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Sitra: the internationalisation of companies must be demystified

Mauri Heikintalo, Director of Sitra’s Growth Programme for the Mechanical Industry, wants to include export as an equally integral part of companies’ operations as manufacturing is.

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Mauri Heikintalo, Director of Sitra’s Growth Programme for the Mechanical Industry, wants to include export as an equally integral part of companies’ operations as manufacturing is.

Sitra’s Growth Programme for the Mechanical Industry is satisfied with the fact that Finnish SMEs are now more extensively encouraged to go global. Programme Director Mauri Heikintalo now wants to focus on the fact that export is mistakenly only considered an opportunity for major companies.

“A new kind of thinking is the first actual step for the internationalisation of Finnish machine shop companies. Acquiring new customers abroad should be an equally integral part of any company’s operations as manufacturing, for example,” says Heikintalo.

The past year has been difficult for the Finnish mechanical industry. Sales volumes of industry companies has decreased by almost 50%, and the number of permanently lost jobs now stands at approximately 20,000. The specialisation and internationalisation of SMEs has been regarded as an opportunity for the mechanical industry. However, for small-scale and medium Finnish companies, internationalisation has not been a familiar way of action. Sitra’s Growth Programme for the Mechanical Industry really aims to demystify internationalisation.

“At the moment, one of the critical factors for companies is the way how the EU’s internal market is directly seen as a domestic market, which is targeted naturally as part of any business operations. In addition, there are many major industrial reforms going on in Russia, giving Finnish companies immense opportunities, provided that they are boldly taken.

In concrete terms, Sitra contributes to internationalisation and the adoption of new ways of action by carrying out programme work and also investing in companies with the will and courage to set an example for the whole industry. Examples of this include Sitra’s recent capital investments in Meteco Oy, and Mesera-yhtiöt, which both are pioneers and examples of how subcontractors become machine shops that internationally provide products and solutions.

“It is wrong to assume that things would return to normal after this financial decline. In the new operating environment, those companies will do well who, in addition to internationalisation, focus on cooperation in different networks, increase their own level of competence, and improve their business know-how.

The significance of sales and customer competence is also emphasised.

“Good tools are no longer the secret to business success, rather it is the human being capable of talking about what the company is doing, finding customers and taking care of them,” says Heikintalo, describing concrete things that companies could focus on.

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