Home: June - July 2011 › Making tracks
30/06/2011 | Channel:
Infrastructure, Rolling Stock, New Products & Services
Following an internal reorganisation, Steelwheel Oy is now bringing a blend of railway shunting equipment and service activities to the Finnish market
Steelwheel Oy, or Teräspyörä, was founded in 2005, as a daughter company of Finnish heavy machinery experts Saalasti Oy, which has been operating in the railwaybusiness for over 50 years. For its first five years of operations Steelwheel concentrated on providing maintenance services, then in 2010 following a reorganisation within Saalasti, the company took over the Group’s transport machinery and railway activities.
“Today, Steelwheel is a manufacturer of shunting equipment such as shunting robots and winches, special coupling, and rail maintenance vehicles,” describes Pasi Ursin, managing director. “We produce a small volume of new vehicles and products each year, which are built to a highly custom based design. We are also continuing to offer maintenance services for railway machinery.
“Whilst we do have some export activities, our market is primarily domestic with over 90 per cent of sales being made in Finland. This includes industry companies that have railway transportation needs in their ingoing or outgoing products, as well as all rail net entrepreneurs in Finland.”
Being part of a strong mother company brings with it certain economic benefits, but beyond that Steelwheel is also able to draw upon Saalasti’s workforce in times of peak activity, and vice versa. Commenting on the other key strengths of the business, Pasi notes: “What sets us apart is the production specialist equipment for special purposes. Being a smaller business we are able to make machinery that is custom orientated, which the major manufacturers may not be able to, or choose not to make. Additionally, we are able to produce machinery within a rapid timetable, and if necessary, our flexibility enables us to make changes to the product during this process.
“Most of the steel parts of our products are manufactured by our subcontractor and then assembled on site. Our long-term partnership means that they are well aware of, and capable of delivering, the requirements of the business. In terms of design, we strive to keep things as simple as possible, as well as standardising designs for multiple use.”
The varied nature of the railway industry, as well as challenges such as environment and climate, means that this bespoke capability is increasingly vital to clients. As such, Steelwheel has developed a diverse portfolio with particular capabilities in remote electrical control and industrial applications. “One of our core products is a remote controlled shunting locomotive, also known as a shunting robot,” highlights Pasi. “This machinery is used in industry plants for the movement of wagons during the loading and unloading process. Main line locomotives leave the full or empty
train at the industry plant rail yard and then the shunting robot carries out all subsequent necessary movement of the train. Additionally, if the robot is radio controlled it means that the client requires fewer employees to handle the movements.”
Other products include the Railbear railcar. Its multui-purpose nature means that it can be used for a variety of activities, such as railway track maintenance, track repairs, transporting work personnel and equipment, crane loading and unloading, and use of hydraulic equipment like a snow brush, blower or vegitation cutter.
Another aspect of the portfolio is brake testing equipment, which supplies the pneumatic braking system with compressed air andf performs a leakage test automatically. This enables the driver, by means of a simple mobile phone, to control the brake testing system and test the brakes before line driving. The system works to speed up the pre-departure check and therefore enhance the utilisation rate of locomotives.
In April 2010, Steelsheel moved its manufacturing and service activities in Kouvola, Finland, which has expanded its assembly area to 1000 square metres, with an additional 400 square metres of warehousing. From this location the company offers its Steelehwwl Rail Service Centre, which incorporates service and maintenance works for all kinds of rolling stock inFinland. Therefore its measurement department is able to organise, implement and document type tests and prepare approval documents for processing by authorities.
With this move in location opening up greater service capabilities to the business, Pasi outlines the market conditions which prompted such an investment: “Over the last 18 to 24 months we have seen a decline in our sales due to the economic downturn. However in this tome our service activities have continued to grow, which has helped support the business whilst we wait for general market conditions to increase. Beyond our home market, we are looking into new possibilities for the sale of our products into neighbouring countries such as Russia and Sweden. In order to successfully address these markets we have secured an agent in Russia to undertake the sales activities, and are currently looking for a similar operation in Sweden.”
As he explains, this strategy forms a key part of Pasi's ambitions for Steelwheel, both in its short-term growth, and long-term benefits: “I am positive that Steelwheel will grow into a larger company over the next five years. Therefore, it is important that we work to ensure that the company remain profitable during this time. As part of this growth, I believe that we will have delivered machinety in both Russia and Sweden in line with our pland to expand our marketplace.”