the company board on September 7th 2020. In addition to sales and new customer acquisitions, Antti is also responsible for the development of marketing and customer-specific sales processes.

Antti is excited about his new position:

“I’m so proud and very appreciative of the opportunity Stairon has given me in serving as its sales director. I have over ten years of work experience in the metal industry, especially in production and quality development capacities, and I think this experience is valued at Stairon.  My new position gives me an opportunity to challenge myself, and I bring my know-how and expertise in product manufacturing and improving producibility to Stairon and, in particular, its customers.

Stairon has made a quantum leap as a company over the past few years, with its youthful, motivated team, so I’m looking forward to tackling future challenges and working with customers.”

Antti was previously employed by Stairon in 2013-2016, when he worked on production development and quality management systems. Over the past 5 years, Antti performed a wide range of quality management and process development tasks at Sandvik in Turku, dealing with the manufacturing of heavy-duty mining machinery.

Stairon’s CEO Timo Kylä-Nikkilä is very happy with the choice of the new sales director and the return of an old colleague:

“It’s so nice to have Antti back in the fold, both as an old co-worker, but even more so because of his strong expertise. The sale of Stairon services requires a great deal of expertise in industrial production, thus allowing us to serve our customers with the highest standard of quality and develop optimally effective solutions for them.”