Broader horizons

9 October 2018

Petteri Lempiainen, technical director at Finland-based Erikkila, says that the company’s integration with Kito Corporation will help it extend its sales network. Tom Woerndl reports.

Having been acquired by Japan’s Kito Corporation in January, Erikkila is ready to move into new markets, with the Finnish company hoping to use its parent company’s wide distribution network to expand the supply of its range of cranes and lifting equipment.

Erikkila has been in business for more than 100 years, with a particular expertise in the light cranes market, although it also supplies bridge cranes and robotic cranes. Headquartered in Masala, near Helsinki, the company also has a production facility in Tallinn, Estonia, operates a business in Russia, and opened a sales office in Germany in 2009 to manage sales in Central Europe. It had sales last year of €11.7m ($13.6m).

Kito bought Erikkila in January through wholly-owned subsidiary Kito Europe, with hopes to also make use of the Finnish firm’s distributor sales network across Europe.

 “By acquiring the crane production operation of Erikkila, Kito has enhanced its European operations and has strengthened its business position through Erikkila’s European sales network,” said Kito following the purchase. “Erikkila’s light cranes are easy to operate with an exceptionally long lifespan. By combining them with Kito electric chain hoists, which reduce load swing, Kito is able to offer users the best solutions and seize more sales opportunities across Europe.” So far the integration of the two companies has gone very well, according to Petteri Lempiainen, technical director at Erikkila, and a veteran of the company having worked there for more than 20 years.

“The last few months have been extremely positive and we’ve enjoyed clear and straightforward communication with Kito,” he explains.

“In terms of sales, we began supplying our products to the Japanese market through Kito in June, and Kito has started selling Erikkila light cranes in the country. Kito has helped with our quality processes, while also ensuring the delivery of the products themselves. The atmosphere has been very optimistic and we have high expectations for the future.”

The relationship with Kito is still in its infancy, with the two companies working on small improvements throughout the product manufacturing and supply process, while recent developments from Erikkila include improving its sales tools and upgrading internal systems to ensure the efficient delivery of products to its customers.

“There have been a lot of small advancements in the last months,” notes Lempiainen. “But rather than overhauling our products, we have continually been improving our distribution network to ensure high levels of service for our customers. “We also have some major upcoming plans and launches for the future.” Lempiäinen adds that Erikkila is developing its lightweight products at present by realising efficiencies in the cranes’ hub to make them even easier to use for operators.

Feedback gleaned both directly from end users and through sales agents suggests customers are demanding more than simply an efficient and reliable product from Erikkila.

“The whole process is key,” says Lempiäinen. “This includes quotation, installation and configuration, as well as sales and service. Comments we’ve had from our customers show that they respond well to our flexible approach and efficient delivery service.

“We have a close relationship with many of our dealers and are in a regular contact to help us improve our products. In addition, we communicate a lot with our local customers in Finland.”

Based on some of this feedback, Erikkila is making its cranes more ergonomic and easy to use, with its lightweight range representing around 70% of the company’s current sales. “The benefit for users is that these cranes are extremely adaptable and easy to move, which is particularly useful for low weight loads,” explains Lempiäinen.

For instance, the company’s Prosystem Light Crane System is based on three steel profiles (125, 200 and 260) and four aluminium profiles (2, 3, 4 and 5), with a load range up to 2,000kg. “The weight carrying capacity ratio ensures maximised suspension distances and leads to true savings due to a reduced steel supporting construction, lower number of suspension components, and short installation time,” says the company.

Prosystem is additionally designed to be durable due to its closed profile construction, which prevents the system from being exposed to dust, while it features bolt connections that make the system easy to install and adapt to changing layout needs, adds the company. Erikkila supplies its products to a range of industries, including the food, automotive, wood and metal sectors, with particular interest from end users in its lightweight systems.

“The automotive industry is quite big for us at the moment, although our customer base is very broad and depends on who our distribution network is supplying,” says Lempiäinen. “A large proportion of our light frame products are also being sold in Japan, and we’re currently waiting for feedback on which industries these cranes are being supplied to.”

Geographic markets driving growth include the company’s stronghold of Finland and Europe, while Erikkila hopes extend its reach in the near future. “There’s a lot of manufacturing competition here in Finland, while recent acquisitions in the crane industry have also affected our overall sales in Europe,” notes Lempiäinen. “However, sales on the European market have remained strong, and we’re also seeing growth in the Asian market—of course in Japan since our acquisition. Kito’s strength in the US also means that we’ll soon expand into this market,” confirms Lempiäinen. Currently, more than 50% of Kito’s sales are in the US.

“We have good faith in the quality of our products and believe that better exposure on these markets will bring success,” he adds.

A wall-mounted aluminium jib crane from Erikkila, with internal conductor rail.
A free-standing light crane from Erikkila’s portfolio.