Last year was a time of strong growth for the Finnish metal industry. However, the growth was somewhat reduced due to three significant contributing factors. Many components were not available. Also, it was difficult to employ new workforce and some raw materials were difficult to get.
Many subcontractors invested in new machinery last year, which was very positive move indeed. However, at the same time the new machines could not be fully utilized in production as deliveries were often delayed. It also proved to be difficult to get hold of specialist technicians to install the new machines. Comparing year on year, the situation was more stable last year than the year before, as the Finnish subcontractors could actually deliver more in 2018, than in 2017 when the biggest growth happened.
The biggest challenge today is to find a competent work force and to be cost effective at the same time. The good news, it is now slightly easier to get raw material than some time ago. Delivery times from steel factories are also shorter and deliveries are more often on time. Demand for raw material in total is lower, however it is more difficult to get rarer raw materials. The commoner raw materials are more frequently available.
At Jame-Shaft, we still haven’t experienced shorter delivery times, so we still need to keep a rather large raw material stock on site, as this ensures quick deliveries to our own clients. It is worth noting that delivery times from factories to us are significantly longer than to our own customers.
The year 2018 was rather variable for Jame-Shaft. There was a long period of strong growth till the end of August. As we told you in our last customer newsletter in the autumn, the growth started to slow down significantly then. At the end of the day, we fell significantly behind, compared with the same period a year before. In November and December, we even had to lay off some of our staff. Fortunately, this was only short-lived because things turned for the better in January. The last lay-offs ended in early February and our order base started growing again. Now, the situation is very good, we have received more orders than last year. The change was rapid, and we even employed more people in March. The turnover in the first quarter 2019 was an improvement on the same quarter last year. If the positive trend continues, the turnover will be higher than last year at the end of this accounting period, which is the end of June.
Despite variation in demand, we have persistently carried on with our investment programme according to the original plan. Some 1800 square metres of new floor space was made available to us at the beginning of the year. Immediately, the majority of the machines in the finishing department were relocated to the newly refurbished space through January. The machines were mostly moved into the new space at weekends, so this didn’t disrupt the production much or cause any delays in deliveries.
At the moment, most of this investment work is taking place on the new case hardening line. The ground works have started here, and the first concrete slabs have been laid, and significantly, we are right on schedule. The first pieces of the new case hardening line will arrive in early June, after which the assembly work will commence. Our aim is to start production with the new case hardening line by the end of August.
When it comes to investing in software solutions, we have carried on developing even better production control tools. Today, we can follow in real time, among other things, how each machine or group of machines are loaded. The same information is visible to the whole staff on the info screens in the factory, shown on a computer screen or even on a smart phone.
We keep our staff well informed about company matters. We create a new info package every week, where several topics can be covered, for example, customers, machine loading, company benefits etc. We have also carried out a survey concerning employee welfare. The results were mostly positive, but, of course, some points showed there were clearly grounds for improvement in provision. For our factory guests, we have made a ‘safety in the factory’ video which is shown to all our guests before the factory tour.
For your information, our service provision will stay at a good level throughout the summer months. Our factory operates continuously in the summer period, but quite naturally, we will have the least staff on site in the holiday month of July. However, all production stages in the factory are fully operational at all times. Some delays might occur, mostly due to longer delivery times for raw material, so we encourage you to place your orders in good time.
We wish all our customers a successful year in 2019. Let’s hope the positive trend in the market continues and the whole supply chain can enjoy the fruits of the new investments for a long time to come.