As I write this, it is easy to reflect upon the fact that the lifespan of companies these days seems to be getting shorter and shorter. According to author Steven Denning, the life expectancy rate of Fortune 500 companies reduced from around 75 years in the 1950s to less than 15 years in recent times. I am happy that K.Hartwall has managed to defy this trend, not just by surviving over the last 90 years, but also thriving.
What explains our remarkable success? I would argue it is our ability to look at the big picture, understand the trends that shape the world, and move fast to seize the opportunity. These are traits that come up again and again in our history and have made us the company we are today.
When we first started our business in 1932, we started with making a single product – a wire clamp used to close porcelain bottles. Then, in the 60s, my grandfather on one of his visits to Sweden realized that the seatbelt, once thought to be a novelty, was fast taking off along with the booming automobile sector. Our skills in producing wires, clips and other materials soon saw us being approached by IKEA to be their first supplier. This also allowed us to understand the challenges and opportunities that lay in shipping and logistics, and in establishing supply chains to far-off countries in Asia. We realised that the experience we gained in material handling and supply chain management could be leveraged to meet the demands of a rapidly globalising world.
Facing the future
That brings us to today – where K.Hartwall’s solutions ranging from roll cages to AGVs are revolutionising the logistics industry globally. And this is indeed a strange and fascinating time to be in this sector. Where we once thought globalisation had brought the world closer together in a way that could not be unmade, we are now seeing other factors at play.
The global demand for goods and services continues to be insatiable, but it has come face-to-face with over-burdened supply chains caused by the pandemic and other geo-political factors. But the need to improve efficiency and productivity must also be balanced out by the drive to improve sustainability. Technological advancements in the form of AI, big data and robotics are changing the omnichannel supply chain in ways we could never have imagined.
Why do these trends matter for K.Hartwall? It is not just because these have a huge impact on the industry we are in, but also because of the potential for change that we as a company can have on them. I see us playing a huge role here by positively influencing the logistics sector, the keystone of global trade. By engaging with different stakeholders and creating future-fit solutions that help the logistics industry, we can help it become more resilient, sustainable, and adaptable. Our unique experiences and expertise will play a big role here.
Creating lasting change
Let me give you some examples. Diversity in the logistics sector is increasing, slowly but surely. As more women enter the workforce, they are faced with handling products primarily designed for men. K.Hartwall has actively worked on solving this by creating lighter and more ergonomic products, enabling more women to earn a livelihood and empower themselves.
Then there is the next-generation workforce. We are talking about youth who are used to technology and advanced machines, and care deeply about the environment. How do we ensure that they are able to seamlessly enter a sector that is changing due to rapid digitalisation? Our innovations in robotics and AGVs are the answer, providing these future workers with the tools they need to keep pace with automated systems.
Finally, the fact that we service so many industries in this space also means we can utilise our learnings and act as consultants, helping industries make their last-mile deliveries more efficient.
Most people don’t consider logistics to be a very exciting business, but as the examples above show, it is an industry with challenges that have a bearing on the whole world. And we, the owners, the board, the management and the people at K.Hartwall are doing everything we can to make a difference.
That is also why I am proud that our efforts were recently recognised by the President of Finland through his Internationalisation Awards. The awards are bestowed annually in recognition of internationally successfully companies and K.Hartwall was honoured with the Growth Company Award. This is testament to all our efforts, and our ability to think globally, while utilising the best of local talent in all the markets we operate in.
As we finish 90 years, all I can do is look ahead at the next 90 years and say, bring it on!