Wood working14.09.2016

50 years of plywood

Koskisen vaneritehdas viettää tänä vuonna 50-vuotisjuhliaan.
Building the plywood mill in 1966.

Building the plywood mill in 1966.

This year marks 50 years since the first plywood boards were glued at Koskisen’s plywood mill. The company’s development over the past decades, from producing basic plywood to becoming a producer of customer-focussed plywood solutions, is impressive. From the very beginning, Koskisen’s plywood customers have been spread all over the world; last year, 92% of production was exported.

At the start of the 1960s, Koskisen considered numerous expansion possibilities, from a prefabricated house factory to an Austin Mini car assembly plant. The final decision was to establish a plywood mill. The estimated cost of the planned plywood mill was nearly as large as the company’s net sales in 1965 – two million Finnish markka. 

Kari Koskinen on the grounds of the “VT2000” expansion site.

Kari Koskinen on the grounds of the “VT2000” expansion site.

In typical fashion for Koskisen, everything happened very quickly once the decision was made, and on the 26th of June, 1966, a year after planning had begun, the first plywood boards were already being glued at the brand-new mill. Today, the mill, with an initial production capacity of 8,000 m³, churns out more than 80,000 m³ of Finnish birch plywood for many different end uses.

The first mill expansion took place already while it was being built, and several more expansions would follow. The most recent expansion was started in 1999, and the investment at the time amounted to 200 million Finnish markka. The project was referred to as the VT2000 (i.e. Year 2000) project, and at its core was the launch of an entirely new board size and responding to competition from Russia and the Baltics. At the same time, production efficiency at the ‘old mill’ was boosted.

Building customer focus

The cornerstone of the plywood mill’s success has been the efforts to build a customer-focussed approach since the 1980s. This approach was strongly advocated by Kari Koskinen, who rather unexpectedly became the director of the mill in 1985. The goal was clear: knowing the end user and establishing a customer-focussed approach would be at the heart of Koskisen’s operations.

“Our major competitive edge is our specialisation. I would say that we are a leader in special plywood,” said Kari, who served as mill director until 2010.

There are many important milestones in the mill’s history that reflect the company’s strong commitment to fulfilling the needs of its customers.

“In the early 1990s, we began developing UV-resistant boards for outdoor use, as there was no such product available for horse trailers. A major breakthrough took place in 1998, when we started up a roll coating line for the manufacture of KoskiFutura,” Kari recounts.

The balcony elements for the Katowice concert hall were assembled from hundreds of narrow strips of plywood.

The balcony elements for the Katowice concert hall were assembled from hundreds of narrow strips of plywood.

Today, Koskisen plywood can be found in the most astounding places. Among the most impressive examples are the world-class concert hall built in 2014 in Katowice, Poland, for which Koskisen delivered the wood elements, which offer excellent acoustics. The Polish pavilion at the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai was made from laser-cut plywood and is also a showcase of unbelievable architectural skill.

“The concert hall was a huge and complex project. The manufacture and installation of the ceiling and balcony elements was challenging and difficult. We aim to land more projects like this in future,” said Kari, looking ahead.

The more traditional end uses for Finnish birch plywood are found in the transport vehicle industry: truck floors, the interiors of delivery vehicles and vans, and various trailers. The construction industry also uses strong birch plywood for concrete formwork and scaffolding. In the manufacture of production equipment for the packaging industry, the Koskisen plywood used to make die-cutting tools is among the best known in the world – it is, after all, very durable and dimensionally accurate.

The plywood mill´s previous and current directors, Kari Koskinen and Juha Jalkanen.

The plywood mill´s previous and current directors, Kari Koskinen and Juha Jalkanen.

Main strategic lines

The strategy for Koskisen’s Plywood Industry for the coming years is focussed on personnel, customers, production and innovations.

“Last year, 50 people were hired in production to ensure increased production, and new office recruits were hired to reinforce sales and product development. Innovations will be targeted both with customers and within the mill. When it comes to our customers, we will continue to draw on our existing strengths, such as tailored products, diversity and reliable deliveries,” Juha Jalkanen, Director of Plywood Industry, sums up.

You can read about all this, and much more, in Jarkko Juselius’s historical chronical, 50 Years of Plywood

You can order the book here by email, add as title “Plywood 50 years” and your address.