A sharp increase in demand has prompted Darekon to take rapid action to grow capacity. The firm has invested in a completely new SMT production line at Darekon’s Haapavesi plant.
The global growth in cybercrime and working from home has led to an update in security practices.
The corona situation has remained calm at all of Darekon’s four plants. Operations are in line with the new normal and no one has caught the coronavirus so far. The situation is being closely monitored and all activities are health-first, which is the most important thing. Detailed action plans have been prepared for possible illnesses.
Strong growth in demand
The strong increase in intensive care units and other growing needs for medical care in the world have been reflected in the strong growth in demand for certain products at Darekon.
“The pandemic has caused us an explosion in the demand for certain products,” says Antti Järviluoma, plant director at Haapavesi. “For example, if the annual production of one product has been 20,000 pieces, the same quantity should now be produced in three months. This indicates the scale of the situation.”
There is no time to dawdle in the face of this new situation. The decision to invest in a new production line was made quickly and the new line began production in early May. In addition to a assembly machine and a reflow oven, the investment includes a paste printing machine, an automatic optical inspection machine and a selective soldering machine. The new line will almost double the plant’s SMT production capacity.
“We are at the forefront of the fight against the pandemic – in a valuable and important position,” Järviluoma continues. “The staff understands the situation and is very committed. The acquisition and installation of the new line was achieved in record time. The normal delivery time for machines from all over Europe is 10 to 12 weeks, but we received the equipment on a ‘bypass lane’ in a few weeks.”
With the new equipment, new personnel was also needed at Haapavesi. The current number of more than 100 people has increased and will increase by about 10 to 15 more people. The total value of the investment at Haapavesi is approximately EUR 1.2 million.
Working from home requires security management
Using VPN on laptops was already a routine at Darekon, but the strong increase in working from home has required new practices. These include, for example, encrypting disks on portable computers and 2-stage authentication, MFA (multi-factor authentication).
“Cybercriminals are a problem in companies of all sizes, and various hacking attempts have clearly increased recently,” says Pertti Mäkinen, Darekon’s system development expert and director. “Everyone has a responsibility to not give ground to criminals. You have to do what can be done.”
“If a thief takes a laptop from the car’s back seat, he will not get his hands on the contents of the machine’s encrypted disk. If the machine is successfully started, it will be reported to IT support, which can empty the contents of the machine. MFA, on the other hand, prevents the hijacking of an e-mail account, for example, when the login needs to be confirmed with a code that came through another channel.”
Let’s take care of our own share
According to Mäkinen, e-mail is still used too much to send important information. Cybercriminals have ample means of accessing and reading e-mails like an open postcard. For example, customer-specific channels for product management can be built through teamwork spaces, through which communication and data transfer can be implemented easily and much more securely.
“We can’t wait to see how the big ones act,” Mäkinen continues. “We want to take care of our own share, we do not spread harmful content and we safeguard our own operations. It is a matter of attitude and diligence. When we come from the city, we wash our hands. We are aware of the risks and act accordingly.”
The world is in confusion, but life still goes on. We want to inform and reassure all of our stakeholders and here is a brief introduction to Darekon’s state on the day of release.
Media coverage can tend towards the sensational, adding to an almost apocalyptic atmosphere but we want to emphasise the importance of calm and caution. Darekon is strictly complying with all instructions and regulations of the authorities regarding the coronavirus.
Manufacturing plants operating normally
Darekon’s overall situation is calm and practically all Darekon’s staff is on duty. Remote working has been set up where possible.
Freight traffic is operating quite normally and production has not been hindered by a shortage of materials. In this regard, potential future problems have been anticipated for several weeks. There have been delays in some shipments from China, but Darekon’s own buffer stocks have covered most of the shortages. In some cases, local replenishment has been possible.
Darekon’s materials department is constantly working hard to ensure that materials are delivered on schedule. At the same time, other measures have been taken, such as increasing inventory levels, to minimise potential future disruptions.
Skilled staff allow flexibility
“A significant amount of components and other materials come to us from China and elsewhere in the Far East, and they come from there all the time,” says Antti Järviluoma, Darekon’s Haapavesi plant director. “For their part, Finnish partners supplying sheet metal parts, special coatings, injection moulding and other mechanical parts seem to be doing their best to deliver orders accurately.”
“Our competent and multi-skilled staff ensure that any future inconvenience in case of absences is minimised. Individuals are able to move flexibly from one job to another depending on the situation. Job rotation is quite common for us in managing hurry orders during normal times, and now we have been preparing with the staff to deal with exceptional situations.”
No free fall in sight
Darekon’s customers are also striving to work as usual and have not for the time being cancelled orders. The situation for some companies has even led to an increase in demand and an increase in order volumes. If partners’ production facilities are shut down in the future, this will of course also be reflected in Darekon’s operations.
“Managing material chains and predicting production is now even more difficult and important,” says Petri Kettunen, sales director at Darekon. “Responding to changes in demand in the short term is now more challenging than usual. We conduct regular, confidential discussions with our clients about possible changes and we encourage clients to contact us as early as possible if changes are needed.”
“Darekon’s steady financial position is a particularly important factor in securing operations in this situation. Regular cash flow is essential, but a strong economy gives a better opportunity for making any necessary arrangements.”
It is easier to operate locally
The current situation is new and will have an impact on the long-term development of globalisation. Darekon has retained its operations in the Baltic Sea Region and has previously talked about the many benefits of short physical and cultural distances.
“We have wanted to provide our partners with a stable, manageable and predictable operating environment,” Kettunen continues. “It is a good idea for clients to look critically at the operation of their own supply chain and to consider other things than just the unit price of the product in a distant country. One of the key factors is the ability of the chain to handle abnormal situations.”
“If these issues or the current situation evoke questions, I am happily prepared to discuss in more detail. Although physical meetings are right now banned, we can meet virtually right away – for example, through a Teams meeting. It is a good idea to act soon if, for example, the concern is for next year. This is no time to just wait for the current situation to pass. Let’s sit down right away if your company is thinking about these things.”
The year ending 2019 marked a milestone for Darekon as the company’s turnover exceeded 50 million euros. The growth is the result of developing a profitable business and ensuring customer confidence.
Revenue gain in 2019 almost matched that of the previous year, 7 per cent compared to 10 per cent in 2018 when it amounted to 47.6 million euros. That figure reached 51 million euros last year.
Darekon advances with consideration
“The good success of the Finnish electronics industry and above all our customers has helped us to proceed according to plan and develop our operation,” says Kai Orpo, managing director of Darekon.
“Our revenue developed within the budget framework, operating profit reached 2.6 million euros and the company’s equity ratio is at a good 48 per cent level. The number of personnel increased by 24 during the year and was 315 at the end of the year.”
According to Orpo, good solvency will provide the company with a strong backbone to withstand economic cycles and to continue investing in business development as planned. Last year’s investments were mainly related to continuing operations.
Notable events of the past year included relocating the firm’s Savonlinna unit from Savonranta village to superior and logistically better working facilities in downtown Savonlinna, and the completion of the robotised welding and sealing lines at the Klaukkala facility to reach full production capacity.
Klaukkala grew strongly
The Klaukkala facility is Darekon’s multi-purpose house, a sheet metal workshop and a plant making final assembly of electronic equipment. In addition, it is a versatile planning office and serves as the logistics hub for the group. Enclosures and cabinets are manufactured using a robotised welding line and robotised extrusion technology of silicone seals, invested in 2018 and 2019.
“Last year was challenging for us in the way that the sales of our unit grew with well over 30 per cent,” says Pekka Antikainen, plant director at Klaukkala. “Last year, we also recruited more than 10 people to Klaukkala and we still need to recruit some five people more.”
“Robotised welding and seal manufacturing are now in full swing, but still have capacity to increase production volumes. Our state-of-the-art flexible manufacturing system forms the basis for our sheet metal production, complemented by a high-precision, versatile laser cutter, and a comprehensive range of press brakes, presses and other production machines,” he adds.
Ecology and people
Darekon has switched to using 100 per cent wind-generated electricity. The recycling of materials has been taken as far as possible and is constantly being developed. Energy efficiency guides the firm’s investments and all activities. There is also strong investment in developing digitalisation.
“The biggest resource at Darekon is its people,” says Orpo. “Continuous learning has been one of Darekon’s most important values for a long time. That is the reason why year after year Darekon is able to develop and satisfy the needs of its clients and its wider community.”
Darekon’s turnover increased by 10 percent up to 47.6 million euros. Company’s operating profit was 3.7 million euros and the equity ratio was 44.0 percent. The average amount of employees increased to 291.
The year 2018 fulfilled expectations. During the current year Darekon expects to grow and keep current profitability level. The main investments will be made in robotics and electronic production machinery as well as group level digital systems.
In the report of London Stock Exchange, they highlighted 1000 of the fastest growing SMEs across the 28 countries of the European Union. Their selection criteria require companies to have shown not just growing revenue over the past three years, but also to have outperformed their sector peers. Their methodology, devised by Bureau van Dijk, listed SMEs are private and registered in the EU-countries and their revenues has to be between 20 and 300 million euros.
You can find the Talouselämä article here (in Finnish): https://www.kauppalehti.fi/uutiset/euroopan-dynaamisten-kasvuyritysten-listalle-ylsi-20-suomalaista/tisTBgLC
Darekon has strengthened its organization as of March 1, 2017 as follows: M. Sc. (Tech) Marta Łapińska has been appointed as sourcing and material manager in Gdansk plant. She joined Darekon in 2015 and has been acting in sourcing and quality activities. Marta Łapińska is part of SC Director Teppo Pitkänen´s team.