60 years of machine building

A pioneer in engineering workshop operations since 1960

This is how it all began. In September 1960, Pentti and Pauli Virtanen founded a company named Toijalan Teräsvalmiste, Veljekset Virtanen (which can be translated as Toijala Steel Products, Virtanen Brothers). According to the Trade Register, the company’s business was engineering workshop operations and it was domiciled in the Borough of Toijala. The new company initially focused on making heavy iron and steel structures and transport containers for the precast concrete factories that flourished in response to the Finnish building boom of the 1960s. Large molds were introduced to meet the demand, making it possible to cast entire room walls at one time. They became the success product of the decade.

In the early 60s the business expanded into other areas, too, such as pipes, pressure vessels, valves and the steel blades required in woodworking. A symbiotic group of five companies, closely tied to each other in their accounting, grew up around Toijalan Teräsvalmiste. However, in the mid-1960s, the group faced challenges due to bankruptcies and management disputes, all of which placed great strain on the finances of the main company.

The financial situation improved when Toijalan Teräsvalmiste won an order from the Helsinki Haka Construction Cooperative for delivery of the production technology of its Vantaa precast concrete factory. The order was the largest in the company’s history and required new product development and investments. A model for a battery mold line was sought from the Soviet Union where standardized serial production was more advanced.

Specialization leads to internationalization

This delivery signaled a breakthrough for Toijalan Teräsvalmiste. It meant that the company was now not only profiled as a supplier of precast concrete production technology, but had also proven itself in delivering both large projects and new, sole products. So it began to specialize in machinery, equipment and factory deliveries for the precast concrete industry and relinquished the valve and pressure vessel business. New workshops were built in Toijala and the administration was modernized. The company became a limited partnership, the pricing and accounting were renewed, and budget and cost monitoring were introduced.

Finland’s machinery and equipment exports were growing by the end of the 1960s. The specialization decision meant that Toijalan Teräsvalmiste also had to find new markets abroad, which they pursued through the Elematic trademark. The first export deliveries went to Iraq, Sweden and the Federal Republic of Germany (the former West Germany).

By early 1970, exports accounted for a significant share of the company’s business, and a German subsidiary, Finn Elematic Baugeräte GmbH (FE), had been established. A couple of years later, there were 70 precast concrete factories in Central Europe whose precast units had been made using Toijala’s machinery and equipment. By 1973 as much as one third of the company’s net sales originated from exports. Competitiveness was boosted not only by the high quality of the products, but also by favorable currency exchange rates and efficiency improvement measures.

The order received by Toijalan Teräsvalmiste from Helsinki Haka quickly became a legend because, as the story goes, it was based on a price per kilo of machinery, regardless of exactly what machines were to be developed and delivered!”

Merging with Partek

In 1973, Toijalan Teräsvalmiste was merged with the metal industry business unit (later known as PK-Teräsvalmiste) of the Paraisten Kalkki Group (later known as Partek). Partek’s acquisition guaranteed that Toijalan Teräsvalmiste would have additional resources to fulfil two large precast concrete unit factory orders assigned by the German Democratic Republic (the former East Germany) – orders that were easily the largest that the company had ever received. Partek, on the other hand, believed the acquisition would benefit them by enabling diversification into precast concrete unit production. However, the mid-1970s recession in Finland kept PK-Teräsvalmiste’s domestic sales low.

Fortunately, this was soon compensated by exports which, towards the end of the 1970s, thrived due to the expansion of the construction market in the Middle East and significant orders from Eastern Europe. As a result, PK-Teräsvalmiste increasingly manufactured for export, and growth was based particularly on package deliveries. The largest export orders were fulfilled in the workshops at Toijala, whose production facilities had been augmented accordingly. The positive outlook led to the establishment of the company’s own export organization, Partek Machines Ltd., which allowed Toijala to focus on product engineering and production, rather than marketing.

Separation of responsibilities – the birth of Toijala Works

The 1980s saw yet more renewal. Workshop operations, engineering and sales, which had all been in the same organization since the 1973 merger of Toijalan Teräsvalmiste with Partek, were now separated into their own business units. Elematic Engineering (EE) became responsible for engineering and marketing, while Toijala Works took responsibility for production and matters related to project management. Consequently, a customer-supplier relationship arose between Elematic Engineering and Toijala Works, with the latter mainly fulfilling precast concrete industry orders for Elematic Engineering. But also significant for Toijala Works were the rockwool industry machinery orders fulfilled for Rockwool AB, a subsidiary of Partek. Interestingly, one of Partek’s most successful sales assets of the 1980s was the Variax hollow core slab technology developed in the early 1970s by Toijalan Terävalmiste.

Toijala Works becomes an independent enterprise in the 1990s

As the 1980s drew to a close, many of Partek’s business units were incorporated. Thus in 1989, Toijala Works became a separate business entity, Toijala Works Oy (Toijala Works Ltd), which meant that it could operate independently and also seek assignments from outside Partek. A goal was set in 1992 that, within three years, Toijala Works would no longer be Partek’s internal workshop, but that half of its customers would have no Partek background. The outsourcing boom of the 1990s made a growth of business possible and the target achievable. At the time, Toijala Works was one of the first subcontracting workshops in Finland to offer sufficient capacity to handle large outsourcing assignments. Net sales doubled to approximately EUR 14 million by the end of the decade. But Toijala Works’ significance to Partek as a strategic partner had diminished, due to the latter’s new customers. Therefore Partek sold Toijala Works in 1997 to its operating management in an MBO (management buyout) transaction.

Ups and downs of the new millennium

The early 2000s were a time of strong economic growth generally, and also for Toijala Works, which won numerous large outsourcing contracts. Midway through the decade, Tana Oy outsourced the production of its landfill compactors and waste shredders to Toijala Works, and Cargotec did likewise with its Kalmar log stackers. Later, the log stacker became Toijala Works’ own product when the log stacker business and related product rights were acquired from Cargotec Finland Oy in 2013.

In 2004, Toijala Works was acquired by the SKS Group and its name changed to SKS Toijala Works. It continued to operate independently at Toijala, however, and acquired Viiala Konepaja (Viiala Works) in 2005, thus adding to its capacity to respond to increasing demand. But all changed in the fall of 2008 when the longest economic recession in Finland’s history began. SKS Toijala Works’ business shrank drastically and profitability weakened. The situation turned up only in the 2010s when the company’s cooperation with the Patria Group expanded due to the latter’s sale of AMVs (armored modular vehicles) to Sweden. In 2018, Toijala Works again became an independent enterprise due to mergers and acquisitions affecting the SKS Group. Its ownership did not change, however, as TWP Group Oy (formerly SKS Group Oy) continued as the Toijala Works’ principal shareholder. More information about the TWP Group is given here.

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