Seinäjoki case study visits
Digitalisation in the middle of nowhere
Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences hosted an InnoCAPE project meeting and arranged three study visits in Ostrobotnia on September 17th and 18th 2019.
The aim with the visits were to present digital forerunners in the region.
“Our case study visits to companies in South Ostrobothnia showed our guests that by boldly embarking on the path of digitalization and networking with other players in the region, one can build successful international business outside the growth centres as well”, project manager Annika Koskela from SeAMK sums up.
The first visit was to Kyrö Distillery (RyeRye Oy) where the participants to learn about their approach to digital marketing in a regulated market.
Kyrö Distillery was founded in 2012 and specializes in rye-based spirits. The distillery received its permit in 2014. Kyrö Distillery produces gin and whiskey out of whole-grain rye. In addition to rye, the gins contain twelve dry and four freshly distilled herbs. The distillery is situated in an old dairy in Isokyrö in Ostrobotnia, Finland, “in the middle of nowhere”. The aim is still to become the world’s best-known rye distillery. The company has grown from three persons into 30 people in a few years. The company was founded by Miika Lipiäinen, Mikko Koskinen, Kalle Valkonen, Miko Heinilä and Jouni Ritola.
The first year 2014 sales were 5 000 bottles of gin and new make. Next year their Napue gin was selected as the best gin for gin and tonic at the International Wine and Sprit Competition. Of course, Kyrö launched a package with a bottle of Gin and a bottle of Tonic. Following the award, the production of Napue Gin increased from the planned 23 000 bottles to 100 000 bottles in 2015. Now production is over 600 000 bottles per year and it is exported to over 40 countries.
Since 2015, the company has received several awards on their products.
In 2017, the distillery separated its whisky and gin lines to allow for simultaneous production. The site also increased its bottling capacity, renovated its facilities and improved its logistics. The total production capacity quadrupled. A new bottling facility increased the bottling capacity from 1 700 to 4 500 bottles a day. A completely new whisky distillery was constructed at the same site in December 2019.
This site should expand Kyrö’s annual distilling capacity from 85 000 litres of pure alcohol (LPA) to 350 000 n the first stage. It will have the ability to produce up to one million litres, including fermentation.
As the alcohol drinking habits of Finnish people are more on the beer-side, getting success with spirits is challenging. Brand Manager Mikko Koskinen knew this would need a strong enough brand to convince people to change their consumption habits.
The challenge for the company in the beginning was that marketing of alcohol in Finland is restricted. This means it had to be innovative when it comes to marketing: how to market a product that cannot be shown in the marketing? One of the first marketing photos was one of five men running naked through a rye field – not difficult to guess the amount of attention it got.
Kyrö has carefully chosen their partners to maintain the right brand image. The agency behind the marketing is Helsinki-based Werklig. It has overseen art direction, brand strategy, branding, digital packaging, publication, type design and visual identity.
The company wanted the brand and visual identity to reflect whisky culture but also the distillery’s local roots and heritage. For this reason, all brand elements are filled with (hidden) stories.
For example, Kyrö’s custom typeface “Napue Sans” was designed from old Battle of Napue (1714) memorial monument engravings (located right next to the distillery building), giving a true historical and local flair for the identity. Kyrö “Seal of Approval” is based on Isokyrö town coat of arms that has a bear in it, hugging a tree. In Kyrö’s version bear is replaced with a seal hugging a bottle.
During the visit brand manager Mikko Koskinen – via Skype – uncovered something about the company’s marketing strategy. Kyrö Distillery is quite strong at digital marketing. E.g. on Facebook, Kyrö Disitillery’s marketing show more engagement than Jack Daniels.
The marketing is based on stories and is thought very thoroughly. Everything starts from its founding story: five guys drinking rye whisky in the sauna, coming up with the idea to produce Finnish rye whisky. Even the company’s official name RyeRye Oy, comes from the main ingredient.
Stories sell online and are easy to back up with visual elements. The good branding and strategy is of course a good base also for the digital marketing, but you still have to be active and innovative to succeed. There are targets, they are measured and followed. If they are not met, the company analyzes why not.
Here are some of the solutions Kyrö uses in their digital marketing:
- Kyrö has a Slack-channel for the personnel where everybody can share social media content related to the company. This makes the marketing more human, authentic and closer to the audience. · Meltwater is used for tracking traffic on home page.
- SEO (search engine optimization) is used a lot, as half of the home page traffic is generated by search engines.
- Pictures with Kyrö products are in colour, but all other marketing pictures and videos are black and white.
- Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn as social media channels.
The company has cleverly used different situations, even difficult ones, for marketing. The company’s flagship product has been the Napue Gin, named after the Battle of Napue. However, many the English-speaking customers often got a napkin at the bar, when asking for a Napue. Thus Kyrö decided to change the name of their drink Napue, but they also introduced a new product to their webshop: the Kyrö Napkin, limited edition.
They announced this change of brand name at the same time as the company won the price as Brand Creator of the Year by Marketing Finland. Brand manager Mikko Koskinen admits that was planned to get maximum attention in media. The reason for the change of name was not solely (if at all) the napkin-story, but a step towards a unified brand image for export markets. Also, as the alcohol marketing legislation in Finland changed, it was possible to add the company name Kyrö to the product.
During summer festivals 2019 hired professional queuers. According to many, the most annoying thing at big events is queuing. These hired people queued for the festival guests. This was of course also an effective way of getting publicity both in media and on social media.
The company has a holistic view on brand and marketing, a whole company effort, it’s in our DNA, everybody tells the same story. Encourage people to come together, dream big and dare to follow those dreams.
After the interesting discussion and presentation, we went on a very informative and entertaining factory tour and finished up with a delicious and cosy dinner with food from a Seinäjoki-based restaurant named Äärellä.
The next day we had two case study visits on the schedule. While driving by bus 40 minutes through fields and plains, the participants got more and more dubious: could there possibly be any digital role models basically in the middle of nowhere?
In Kauhava, a small village with about 15 000 inhabitants, we visited MSK Cabins. The company has a long record of use of digital tools to enhance production. MSK is the leading European manufacturer of smartest cabins offering selected customers full service; including design, prototyping as well as low, mid and high-volume cabin production supported by plastic parts.
MSK Group has four solutions divisions (MSK Plast, MSK Cabins, MSK Matec Germany and MSK Matec Slovakia) and two brands divisions (Junkkari and Juncar). The 100 % family owned company was established in 1950 under the name Maaseudun Kone Oy. It has a factory floor of 60 000 m2 and emplyes 800 experts. Turnover is around 175 M€. Contract manufacturing represents 90 % of the production, 10 % is own products. MSK delivers 10 million parts annually. The biggest customers are Valtra, Rocla, Sandvik and Sampo Rosenlew. MSK Cabins has 200+ employees.
Taneli Mikkola, President and CEO of MSK Cabins, gave an impressive presentation on MSK Group’s operations. Digitalization has been strongly involved in the company’s operations since the introduction of the first welding robots in the early 1980s, says Mikkola. Today, it is difficult to find a function where digitalization would not be reflected in the company’s operations. It is playing a part in everything, from design to production, from invoicing to reporting and from marketing to telecommuting. The InnoCAPE visitors were interested in how they had prepared for information security, but also in more traditional business problems, such as how to get labour outside the growth centre.
“Good infrastructure such as schools, hospitals and recreational opportunities are needed, Mikkola stated. The company’s experience was also that the money invested in well-being at work paid for itself in the form of smaller sick leave. However, Mikkola admitted that the challenge has been to hire university graduates, such as design engineers, and that university cooperation enables the timely recruitment of good experts. Student projects and theses were also seen as a useful collaboration for the company. Due to the size of the company, MSK is rarely able to participate in EU-funded projects, but still indirectly benefits through a chain of subcontractors. Even today”, according to SeAMK’s ombudsman Tiina Nieminen, MSK’s subcontractors are also involved in two projects related to production efficiency and metering.
After the presentation, we got a quick tour of the factory with schedule pressing on. The project partners were impressed of what they saw.
“During the visit at MSK, we had an opportunity to learn how the company is organising production and how digital solutions helped optimising the processes. It was a good example of how local company grows and transforms into internationally acknowledged brand”, say project manager Evelina Šalavėjienė from Sunrise Valley Science and Technology Park in Lithuania.
A ride back to Seinäjoki and to the brand new factory of FinnPower, where Research & Development Manager Esko Petäjä presented how the company is enabling IoT and driving digitalization of their customers onward with their products.
FinnPower’s history goes back to the 1960’s. In 1969 Jorma Lillbacka established a company In Alahärmä under the name of Lillbackan Konepaja and started to produce grimping machines under the trademark Finn-Power. In 1994 the company was divided in two companies: Lillbacka Powerco Oy for the grimping machines and Lillbacka Oy for the sheet metal technology.
In 2002 Lillbacka Oy was sold to an investment company and at that time the name changed to Finn-Power Oy. Six years later the investment company sold it to Prima Industrie Group.
Under Prima Power brand, Finn-Power is producing turret punch presses, bending machines and other sheet metal manufacturing products. As the Machinery Division of Prima Industries, it is also offering service and maintenance for the products.
Finn-Power actively collaborates with Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences, its DIH and students. For example in the Factory2Fit-project, a group of 23 students developed a 3D-learning environment (regarding the use and safety of the sheet metal workstations). The concept has been further developed by students as a part of Global Master School arranged at SeAMK with key partners from Aschaffenburg in Germany and Missouri, St Louis in USA.
Also a Moodle-course has been designed by SeAMK-students (a video in Finnish is available: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3gcfpAfL_JQ).The factory from Kauhava was relocated to Seinäjoki in August 2018. In practice, a completely new factory was built according to the needs of Finn-Power. The price for a new factory was less than it would have been to renovate the old one. Now the factory in Seinäjoki employs 380 persons. The new factory also consumes 30 percent less heating than the old one. It also has a better productivity than the old one.
From FinnPower the bus headed to the railway station, where participants said goodbye and headed back home.
To sum up, our foreign participants were positively surprised how advanced methods and systems are used even “in the middle of nowhere” and got answer on the availability of work force in such locations and how to make positions in these conditions more lucrative.