The forest machine company Ponsse Corporation celebrated its 45th anniversary last year. This family business continues to be based in Vieremä, the small town in the Northern Savonia region of Finland where founder
Einari Vidgrén originally established the company to build a more durable and stronger forest harvesting machine for his own requirements, and where the 11,000th harvesting machine rolled off the assembly line in spring of this year.
“Einari was still personally involved at the early stages of designing our new Scorpion harvester in 2010. He told us to brook no compromise and aim to create the best harvester on the market, so we took a substantial risk with Scorpion by making the leap to an entirely new level of timber harvesting technology. Some 80 per cent of the technology applied in this harvester was completely new,” explains Ponsse technology and R&D director
Inberg also observes that the shallow hierarchy of this family business and the hands-on approach of its owners have clearly strengthened the company’s operations, with decisions made swiftly and straightforwardly when the owners, R&D and manufacturing departments all work together on the same premises.
“Our core competencies are entirely within our own hands, and we have always felt that direct hiring is the right way to bring in the required skills and people. Another major difference that sets us apart from our two main competitors is that they are large international corporations in which the forestry machinery business is only a small part of overall Group operations. By contrast, we focus solely on forest machines designed for the cut-to-length system,” Inberg says.
The cut-to-length system is a Nordic approach to the logging process that involves cutting the tree trunk to the dimensions required for its eventual use. While the technique is currently only applied in about 20 per cent of the world’s timber harvesting, this proportion is growing. Its benefits include high labour productivity and environmental friendliness, enabling precise and economical use of wood even from smaller holdings.
Ponsse is currently the world’s second-largest operator in its field, with a market share of about 26 per cent. Its principal market areas are Finland, Sweden, Russia, Germany, France and North and South America, and the company has 11 subsidiaries around the world.
AT THE FOREFRONT OF TECHNOLOGICAL PROGRESS
Innovation is one of the values of Ponsse Corporation, and the company invests heavily in R&D. Inberg explains that the company’s customers are intimately involved in its R&D programmes, with all new products tested by end users before transitioning to production.
“Our standard practice is to create a prototype as quickly as we can. We then let the customer try it out in practice and tell us how it performs. Only after this concept stage can we proceed with commercialisation.”
Inberg stresses that ergonomics and the driver’s ability to cope with the work are a key design principle. The principal consideration applied in the Scorpion harvester, which entered regular production in 2014, was to place the vehicle operator literally at the centre point of the machine in order to optimise visibility and manoeuvrability. The Scorpion features advanced levelling and stabilising systems that help the machine to remain stable and keep the operator’s cab horizontal in all types of terrain. Ponsse also has patent applications pending for the associated technologies.
“Innovation involves taking risks. This is the only way to develop anything that is completely new."
-Juha Inberg, Technology and R&D Director, Ponsse
“Forestry machines using the cut-to-length system have long represented the most advanced technology applied in the working machine sector. We introduced the first measuring device for controlling cutting in a harvester model back in 1986, and in 1993 we deployed the first PC-based solution. Information has been directly exchanged between the harvester and the forestry company ever since,” Inberg explains.
One advantage that Ponsse enjoys is that the company has developed its own proprietary information system products since the very beginning. The corporate group includes the technology company EPEC based in Seinäjoki, which manufactures PCs and controller modules for harvesters.
Another example of innovation was the eightwheeled harvester launched by Ponsse in 2009.
“We originally aimed the eight-wheeled harvester at the Central European market, but with the global trend towards harvesting timber on increasingly steep slopes, we have found that this model now accounts for some 80 per cent of the harvesters that we sell. An even distribution of weight also minimises pressure on the ground, which is important for reducing environmental damage, especially when harvesting in softer terrain.”
Juha Inberg, Technology and R&D Director, Ponsse
PRODUCTIVITY, RELIABILITY AND ENVIRONMENTAL VALUES
Inberg explains that besides ergonomics and comfortable operation, the motivation for R&D in forestry machinery includes pressure to improve productivity, energy efficiency and reliability.
“A high machine-utilisation rate and reliability under all conditions – from the biting cold of Siberia to the sweltering heat of Brazil – are naturally essential, and we should also minimise fuel consumption. The latest releases in our model ranges are also largely setting the standard under increasingly strict emissions regulation for diesel engines in Europe. Interest in biofuels, bio-oils and eco-friendly cooling fluids has also increased, influencing trends in engine technology.”
Inberg notes an increasing worldwide emphasis on greater environmental responsibility, even in bidding-stage specifications.
The entire Ponsse range was re-launched in 2015 with a completely new design and appearance. The leading star of the new range is the Scorpion, which has won awards for innovation and design. The company has already shipped more than two hundred of these stateof- the-art harvesters.
The company’s basic harvester range currently comprises a total of 21 product families. All products are manufactured to order and customized with an individual selection of requested features.