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Oy Leinolat Ab Celebrates its 60th Anniversary – the Family Company Founded by Two Friends has Expanded into a Global Group

Oy Leinolat Ab Celebrates its 60th Anniversary – the Family Company Founded by Two Friends has Expanded into a Global Group


Oy Leinolat Ab turned 60 on June 4th, 2022. The Vaasa-based Leinolat Group has over the last decades grown both organically and through acquisitions. Today, the group includes five family companies: Leimec, Kilkanen, T-DRILL, Uwira and Bobi.com. Together the companies provide demanding products and services in the metal industry for global customers domestically and internationally.

Dreams About an Own Sheet Metal Bending Machine and a Hunger for Work – the Foundation for the Young Entrepreneurs

Unto Leinola and Karl-Erik Bertell, who met each other at work sites around Vaasa, founded Rakennuspeltisepät Leinolat & Kumpp./Byggnadsplåtslagare Leinolat & Co. June 4th, 1962. The first workshop was at Unto's backyard in Kotiranta, Vaasa. The two partners installed and repaired rain gutters and tin roofs. During winters they also removed snow from roofs.

In the group's 50th anniversary publication, Ritva Leinola, Unto's wife and long-time colleague at Oy Leinolat Ab, discusses the company's background as follows:

"It all started with Unto's dream of an own bending machine. After working long hours, often seven days a week, we were able to acquire one." Sheet metal expertise was essential in HVAC contracting, which was the main business of the company in the 60's and 70's. In 2016, the strategy of Leinolat Group and its companies was revised and aligned. HVAC contracting was then sold to the managing director of that company.

In 1979, Leinolat made a bold internationalization move. With growth in mind, the company shipped machinery and built a production site in Baghdad, Iraq. The workforce consisted of 10 – 15 Finnish employees at a time, with the addition of local employees. The Finnish employees, having barely travelled to Sweden before, went with an open mind to work far from home in the Middle East. After about four years, the war between Iran and Iraq put all construction works in the region on halt, resulting in Leinolat having to cease operations in Iraq. Despite heavy negotiations, the entire machinery had to be left behind to the Iraqi government. "This time in Iraq did not make us rich but we returned home with plenty of experience under our belts", Ritva Leinola states in the 50th anniversary publication.

In the late 1980's, the company started manufacturing ventilation products for large engine-based power plants. Tight project schedules required innovation and product development. Installations on-site had to be fast and smooth, often under very challenging conditions, and at the same time keeping high quality. To meet these requirements, Leinolat, together with the main customer, developed easy to install module-based ventilation systems for power plants. This development in the early 1990's is a prime example of the willingness and ability of Leinolat Group to readjust operations to respond to their customers' needs. The ventilation modules were already at this time delivered to power plants all over the world. Unto Leinola personally visited Jamaica to confirm the quality and functionality and, above all, to make sure that the end customer was satisfied.

The beginning of the 1990's was a phase of organic growth. In 1991, Leinolat manufactured the first Bobi mailboxes. Today, more than 30 years later, this business is still growing and Bobi mailboxes and the new cargo boxes are shipped from the same factory all over the world, Japan being the largest market.

Since September 1st, 2022 Bobi.com is now also a part of Leinolat Group, after an acquisition where Leinolat bought an additional 80% of the shares in the company from the founders Lehtimäki Holding.

The 2000's: A Generational Shift, Acquisitions and Controlled Growth

In the turn of the millennium, Raimo Leinola was leading the group towards a more complete range of services and growth through a series of acquisitions. The first company to join Leinolat Group was Uwira, which specializes in designing and manufacturing process pipes and pressure vessels for the energy and marine industries. In 2009, the group purchased Kilkanen Oy, a company with decades of experience in precision machining. Around the same time, Leinolat Group formed its current group structure, separated production from the parent company and founded Leimec Oy.

Until 2013, Leinolat Group's business was mainly focused on energy and marine industries. A major shift took place when the group purchased T-DRILL, a company specializing in solutions for tube and pipe end forming, cutting and collaring.

— This acquisition was significant because it doubled our turnover and expanded the services we provide outside energy and marine industries. T-DRILL's own products and solutions are annually sold to over 50 countries, with an export share of over 95 percent. In my understanding, this puts T-DRILL in the top of Finnish SMEs, at least in this spectrum, says Lars-Erik Schöring, Leinolat Group's CEO since 2016.

In 2015, the group turned again their attention overseas as Kilkanen, together with an Indian business associate, formed a joint venture company in Pune, India. The 3-year venture became another learning point for the group. After the delay of an international main customer's train factory, Kilkanen decided to pull out and sold its shares of the joint venture factory to the local partner in 2018.

In 2020, the group received excellent news when Kilkanen Oy signed the agreement to purchase a part of Wärtsilä's Vaasa factory's engine block manufacturing. The outsourcing of the manufacturing of this key component to Kilkanen marked a new milestone for the already long-standing partnership. This transaction also triggered the largest investment decision in the group's history, as the machining center required new facilities. In the fall of 2021, Kilkanen's new production facilities were ready and the transfer of all the production equipment was completed with the transfer of an engine block machining center to Vaskiluoto, next door to the also newly-established Wärtsilä Sustainable Technology Hub.

The Group's Corporate Culture is Based on Partnerships

Leinolat Group's corporate culture has always been based on partnerships. As evident from the acquisitions in the 2000's, the group has targeted and reached growth by expanding their operations into different fields of business that still align with each another. The partnerships include lengthy co-operations with customers and business partners as well as the co-operation between the companies in the group. Long-standing partnerships are characteristic of Leinolat Group and an important part of the business. Listening to the customers' wishes and constantly developing solutions to meet their needs has ensured that the company has been in business for 60 years.

Strategic planning is a vital part of the companies' operations and an important tool for the Board of Directors. In the fall of 2021, the group's strategy was clarified and sharpened to outline a common course of actions. The strategy is based on the group's values: teamwork, trust and transparency and the corporate vision: to be a value-adding business partner towards a sustainable future.

The group recognizes that employee satisfaction is the key to customer satisfaction and invests in it by, e.g., supporting the career development of the employees. The group enables the combination of work and studies as well as the smooth transitioning between tasks inside the group. To ensure a healthy work-life balance, the group offers employees different benefits for sports and well-being.

What Has Changed Over the Past 10 Years?

The needs of customers have changed over the past 10 years. Customers are now looking for more complete solutions that are developed with the specific customer needs in mind. Even though the majority of the group's turnover still comes from standard products, larger projects and complete solutions have gained considerably more ground during the last years.

Leinolat Group and personnel are known for straightforward communication and the ability to find sustainable and cost-effective solutions for the customers. Today, the life cycle approach is a central aspect of product design and optimizing the life cycle costs and carbon footprint are essential when designing complete solutions. The lowest investment cost is not always the main criteria, especially when it comes to comprehensive solutions: many times, some Euros spent up-front ensures sustainability and lowers life cycle costs.

Leinolat Group in the Future

Leinolat Group's turnover will reach €35M this year. Together the companies employ over 220 people. The group's business is driven by common values: trust, teamwork, transparency and never-ending curiosity and the belief in the possibility of doing things even better, both for customers and inside the group.

— We will be basing our operations on these values also in the future. When we continue listening to our customers and developing our products and activities, I am personally convinced, that no matter what happens around us, our future will be as good as our great history! This is all made possible by the most important asset of our company, our motivated, highly skilled personnel, concludes Lars-Erik Schöring, the CEO of Leinolat Group.

Leinolat Group celebrated its anniversary with the entire personnel on September 3rd, 2022. 

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