Mitsubishi is investing heavily in both R&D and manufacturing in the Finnish company Rocla.
ROCLA is a Finnish materials handling company which has been in existence for more than 70 years. Under its new owner, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, it is now going through a phase of expansion and delivering its expertise around the world. Mitsubishi has invested heavily in Rocla, and believes Finland is a perfect base for European operations. Rocla develops and manufactures electric warehouse trucks, forklifts and automated guided vehicles – all necessary in the modern age of global commerce.
To handle increased production, major investments have been put into Rocla in recent months. Domestic sales and maintenance departments moved to Vantaa, and the company expanded their factory in Järvenpää. Rocla’s Terhi Räsänen says that having both sales and maintenance in the same facility improves customer service, and it is easier to serve their many customers in southern Finland.
“The company recruited more than 50 new people in both production and R&D,” she says. “In the new production line about 2,500 new counterbalance trucks will be manufactured each year.”
The Vantaa location enables Rocla to be within easy reach of their European customers. Also, Finland’s strengths in manufacturing and research have enabled them to find excellent personnel.
“Customers are moving more and more towards rental fleets with maintenance agreements,” says Räsänen. “Since we are offering full product lifetime services, like maintenance, this kind of business is steadily growing. We are talking about a solution offering, which can include intralogistics consulting, workforce training, fleet management, warehouse management systems and maintenance, in addition to warehouse and counterbalance trucks as well as automated guide vehicles.”
To a layman, these automated guided vehicles (AGVs) have to be one of the most fascinating things Rocla creates. These shiny machines look like something from a Star Wars movie set, moving around autonomously, picking up and moving big pallets of items. These are not simple devices, and Rocla invests heavily in research and development.
Finnish research and development
“Our R&D concentrates on European market needs for electric products,” Räsänen continues. “There is a heavy market trend of moving to electric forklifts, and we can utilise our strong electric product know-how to meet customer needs in the best possible way. R&D uses co-creation with customers in the design process. Combining profound understanding of customers’ processes with innovative product development and design is one of the key elements of the product development process.”
A counterbalance truck is the type of forklift most people imagine when they think of a forklift. Rocla’s R&D has been engineering electric counterbalance trucks since 2011, and because of this the decision was made that Rocla should also manufacture them.
“Mitsubishi Heavy Industry (MHI) closed the factory in the Netherlands and moved the production of electric counterbalance trucks to Rocla,” says Räsänen. “Moving the production from Holland is additional proof of MHI’s trust in the Finnish company. Having both the R&D and production under the same roof is one of the advantages that this transfer resulted in.
“Our production personnel are multi-skilled, which means they can assemble all the different products manufactured at our factory. Rocla’s R&D designs a new product in cooperation with the production, purchasing, sales and marketing departments. This way of working, called concurrent engineering, stands for development overlapping with other functions of a company. Therefore it is possible, for example, to take into consideration the production requirements right from the beginning of a new product development.”
“Rocla puts people at the heart of the design and product development process,” Räsänen explains. “We believe that by focusing on the end users’ work process and comfort, we can help our customers in the best possible way. Having the best user experience in the market is the main design driver for product development.”
On the back of their strong performance and increased investments over the past months, Räsänen is excited about the future. She concludes:
“We see great opportunities with new electric products for European markets. We will launch two major new electric product families next year. We have strongly developed our intralogistics solution business during the last few years, and this approach brings significant savings and boosts the operational efficiency at customer sites. Considering automation solutions for certain repetitive transfers can also improve safety at the work site and save money.”
Founded in 1942, since 2009 part of the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Group.
Develops, manufactures and services materials handling vehicles.
Text: DAVID J. CORD