How Long Until a Totally-electric Off-highway World?

While the industry’s attention often seems focused on fossil-free steel as a solution to climate change, a growing number of innovative companies – both established and startups – are solving the other, bigger problem: the generation of CO2 over heavy equipment’s lifetime.

No one disagrees that fossil-free steel is a good idea. It’s even a great idea. Governments and industry alike are rallying around the cause, and there are two separate initiatives alone in Europe to produce steel without CO2 emissions.

Fortaco, as well, is part of these initiatives. Attacking the problem in its infancy is an important project, but what’s often forgotten in our excitement about green steel is that the problem has a dimension of much bigger magnitude, and that big problems require big solutions that address the problem from a variety of angles.

In 2021, Carbon Brief, the UK-based website covering climate science, mapped 553 steel plants and found them responsible for nine percent of global CO2 emissions. While creating green steel is of critical importance, in the grand scheme of things the vehicles that use that steel over their lifetimes will generate far more CO2 than the production of the steel itself.

The transport sector alone generates 22.3 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, not to mention the off-highway sector, the massive machines that build the infrastructure that enable the transport sector to exist. “As a society, we’re actively attacking the problem in the cradle when it comes to CO2 emissions,” says Dr. Rafał Sornek, SVP Technology and Zero Emission Solutions at Fortaco, “when a much larger problem comes from a lifetime of carbon generated by the equipment that steel goes into. What many don’t know is that that problem is also actively being addressed, and the industry is a lot further along with a solution than many are aware.”

Electric experiments

How close are we to totally eliminating CO2 emissions in off-highway? No one has a definitive answer, but there are lots of companies asking the right questions.

Artisan Vehicle Systems is a California startup which caught the eye of the industry by demonstrating electric possibilities in underground mining early on with this 2016 video. AVS, which was acquired by Sandvik in 2019, enables zero underground emissions, produces less noise and heat, and does not require the addition of large infrastructure or power systems for a mine. Theoretically, provided it can be applied at the scale required, it enables massive savings on ventilation costs, the biggest source of power costs for underground mines.

Through its Electric Site Research Project, Volvo Construction Equipment and Skanska have imagined how a fossil-free worksite might look and built the world's first emission-free quarry. Their objective to electrify every transport stage in a quarry: excavation, primary-, and secondary crushing. Tests, they claim, show a 98-percent reduction in carbon emissions, 70 percent reduction in energy costs, and 40 percent lower operator costs — which gives them the confidence to predict a total 25 percent reduction in total cost of operations.

If AVS imagined an electric mine, and Volvo built a complete utopian vision, where are we now and how far is the industry at large from adopting it? One glimpse at the current reality may be seen at the cargo handling solutions company, Kalmar.

Kalmar leads the way

"Electric machines are not new," explains Per-Erik Johansson, Technology Manager Electrification at Kalmar. "We've had forklifts with up to nine tons of lifting capacity since the 1980s. From 2010 to 2015, we also developed forklifts with a lifting capacity of up to 18 tons. Lead acid technology was used, and we increased the system voltage to 120 volts to manage the higher power need. We didn't go to high voltage because the components and systems weren't available. In those days, there was still little focus on zero emissions and the CO2 footprint, but we knew that would come. By the end of 2010s, technologies had developed that permitted the needed power and fast charging of big machines, and so we began researching them. It's amazing how fast things can change."

Kalmar is a part of Cargotec and supplies cargo handling solutions and services to ports, terminals, distribution centers, industrial and heavy industry. With around two billion euros in sales worldwide, the company offers one of the most accurate reflection of the market reality for electric machines. Johansson says almost half of the small- or medium-sized machines Kalmar sells are electric, the rest diesel. "Our bigger machine market share is in starting phase. Orders are in, and pilot customers are eager to get started. We see huge potential — and the slow takeover from diesel."

Johansson says big questions for customers are total productivity and total cost of ownership (TCO). When it makes financial sense, it's then just a matter of growing your mindset. "In the beginning, I myself was skeptical of an electric reach stacker weighing 150 tons. But when you start thinking about it and drill down into what needs to be in place, you realize that it's possible for container handling, too." The barriers are simply disappearing. "Five years ago, we had maybe 10 to 15 percent of customers who believed in electric. Today, 80 or 90 percent say they'll go electric."

Changing mindsets

Those mindsets are changing across the entire supply chain, too.

Johansson cites batteries as an example of how fast things change. "Three or four years ago we were engaged in picking a battery supplier that would be the best for our applications. Now, three years later, there's a new battery technology that almost doubles the energy content and performance, all at half the price. It used to be hard to find a supplier. Now they're standing in line."

Customers are another force driving the change, he says. Diesel customers, who once dominated the business, are thinking differently now. "Diesel customers used to be only capex oriented. They looked at the purchase price of the machine. They didn’t see opex part of the picture because diesel was a cheap fuel. But now, when we see diesel and gas prices climbing, it highlights the biggest difference in TCO: the price of diesel versus electricity.”

Regulatory and taxation are a third force in the mix. The European Commission’s proposal to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 percent by 2030 is an influencer. And taxation at least equally so. “To be able to reach this target we need to replace the dirty diesel vehicles now, or actually yesterday,” Johansson says, “since the lifetime of a machine is roughly 20 years.”

Johansson says the industry foresees future taxation on CO2, which means diesel. “Also,” he adds, “electricity is at least twice as efficient as diesel, if you look at the entire chain from energy content in diesel to movement of machine compared to the energy you need to put in electric.”

Buy since sometimes electricity is simply not available, Johansson points out that a fossil-free diesel substitute is an option. Kalmar's HVO100 (Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil), for example, can reduce CO2 emissions in off-highway equipment by up to 90 percent.

Diesel won’t die

For the foreseeable future, diesel will continue to make sense for many applications, especially those in the off-highway segments where the job sites are far, far off-highway. But diesel does not have to be your grandfather's diesel, either, as proved by a startup in Austria called Xelectrix Power.

Recognizing that many applications run diesel generators at inefficient load curves or have high start-up peaks, Xelectrix uses peak shaving to allow a generator to operate in optimal range, reducing fuel consumption by 40 percent and maintenance costs by half. Xelectrix adds a parallel platform technology, attaching a power box to supplement the generator. They offer four ranges of boxes, the largest in a 20-foot container with maximum 150 kW/320-480 kWh.

“When we hybridize a diesel generator, we plug ourselves into it, telling it to work harder,” says Shaun Montgomery, Xelectrix's Chief Sales Officer. “A generator running at 90 percent capacity is more efficient than one running at 40 percent. You need less fuel to produce a kilowatt-hour when a generator has a load factor of between 85 to 95 percent. So you take a load, store the excess power in the batteries, and switch off the generator when the batteries are full. Run it efficiently or not at all.”

Xelectrix has created battery storage with power electronics, with a bi-directional hybrid frequency inverter at the heart, capable of pushing and pulling power, converting AC to DC and back again. "It has a grid-forming ability," says Montgomery. "When the grid fails, we create one, and photovoltaic, say, continues to work. PV looks after the load, and when more is produced than needed, it goes to the batteries."

Xelectrix has created a massive, fuel-efficient, power pack that can power major job sites in both on- and off-grid situations.

Montgomery likens current times to undergoing another industrial revolution. "We've used diesel generators for well over one hundred years, and the energy crisis is forcing people to think about volts, kilowatts, and kilowatt hours. The mentality switch is happening extremely fast. On the construction side, if you're not knowledgeable about how the regulations for building in cities are changing, if you don't understand CO2 offset taxes, well you better get up to speed."

Lighter materials

As technologies like Xelectrix’s enable industry to move closer to a zero-emissions mode, never has the weight of those vehicles been more important.

“Every kilogram of steel you save creates leverage in terms of reduction in the size of the battery,” says Fortaco’s Rafał Sornek. “Batteries are a significant part of capex, even when you consider falling prices.”

Sornek says many of Fortaco customers are asking for help in redesigning streel structures and cabins in the new electric versions of their machinery. “Once you begin the work of redesign, weight reduction is a natural part of it.” But he cautions that Tier 0.5 and Tier 1 suppliers should not wait on OEMs to supply the answers.

“The transition to zero emission solutions requires coordinated effort by all the players in the off-highway industry. But it requires also change in mindset of Tier 0.5 and Tier 1 suppliers who need to be involved in developing technologies and solutions much more intensively than in more stable times.”

Changing mindsets

To assist in the battle to win hearts and minds for electric solutions, Fortaco has formed a unit called Technology and Zero Emission Solutions, which Sornek now heads. “It’s a unit dedicated to supporting our customers on their journey to zero-emissions solutions,” he says.

On the technology side, the unit is charged with taking care of organic growth, including research on fossil-free steel applications and novel HVAC systems suited for electric vehicles. But it will also actively scan the market for partnerships and M&A opportunities in areas that can support Fortaco customers with zero-emissions objectives. “For any of our customers who on a journey to zero-emissions solutions,” says Sornek, “it’s our unit who can help take them there.”

Emotional quotient

EQ for Tough Guys: Should Manufacturing Professionals Show Feelings?

Should manufacturing pros be as calm, cool, and collected as robots on the factory floor? Or should they embrace their feelings?

"Must. Suppress. Rage!" is how this century’s best-known engineer, Homer Simpson, deals with his emotions. (He also has attempted to buy feelings: "Six feelings with extra cheese…”). Lucky for Simpson he lives in Springfield, because he would not likely get far at Fortaco, where there is a growing effort to embrace emotional intelligence (EI) and what it can do for the workplace.

Like the intelligence quotient (IQ), there is growing recognition that we all have an EQ, an emotional quotient. The EQ, like the IQ, centers at 100, and 68 percent of the population will fall between 85 and 115, within one standard deviation of 15. Some people are more emotionally savvy, others less. (Homer Simpson's IQ is 58; his EQ surely not much different.)

If IQ measures raw intelligence, then EQ measures how well we understand and use our feelings, which has direct impact in industry. “Feelings drive behavior, and what we say and do impact the results,” explains Dr. Margareta Sjölund, Founder and Chief Psychologist at EQ Europe. When it comes to manufacturing professionals, Sjölund is not naïve. "We’re not asking people to let it all hang out, or to be emotional or cry. But we are asking people to recognize their feelings, understand them, and put them to work — because that generates results.”

Fortaco’s EQ experiment

In January 2021, Fortaco management selected 25 key managers for confidential testing using EQ Europe’s EQ-i2.0 inventory. The test measures emotional intelligence along 15 social/emotional competencies, including stress management, self-awareness, confidence, self-expression, impulsiveness, and assertiveness.

Participating managers received a report during a consultation, and then two hours per month over six months of counseling and team training, so that they might improve their EI. One year later, in January 2022, the 25 participants EQ skills were measured again.

There was statistical and numerical improvement, an increase in all 15 variables measured. But does numerical improvement equate to improvement in real life?


Not all Fortaco managers embraced the program with equal enthusiasm.

Joanna Lesicka, Fortaco's Director, Steel Fabrication, Sourcing & Group Finance Business Control, was already aware that soft skills matter. "I work in a group position as business controller with six factories in multiple countries, so I know how important cooperation is. And though I’m a zero-one finance person, I consider myself self-aware. Ninety percent of the course was a reminder.”

Still, Lesicka found value in a module about how to behave in situations when opinions drastically differ. "I learned to react in a different way, to say ‘I see your point. But the way you’re making it saddens me, because I take it personally. Is it really that important? I would like us to focus more on developing a solution than talking about what went wrong from your perspective only.’”

Fortaco's General Manager for the Kalajoki business site, Jyri Paavola, was not skeptical of EQ itself, having worked with a personal coach for two years. But Paavola felt the training modules were sometimes misunderstood. "You need smaller groups, more cycles, and it needs to be executed company wide."

He also was perplexed by some of the results. "I was confused because the test result said I wasn’t empathetic. But people who know me would say the opposite. But it was explained to me that this measures whether your behavior was empathetic. You have to express empathy with words. I learned it’s not enough to help, but you need to nod and hug. I don’t know if I can do that, but I know people would like me more if I did.”


Andrzej Wrona, Fortaco Group's Director Operational Excellence, did not need to be persuaded about EI. He has always seen it as a part of daily life. "If you hire the best-in-class engineers without communication skills, without empathy, emotional zeroes, then they’re not good people for you. What good is knowledge if you think everybody who isn’t an engineer is stupid? Those people can’t contribute as much."

After his evaluation and coaching, what changes has he personally made? "I was not communicating with my team enough. Now I take 15 minutes for a one-on-one with each team member each week. We have no specific agenda. It’s about well-being and what they need. We get to know each other as humans. I have been asking them if they find these 15 minutes to be a waste of time, but they say 'No, definitely don’t stop it!'"

Wrona sees the program as only good for the company,and applauds the top-down approach. "We had 25 top people who learned to listen more actively, and that is enough to change a culture. If we communicate downwards in an effective way, then people see it and unconsciously copy it. You can tell welders to listen empathetically, but they’re wondering what’s for dinner. You’ve got to start at top. We’ve tried it before but started lower down. I think that was a mistake."

Becoming an EQ company

Generally everyone, including Fortaco’s skeptics, believe that becoming an EQ company has value, that being a good leader in heavy industry goes well beyond technical skills. “It’s about helping everyone see the individual,” says Sjölund.

Sjölund cites a Cap Gemini study that confirms the need for tech people to develop emotional skills. “This and other studies that show emotional intelligence is the most important thing that employers will look for in the future. To lean on one’s IQ or technical skills will simply not suffice. In the future, many skills will be replaced by AI, and only 10 to 15 percent of work will be attributed to technical- or professional competence. The rest is EI."

This was consistent with the impressions of Fortaco Group's CFO, Kimmo Raunio, who participated in Fortaco’s EQ exercise. "As a curious person, I'm interested in how I behave and why. EI is something you can influence and learn, not something that either exists or doesn't. Since the exercise I've been trying to remain quiet, to listen more, and allow others freedom to lead the discussion. I’m still leading; I’m just stepping back a bit."

Walking the talk

But just because companies recognize the value of EI doesn’t mean they’ll do anything about it. “Seventy percent of people claim to want to improve their EQ,” says Sjölund. “But only one in five companies support their employees in doing that. Over 75 percent of companies say that they can train their people, but it does not get done. Sure, there are written policy documents and company values, but few seem to walk the talk.”

Lars Hellberg, Fortaco’s President and CEO, views emotional intelligence as a critical component of Fortaco’s assets. “A company has three key assets: brand, customers and people,” says Hellberg. “To be successful, you can’t neglect any one of them.” For Hellberg, “people” means roles and responsibility, competitive benefits, and a nice working environment that includes the team and colleagues. “However, what is frequently missed is the individual emotional feeling and situation. Emotional intelligence is very important. If you can recognize that, and openly discuss and develop it, then your emotions and feelings can make a major difference.”

Hellberg has been impressed by the change he’s seen with Fortaco’s top-down approach, and he’s ready to expand it in the organization. “We worked with EQ Europe to understand and improve the individual performance and well-being of our top management. We added regular workshops and individual coaching sessions. And now our next step is to offer the program to middle managers.”

“I see that most of the participants are now more confident, better team players, and enjoy the hard work they do daily,” says Hellberg. “I can only recommend that others join the journey.”

Reflections from the Leadership Team

As we have entered the third quarter of the year, it is a great time to view back, reflect, value the lessons learned and gain some perspective, while proceeding forward on our mission. Fortaco is committed to reshape the industry; the way things are produced, and to the continuous improvement of safety, quality and delivery accuracy for the benefit of our customers and other stakeholders.

Exciting things have happened in the company this year, which have opened new pathways and enabled us to develop our strategy and business plans for the coming years. All Fortaco Business Sites are currently engaged in preparing growth plans and having on-going collaboration - teams have put in great efforts, trust and visions. ”Fortaco team has been able to present good business performance, despite the turbulent supply and cost development situation this year, and reach continuous growth and profitability improvements”, reminds Kimmo Raunio, Senior Vice President & CFO.

Things and situations in the outside world are rapidly changing, but the basics in the industry have not gone anywhere. ”Customers need safe operations, the best quality, and deliveries on time”, points Lars Hellberg, President & CEO.

There seems to be a trend on the market that customers are considering increased levels of outsourcing both for operator cabins and steel structures.”Several new, quite substantial business opportunities for the key customers are being developed”, shares Mikael Persson, Senior Vice President for Customer & Business Development. Also, Fortaco’s KAM team is looking trough plans for Key Accounts/Development Accounts.

In the field of technology, Fortaco portfolio is filled with increasing amount of projects related to zero-emission transformation. Also, situation in Ukraine drives demand for new products and increase in production capacity related to governmental business operations. ”Manufacturing and assembly of battery cages, research on of fossil-free steel, preparation of cabin business for e-mobility transformation are very high on agenda”, says Rafal Sornek, Senior Vice President, Technology.

The Sourcing team has faced some challenges due to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine as the both countries are responsible for the significant share of whole EU steel supplies. The Sourcing team has been continuously monitoring the market and done an excellent job securing needs for Business Sites, despite the increasing demand on various products in the world market, like electronics.

Due to the geopolitical situation, security has become even more important topic this year. The IT team has done great work by implementing new system security solutions, as well as developing additional measures to prevent from external attacks. Implementation of SAP 4/HANA, as well as training and development of core team and key user network are projects ready to be finalized till the end of the year. ”We’d like to express thanks to all of you for your continued trust and faith in our team”, states Krzysztof Michel, Senior Vice President, Sourcing & IT.

Exciting projects are emerging also in People & HR, the team is looking forward to the second half of the year.”Fortaco’s P&HR team has been focusing on recruitment and development activities related to the business growth and expectations of our clients”, says Agnieszka Koziara, Senior Vice President, People & HR. One of the projects is focusing on employer branding to attract also future employees. Aiming our focus on employer branding is something we have found very valuable to understand our people, their expectations towards Fortaco, motivations, and in addition, to get a clear view on how we can improve our processes in HR.

Let us enjoy the last month of the summer, be grateful for our team members, and have our trust in tomorrow.

My Father’s Tuxedo

What my father’s tuxedo and off-highway equipment have in common, and how the Smart Steel organization is fixing the asymmetry of marketplace information.

By Rafał Sornek

I don’t remember exactly what happened to my suit — whether I tore it or spilled something on it – but I was traveling on business and quickly needed a new one for a meeting. I dashed into an airport shop and came out with a black Hugo Boss. I don’t usually wear designer suits, but sometimes even engineers like to look good.

Three years later, my wife and I were invited to a black tie-optional party. About a week before the event she asked to see what I planned to wear. (Even wives of stylish engineers are like that.) When I tried on my Boss suit she just shook her head. While it was only three years old, it had become threadbare in places. She was going nowhere with me in that.

She sent me to the basement to retrieve the suit I’d worn to our wedding. It was my father’s tuxedo from the late 1960s. Not only was I married in it, but he was married in it. After 15 years in storage, it still looked good, though I’d lost a little weight since then and it needed to be taken in. The next day, the tailor was gobsmacked: “Where’d you find such fine fabric? This is designed to last generations!” He made a few alterations, I looked like James Bond, and my wife was proud to be seen with me at the party.

But this isn’t just a story about how good I looked in that suit. It’s about how off-highway equipment and tuxedoes sometimes aren’t much different.

Take the Hugo Boss and my father’s tux, list them both on eBay, and which one is going to command the better price? The Boss, of course, because it’s newer and most conventional pricing models, like straight-line depreciation, value that. (Yes, it’s also got a premium label.) But which is the better garment? Both my tailor and wife can answer that.

It’s the same with off-highway equipment. Take a look at the graph below representing three excavators that a dealer might have on hand to show you.

All three machine are eight years old, were serviced regularly, have nice paint jobs, and are in good working order. You can’t see any differences looking at them, and the dealer maybe doesn’t know or care about their histories. But they’re quite different machines when it comes to fatigue life: the white machine was used for hard rock excavation, the green one for levelling topsoil. If the dealer has that information, he’ll perhaps give you a slightly better price on the white one, but only slightly, because the conventional depreciation model still rules.

So which is the right machine for you? Since you don’t have the information in the graph, it’s impossible for you to know. But if you did have that information, and if you planned to work the machine hard, you’d buy the green one. If you needed the excavator for light farm work, you might negotiate a great price on the white one, and it would serve you very well. But the way things stand now, without information, someone may buy the white machine and be quickly disappointed.

All the information we need is currently collected by OEMs. Sensors on the machines send data, and the type of graph you see on this page can be produced. But it’s not necessarily in the interest of the OEM to share that information, since asymmetry is to their advantage. But individual machine owners could share the information, verify it using blockchain and IoT technologies, and eliminate the asymmetry. And that’s exactly what the Smart Steel organization is doing.

Smart Steel, working with forward-thinking OEMs, is making this information available, though not yet at a massive scale. To make the data really useful, we need you to join the cause. Whether buying a second-hand suit or excavator, knowing the fatigue life of materials is essential to making a good decision.

True, you probably don’t buy a lot of second-hand suits. Even if you are, choosing the wrong one may not have consequences beyond the disapproval of your spouse. But heavy equipment is another matter. Even the best intentions can go wrong when it comes to economics and safety.

Smart Steel is just now getting off the ground. It’s one big black tie-optional data party, and you’re invited. Won’t you join us?

Get Knocked Down, Get Back Up

Johanna Kuisma, Fortaco’s Group Financial Controller, loves contact sports. They’ve taught her a few things about how to approach her professional life.

It might have been the worst time to start a new job. It was March 2020 when Johanna Kuisma joined Fortaco, and the world was going into lockdown. At the same time, she was charged with not only getting to know a new organization, but to bring its financial accounting in house. Either might be formidable in normal times, but doing both remotely was intimidating.

In the first two years of her employment, Kuisma can count the days she's been at the office on her hands and not run out of fingers. "The hardest part is integrating with the team and the company,” she say. “At the office, you can ask quick questions. Where's this? Where's that? But it's hard to do that via Teams.” Luckily, she was able to lean on her teammate, Tuomas Ahvonen, with whom the ice was broken by exchanging GIFs.


Kuisma’s first challenge at Fortaco was leading the effort to consolidate its books. But having just joined the company, she was unfamiliar with the off-highway industry. (Her background was in the financial sector and the electricity business, which have slightly different reporting needs.) Corona meant she could not visit Fortaco’s factories and could not learn the business in the conventional way.

Gathering information from the field, as well as from the firm that had previously done Fortaco’s financial accounting, her task was to harmonize the books from all of Fortaco’s operations, an organization with a dozen offices and factories spread across eight countries with 2,800 employees.

“Harmonized data is peace of mind,” she says. “It means you can trust the numbers and you know where they come from. You can drill down and see what’s behind them. From the big picture perspective it’s the reduction of risk. You get things right the first time and meet the legal requirements. If we get a tax audit, we know there’s no problem. No fines, no bad publicity. Everything is in order.”

Getting knocked down

The consolidation project was supposed to take four months. But due to Corona complexities it took a year and a half. “How'd we do it? I'm not sure,” she laughs. “It was just something that had to be done."

Although it may have been at times frustrating, those type challenges are where Kuisma is most comfortable. She likes to get knocked down every once in a while, both in the workplace as well as in life.

She's been active in contact sports from age 12 when she took up Judo. She’s boxed, kick-boxed, and practiced Krav Maga, the self-defense system developed for the Israel Defense Forces. She also played American football. "I must like getting knocked down since I’ve been doing it so many years," she says. “I like pushing myself to the limit. I'm very proud of finishing this consolidation project which I thought would kill me. Yes, you get knocked down, but I know it’s possible to get back up every time.”

The next round

Kuisma’s next big challenge will be putting together a group accounting manual. Luckily, things are changing and she’s able to be at the office two to three days each week, to meet her coworkers and build more classic professional relationships, which will hopefully mean she’ll be knocked down fewer times.

Opening Kuisma’s LinkedIn profile, it’s clear she is not your typical modest Finn. She is described as ambitious. It reads, I’m a team player with no fear to take the lead. She calls herself The Finance Wizard. But there seems little wizardry involved. Perhaps more stubbornness and resilience. Knowing she’ll never give up until the job is done.

Twenty Years of Transformation

”I am a team player - to build success we need each other. We win business together, we gain experiences in business together.”

A highlight by one of the longtime Fortaco team member, celebrating his anniversary today. Peter Green, Sales Director at Fortaco Group, has spent the last 20 years of his career in partnership with Fortaco. Born and raised in Sweden in a city called Anderstorp he was surrounded by industrial, family owned companies the great part of his early life, spending his summer holidays working for them. Today, he is a very much respected, supportive, and reliable partner among his colleagues and Fortaco.

Time to turn minus to plus

Peter has a wide experience and background in sourcing and sales. His journey started in 2002, when the company was called Omeo Mekaniska Verkstad. Two acquisitions, and one decade later, the company reached its current form as Fortaco. Those years have been full of professional transformation in different departments, experiencing the great expansion and growth of the company, and also meeting his colleagues, with whom he still has a chance to work today.

Was his goal always to work as a sales professional? Not actually. After studying production technology in a university for two years, Peter was heading straight to sourcing, and found himself working as a purchaser twenty years ago. Those years were very beneficial, allowing him to gain wide experience in different departments. ”Rules are the same in sourcing and sales - you must build trust, connect to people, and communicate. Compared to sourcing, sales is just about turning minus to plus”, he smiles.

Due to changes of a production location in 2009, there opened a chance to switch into the area of sales, where Peter has successfully worked over the decade now. He is known as a colleague, always supportive and reliable, while delivering continuously great achievements in his area of expertise.

Meet the wolf

Peter has been working remotely from Sweden for a long time now. The past two years have introduced also to the wider audience the way of working remotely, but for Peter this independent, self-managed way of doing business has been very natural and effective. ”You could say, I am a lonely wolf running in the forest”, he laughs. Such a great image, but not too far from the reality actually. Wolves, being characterized as independent, loyal, and good at communicating, might fit well in the ways of describing Peter.

Obviously, some challenges have been presented because of rapidly changing situations during the past years. Despite of being independent, it has not been a walk in the park, as Peter has not met his colleagues nor customers face to face for two years now. Still, he has been able to introduce new customers and new business to Fortaco unit during the pandemic and spread positive energy to people working with him.

”Peter has a professional, customer driven attitude, and he takes responsibility of his customer cases and drives them smart and confident way until they are successfully closed”, says Erik Gustafsson, Sales Director at Wroclaw factory. Erik has been working with Peter since 2007. ”I find it very valuable to share thoughts and have discussions with Peter, both in good and tough times. He is a role model as a Fortaco persona and following Fortaco’s values.”

Adapt and enjoy

What challenges have taught to Peter are related to staying flexible and keeping eyes on price. Major transformations usually happen when we least expect them, guiding us to adapt to the new ways of problem solving and growth. ”There can be different roads to the same goal, and sometimes the road is not clear, you have to adapt to the situation and environment”, he points out.

Successful sales is about building trust, and in this case the energy of people working in it cannot be underestimated. For Peter, the situation is a beneficial as he really enjoys his work, meeting and contacting people, one way or another. If there were one advice he would like to say to his younger self, that would be the reminder of enjoying the work, as it is the way to keep energy and trust flowing.

Quality, professional colleagues, and a great strategy are the factors that also keep Peter motivated and engaged in his work. Clear, precise targets are something he values greatly and those make his work easier. ”The company and my time in this industry segment are interesting, and so is the Fortaco story - I believe in it and that makes it easy to sell”.

Meeting the current and future requirements

Customers are definitely close to Peter’s heart, and he has a proven way of ensuring their satisfaction: their demands, needs, and expectations must always be met, and if possible, exceeded. One of the most memorable and successful moment was when a client positively highlighted the end result. ”We delivered a cabin exceeding their expectations, the budget was kept, and delivery time as promised. This had not happened with any of their partners before”, Peter tells. ”Fortaco’s units are very committed about their production and what they are selling, and usually customers are very impressed about professionalism and quality.”

Peter is excited about the new investments, and the latest product specialization program, which enables to focus on different product segments. ”I think that is absolutely the right way to move forward, it will really distinguish us in the market.” With a specialized production line, the team is able to implement the same product for another customer on the same production line. He sees the ongoing development to have the best knowledge, competence, and manufacturing setup for different product groups, being very valuable for the future.

In the end, the future will remain a mystery, but it could entertain to ponder different options, goals, or plans for the next two decades. Peter has a quite laidback attitude about this, things will unfold as they should. ”Of course, drinking pina colada on a beach would be nice at that point!”

We thank Peter for his great commitment and growth over the years at Fortaco and wish him another successful 20 years with the work, people, and goals he finds valuable!

Forward Forever

Customer service is a key priority at Fortaco, and we are happy to have in our team very skillful people, who are committed to this and have a great understanding of its importance. This time our eyes are on Kurikka factory in Finland, where the world-class vehicle cabins are manufactured, and Sami Kuusisto, Production Planner is working.

Sami has over decade of history and partnership with Fortaco. His journey started as an external worker in cabin assembly, and before his current position he worked as a supervisor and purchaser at Kurikka factory. Sami’s background in various responsibilities ensure he has an extensive knowledge of production processes, which is a great advantage in fulfilling his position. He is a very skilled employee and holds Bachelor’s Degree in engineering, more precisely mechatronics/machine automation.

Customers always first

Production Planner has a key role in a contribution to secure a production flow and communicating with customers about their delivery process. Communication must be open and effective, as changes regarding deliveries might happen. Among customers, Sami is known as a trusted person, who is successfully having ‘all the plates in his hands’.

His competence as a contact person has been highlighted by customers who are grateful for his excellent customer service and communication skills. He has a great ability to understand customer’s needs, which is the key factor when developing the service. ”For me, it is a priority number one to answer customer’s inquiries first, everything else comes afterwards”, says Sami, and he thinks this is the clear reason for his success in his position.

Growing potential

Fortaco is dedicated to the continuous development and improvement of people, processes and services. These are the same qualities that motivate and drive Sami in his everyday work and keep him engaged. ”The fact that processes are always developed further instead of just being satisfied with the current way of working is very encouraging”, he admits. He is very familiar with all the processes at Kurikka factory and sees there is still a lot of potential to progress forward.

Thanks to his systematic and accurate way of working, as well as intrinsic interest and expertise in the systems he works with, the development and progress of customer satisfaction has been shown as great results in surveys in Kurikka - thanks to Sami and the great team. ”I feel, production planning is definitely my area of expertise and I enjoy it greatly”, he is happy to tell. ”I find it very inspiring that with my input I am able to influence many different aspects in daily operations and witness successful outcomes”.

The Good Old Donald

Many of Sami’s activities outside of factory are gathered around his family. Wife and their two son keep him definitely busy, especially, older son's baseball trainings and games in which he loves to take part and see the development of his son's skills. If not on the baseball field, Sami can be found in the nature, fishing and jogging in a beautiful landscape of Western Finland - or reading Donald Ducks, the good old comic books. ”I have stored all the books I have received since my childhood”, he smiles. His order for, and interest in comics is still alive and well, and these days shared with his older son.

We wish Sami many delightful moments with his dear family - and of course Mr. Donald Duck.

Under the Hood at Kurikka

With both cars and factories, there’s often more under the hood than you’d imagine. Fortaco Kurikka Sales Manager Tomi Metsä-Ketelä demonstrates why.

Fortaco Kurikka Sales Manager Tomi Metsä-Ketelä has spent his entire life around vehicles.

It started with a moped at age 14. “My dad was too busy to fix it, so I learned to do it myself,” he says. He got his first car – a 1973 VW Beetle – at age 17, a full year before he could legally drive in Finland. In high school he worked as a tractor mechanic during summer holidays.

It was only natural that he’d study engineering at the university of applied sciences, graduating in 2002 and joining Velsa in Kurikka as an electrical engineer for Kalmar Cabins. By 2011, he was working as Sales Manager where his main focus was new customer acquisition. (The organization became Fortaco in 2013.) "We work with companies all over Europe to find new customers, and it helps when you understand mechanics. In the cabin business, it starts with design and development, and usually the tech team steps in early in the discussion. It’s quite common that our customers and visitors are also building things in their free time, so there’s a lot of common interest at the lunch table."

A Mercedes inside a Chevy

"One of those visitors was a German gentleman I was hosting," says Metsä-Ketelä. "He'd worked for Mercedes practically his entire life and late in his career joined one of our suppliers. We finished our meetings late in the evening and I offered him a ride to his hotel. Walking into the parking lot, my car was the only one left on the lot and he was already laughing. I had a 1980s Chevy station wagon with a sticker on the rusty bumper reading Made in Detroit by Idiots.”

“When I started the car he knew immediately it wasn't a stock V8 gasoline engine. He insisted we pop the hood, and he saw a Mercedes two-liter diesel with a tractor turbo on it. I'll never forget the look on his face and him laughing until he cried. But the car gave me what I needed: enough horsepower from the rear wheels, reliability, cheap to own and drive. I drove it three years and it ran like a charm."

Kurikka surprises

Fortaco’s Kurikka factory also holds surprises. Before Fortaco acquired the Kurikka plant in 2013, it had a long history. Since its inception in 1936, it has carried the names of Velsa, Valmet, Sisu, Partek, Kone, and Ruukki. It once even produced snowmobiles.

"What surprises our customers," says Metsä-Ketelä, "is how modern and good looking our production facilities are. Part of the exterior was built in the 1930s as a sawmill and other parts were constructed later when production expanded. And there’s a new factory extension being constructed today." From the outside, the 14,800-square-meter facility that employs 240 can appear old fashioned. But, similar to Metsä-Ketelä's automobiles, open the hood and you'll see something amazing.

"We’ve spent a lot of time and money to rebuild the factory. When we moved the production of forest machine frames to the Fortaco Wroclaw unit in Poland, the production areas in Kurikka were completely renovated with new floors, new LED lights, improved ventilation, the walls and ceilings were painted, and a new automated welding line was installed. It doesn’t look like an old conventional welding factory anymore. It looks like a modern cabin factory.”

Serious investments have also been made in Fortaco Technology services. In addition to engineering services, customers are offered specification support, user experience studies, design and solution concepting, FEM and CFD analysis, plus virtual and physical prototyping. The factory's new cabin tech hub with brand new prototype facilities have been running for three years now. There are isolated welding- and assembly areas to enable a safe working environment, the right quality starting from the prototype, and to ensure secret projects stay that way.

There's also a modern conference room with a built-in prototype cabin showroom. "Prototype reviews often mean sparks are flying," says Metsä-Ketelä. "But in our showroom you can sit down, have a coffee, and take all the time you need to examine and review your new cabin in a safe, clean and peaceful environment. This will be the cabin on your vehicles for years to come — so don’t rush."

Never give up

Another surprise to many is what a long-term business proposition cabin production is. From the time Metsä-Ketelä has coffee with a potential customer, it can take two years before a deal is done. "Add another couple of years for product development and starting production, and it can be years before you see results on your P&L,” he says. “People change jobs during the time it takes me to win a new client. But that's how the cabin business is.”

With product lifetimes of 10 to 20 years, cabin business partnerships are long term. And so are the Kurikka employees. “Our teams are dedicated and employee turnover is very low. People stay 20 years or longer,” he says. “This long-term approach allows us to have the motto, 'Never give up.'"

Metsä-Ketelä isn't about to give up, because he’ll never run out of curiosity about mechanical objects. Three years ago he rented fatbikes for a wintertime customer event and was thrilled by this new experience. "Right after that I bought a normal fatbike, and then I built it out with an electric kit. Since then I have built several electric fatbikes and bought several factory-built bikes since my family and friends are now into this hobby, as well. Of course the idea is to keep upgrading the bikes we ride. My latest project is a carbon fiber full-suspension fatbike which I assembled from the frame, carefully selecting all the right components. Currently, I’m exploring 3D printing to build a battery of my own design."

Set of Emotional Tools

Emotional Intelligence (EI) and its state and development in the company has been brought up in Fortaco this year. Fortaco’s top 25 managers were assessed by using the EQ-i2.0 inventory which measures emotional intelligence. As a result, they got the level of their Emotional Quotient (EQ).

Developing EQ is important, as our emotions usually have a major influence on our decision making and actions. Some people are able to make their decisions based more on logic, but generally we can be taken over and directed too much by our emotions, if we are not conscious enough about them.

What might be important to note is that EQ and intuition are not the same thing. Intuition is a very potent and these days recognized tool and gift, but as intuition could be described as feeling – ‘having the gut feeling’ – EQ is more about the understanding – ’thinking’ – of our feelings and learning to process them. Intuition can be disrupted by heavy emotional package, so becoming conscious about our feelings when working with EQ, can also have a beneficial impact on our intuition.

Improved leading

Having a high degree of emotional intelligence is especially important, even essential, for leaders to ensure their team is motivated and efficiently working. At the end, leading is all about communication and getting our points out clear, so that the team is able to understand and trust us. For communication to be effective, the communicator must have some understanding about the listener’s feelings and motives. In a conflict resolution situation, having a high EQ becomes even more relevant.

People with high EQ tend to be successful in many things they do, and this is simply because they are the players people want to have in their team. They are able to make people feel good, and because they understand how other people feel, it allows them to manage relationships more effectively.

Tools to have in your kit

So, what are the tools and ways to reach more success and fulfillment in the area of emotions and understanding them?

1. Developing self-awareness
Self-awareness enables you to understand yourself and your behavior on three levels: 1) what you are doing 2) how you feel about it 3) what you do not yet know about yourself. With developed self-awareness you are aware of your strengths and weaknesses, and how your emotions and actions affect people around you.

Ways to develop self-awareness are:

  • Journaling – A good way to journal is to write the morning pages, which are three pages of longhand writing, strictly stream-of-consciousness with no censor. Write them first in the morning, when your mind is not hooked to any activities or information coming from outside of yourself.
  • Slowing down – When experiencing strong emotions, simply slow down, breathe and examine why you are experiencing them, and how to move forward with the emotions.
  • Clarify your values – Every once in a while, (every month, for example) take your time to reflect on what you are doing, and if feeling and thinking are aligned. If they are not, how can you improve the situation? What does really matter to you?

2. Channeling and regulation of our emotions
You are not able to control your emotions and that is not even the purpose – the goal is to control your reaction to them. People who regulate their emotions usually don’t make rushed or emotional decisions, attack other people verbally or compromise their values. There are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ emotions – only effective or non-effective reactions to them. Emotions are important signals to pay attention to something.

How can you improve your ability to regulate emotions:

  • Know your values – Have a clear idea of where you will not compromise and what values are the most important to you.
  • Hold yourself accountable – Stop blaming others when things go wrong and be committed to admit your mistakes.
  • Have an empathy for yourself – Holding yourself accountable does not mean harshly criticizing yourself when things get heavy. Try to clarify why you are feeling like you do. Even anger is a good emotion if you can point out why you are feeling it and deciding to use it to correct injustices.

3. Motivating ourselves
Motivation is a popular word, but it definitely is not a magic word. The truth is we cannot be motivated all the time. For those times we must find our ways to keep going and show up for ourselves also when we don’t feel like it. With self-motivation we are able to work consistently to reach our goals and keep our standards high.

Some ways to improve motivation are:

  • Re-examine why you are doing what you are doing. Why did you wanted to have that job/ hobby/ routine and make sure you have clear goals regarding it.
  • Adopt an optimistic mindset, so whenever there is a challenge you can find at least one positive thing about the situation.
  • If you don’t feel like anything motivates you, do something. It could be anything from talking to a stranger, to writing a poem. The goal is to immerse your mind in something new and following the flow of it.

4. Recognizing emotions in others, having empathy
People with high empathy are able to put themselves in someone else’s situation. It is especially critical for leaders, and it helps them to develop the people in their team. The point of having emotional intelligence should ultimately be to create healthier relationships, and these relationships begin with recognition and respect of other’s emotional needs.

How to improve empathy:

  • Try being in someone else’s shoes – See other people’s perspectives, try to understand where they stand at.
  • Practice vulnerability – Share yourself honestly with others and take your time to really listen to the other person.
  • Remember the body language – It can be a real asset, especially if you are a leader, to understand your own and other’s body language, because you will be able to better determine how someone truly feels.

5. Directing our emotional energy to our core values
Emotional intelligence is meaningless if you are not aware of your core values. You have to be clear about them, because that is where your emotional energy will be directed. If you understand emotions well, both in yourself and in others, but use that information to manipulate people for your own personal gain, you might want to consider your values and how you show up in the world. Knowing what you value, is probably one of the most emotionally intelligent skills you can develop.

Ways to find out your core values:

  • Think of some of the people you most admire and the values they embody, write a list about these.
  • Identify the times when you were most proud.

6. Learning social skills
Great communication is reached with good social skills, and especially for leaders’ communication skills are crucial. Good social skills enable you to resolve conflicts and sail on the waves of change. Socially skilled people set example by their own behavior, be it at work or in closer relationships.

When improving social skills:

  • Learn to resolve conflicts – You don’t have to agree with everyone, but you must consider everyone’s opinion and sometimes step outside of your own box.
  • Remember or learn to give people positive feedback – People need to know where they have succeeded, and also what you value about them. Be curious about people and their motivations.

Value yourself

Obviously, there is a lot to cover regarding emotional intelligence. While we are all humans with our strengths and weaknesses, try not to compare yourself to any other person on your journey to a higher EQ (if that is your goal). Hold yourself accountable, but don’t aim for perfection, as it does not exist. There are many tools available, many possibilities, but whatever will be used and how it will be used depends also on your openness and willingness. You need to be honest with yourself and give the green light to changes and new ways of working. Most importantly, to try see the changes you are making as a way of respecting and valuing yourself – as a set of tools to enable you to become the higher version of yourself.

Manufacturer Sans Frontières

Erik Gustafsson, Fortaco Wroclaw’s Sales Director, explains why running a hospital in Liberia is not so different than running a factory.

“I did it for the adventure,” says Fortaco Wroclaw’s Sales Director Erik Gustafsson of his decision to volunteer with Médecins Sans Frontières. “I don’t want to leave the impression I was doing it only to benefit humankind.” In 2008, Gustafsson served as logistics director for a hospital in Monrovia, Liberia, where he was responsible for all non-medical activities of a pediatric hospital, two clinics, and a cholera unit, all with a non-medical work force of 130.

While Médecins Sans Frontières, or Doctors Without Borders, is often thought of as doctors and nurses, it is, in reality, a major organization active in 70 countries with over 35,000 personnel.

Hospitals and welding factories

“Running a hospital and running a welding factory have many similarities,” says Gustafsson. “I can’t treat patients and I can’t weld, but both require facilities and equipment. As a manager you’ve got to make sure money is used in the right way and make it possible for skilled people to do their jobs. You give people the tools they need and you track money and performance.”

Gustafsson, one of three Swedes in the Fortaco organization, moved to Wrocław, Poland in 2009 when the factory operated under the Ruukki banner. His task was to move production for two Swedish factories that had closed production. But his boss resigned, and he ended up staying to run the sales department. And he’s been in Wrocław ever since.

The Wrocław factory’s history is long and colorful, but its modern incarnation began in 1999 as a brownfield investment, making bus chassis for Volvo city busses. It soon was producing for other customers, such as Kalmar, Atlas Copco, and Konecranes. Ruukki acquired it in 2005, and in 2012 it became a part of Fortaco. Today it employs close to 500 persons and occupies a 22,000 square-meter footprint.

Today’s factory

“Our job is to start with a steel plate and deliver partly-assembled, painted, and machined products,” says Gustafsson. “We’re focused on complicated steel fabrications. Like mining machines. If it breaks down a kilometer below the earth’s surface, then that’s a problem. We’re making unique investments in machining centers and robots, which help us differentiate by adding value.” The steel plates eventually take the form of forklifts, reach stackers, harvesters, mining machines, structures for the energy sector, and straddle carriers.

Gustafsson’s vision is a future with more assembly. “Today, assembly is considered a core competency of the customer. But markets are growing and our customers need capacity. We believe assembly is not, in fact, our customer’s core competence. If we do it, there are huge consolidation advantages. Since all customers use similar components, we can produce forklifts next to mining machines and do it with less overhead than OEMs, also focusing on sourcing and production processes.”

Customers are gradually coming around to agree with him. Assembly is already started with one customer, and discussions are underway with others.

More with less

If Gustafsson says he can do something on the factory floor then we should be inclined to believe him. If there’s one thing he learned in Africa with Médecins Sans Frontières, it was how to be effective without unlimited resources.

He characterizes his children’s hospital in Monrovia as “basic.” The top three causes of death were malaria, diarrhea, and pneumonia. But despite these deaths, he did not find it to be a depressing environment. “Kids would come in with malaria and it was like they were in a coma. But two days later you’re playing with them on the playground! The effect of the treatment is sometimes amazing.”

What Gustafsson learned in Africa he still puts to use in his daily work. In Médecins Sans Frontières we had HR, finance, specialists, maintenance, construction, and lots of equipment. The skills managing those neatly transfer. “No organization has unlimited resources, and Africa taught me you can do a lot with limited means.”