A few steps ahead of the competitors at all times. This is often repeated by Marko Repo, Group Managing Director, CEO of Iisalmi-based special vehicles manufacturer Profile Vehicles.
His philosophy has proven its usefulness in real life, as the company is now exporting its renowned ambulances to fifteen countries. Its nursing units on rubber wheels have taken to the street not only in Europe but also in Saudi Arabia, Singapore and Kuwait.
In addition to Iisalmi, the company is manufacturing vehicles through its subsidiaries in Estonia and Hungary which have also received substantial orders.
"Technical edge and additional value to the customer are more relevant selling points than ever because the Finnish cost levels prevent us from competing with prices. Our only way to make it is to offer something better than our competitors do," Repo says.
In other words, research and development and sales efforts must be made non-stop. The CEO's calendar has indeed been filled with travel throughout the beginning of the year. He often wakes up at 3 a.m. to make it to Helsinki in time to catch flights to Europe. Travel is a must if the company wants to find new customers.
"Meetings are important, as sales deals are ultimately always signed by people. Who would buy a car without seeing the vehicle or the person selling it? A single ambulance is always worth at least EUR 100.000," Repo points out.
Forerunner in its field
Launched in 1982 under the name Iikori, the company started investing in exports in early 1990s. The reason was simple: the domestic recession had frozen Finnish customers' investments into new equipment, and the company had to seek new contacts abroad.
They made a bold move and went for Germany and Norway, adopting Profile Vehicle as their new, export-oriented name.
The tenacious attitude of the Iisalmi-based company first convinced Volkswagen and then Mercedes-Benz that their chassis would also be suitable for use as ambulances. This was a breakthrough for the company's innovation: easily installed and variable modules used to transform vehicles into ambulances.
"This was the only way to produce slightly larger numbers of ambulances in a cost-efficient manner but still tailored to customers' needs. We were ahead of time anyway, as ambulances back in the day were rather simple tools. We started emphasising ergonomics, hygiene, reliability and life cycle thinking with maintenance services," Repo says.
Current ambulances are equipped with top-notch healthcare technology and their intensive care capacity nearly matches that of hospitals.
Far is a long way to go
Profile Vehicles has grown rather steadily into a special vehicle manufacturer with a EUR 30 million turnover and about 125 employees. Their growth has almost always been profitable, although they have hit some rough years along the way.
"Even at those times we have invested in research and development, training our employees and sharpening our operations. Tekes and its product development loans have been tremendously helpful in this regard," says a thankful Repo.
The company has also participated in Team Finland's export promotion trips and helped other Finnish companies network in and expand to the Hungarian market. According to the CEO, these experiences have been very good.
"Finland is far away from Central Europe and growth markets. Therefore all means to open up new doors for businesses are welcome. We have a group of Singaporean guests in our production facilities right now as we speak. On their way here they must have wondered many times where on earth they were headed. We are that far from everywhere," says Repo, laughing.
Group Managing Director, CEO
Tel. +358 500 650 955
marko.repo (at) profilevehicles.com
Photo: Profile Vehicles