The Finnish subcontract machine tooling shop Ket-Met that was founded in the late 1960sspecializing in stainless steel machining. The company struggled with its cost competitiveness.
Ket-Met contracts small production series of up to a few hundred units at for well-known international engineering companies, such as Andritz, Sandvik, Wärtsilä and Wetend Technologies. Located in Savonlinna, near the Russian border, a significant part of the company’s customers also comes from eastern Finland.Though the company has been able to maintain a customer relationship with these customers for years, Ket-Met faced stagnating growth, prompting Ket-Met’s board to set a revenue growth target of 10% per year without having to compromise its 10% net profit target.
In recent years, the company's turnover has remained almost unchanged at around 1.3 million euros (1.45 million US dollars). According to Managing Director Tuomas Kalanen, it has been difficult, for the company to acquire new customer relationships or grow the revenue from current customer relationships.
"Price competition in the field is quite fierce. Our goal has been to reduce our production costs in order to grow our business activities,” says Kalanen. Part of the reason for the costs has been the low degree of automation of the company’s machinery. Production automation is used only in the newest lathes. The company's machinery consists of six Mori Seiki lathes and two vertical spindle machining centres. The company also has a 3D coordinate measuring machine for quality assurance. Older machines require significantly more manpower than modern equipment. An aged lathe and milling machine require a human to move the workpiece on the machine and lift the finished piece off again. This raises production costs.
It is difficult to find new motivated workers who want to be CNC machinists in Savonlinna – and almost everywhere in Finland. This is not the favourite occupation of young people.
Savonlinna is far from major centres, like in dozens of other municipalities, the population of Savonlinna is falling as young people move to growth centres. "It is almost impossible to find new CNC machinists here, although we certainly have tried,” says Kalanen.