This year, Tampere-based Ata Gears will achieve the best turnover in its long history. In its own highly-specialised field, the production of customised spiral bevel gears, the company is among the best in the world.
2014 is coming to a close in a very promising way for Ata Gears. The turnover of the company founded in 1937 has been increasing, leading up to this year's record high of over 50 million.
“Our growth is currently coming from the marine industry, where our spiral bevel gears are used in the propulsion units of various large vessels. In other words, they are used in demanding conditions in offshore ships and tugboats, for example,” Antti Kontiainen, President of Ata Gears Ltd, says.
Other important branches of industry for Ata products include applications in the mining industry and special vehicles. Two-thirds of all production goes into export since Ata Gears has long been a specifically export-oriented company. It began in the 1940s with export to Sweden and has since expanded to cover all corners of the world.
“In that sense, the good air links to and from Tampere are extremely important to us: our customers can reach us easily and see for themselves how we do things. We get plenty of positive feedback from our guests about our production facilities and machinery, for example,” Kontiainen says.
The production facilities are certainly worth showing off as Ata Gears has made significant investments in new production equipment and manufacturing technology. Ata Gears has two separate facilities in Tampere: the Atala factory that started in 1940 and the new facility in Hautala. The company also has a smaller unit in the nearby town of Pälkäne. Some conventional machines are still in use, but Kontiainen finds it important for the company to be a forerunner in manufacturing technology.
“You need to be a pioneer in your own field and involved in the development of new types of manufacturing technology. The requirements for precision are extremely strict in this field and measurement technology is advancing constantly,” Kontiainen explains.
Ata Gears has increased its level of process automation by implementing Fastem's FMS system. Last summer, the Hautala unit commissioned a new heat treatment line, which is one of the most modern solutions of its kind in Europe. Kontiainen emphasises that the investments improve production quality and efficiency, in that specific order.
“Ata Gears’ reputation has always been rooted in good quality, so we need to hold on to it. There are no easy short cuts, and, alongside efficient technology, staff competence is extremely important.”
Ata Gears employs a total of 215 people. Development and training maintain professional competence, and the goals are shared: quality is ensured by the entire staff knowing the end user's expectations.
“This is where the values of a family-owned business are clear,” Kontiainen says.
In the early days, Ata Gears’ range of products was very broad, but gradually the core operations shifted to a focus on the design, production and sale of spiral bevel gears. The company’s customer relationships are typically long, lasting up to decades, and cooperation in the partner relationships is close.
“For example, we have conducted very extensive analyses to ensure that our products really function in the customer applications. And when a customer is creating a new product, we like to be involved from the start and bring our own special expertise in the power transmission of spiral bevel gears to the table.”
The specialisation has paid off. According to Kontiainen, studies have shown that Ata Gears is among the leading companies in the world in its own highly specialised field. About one percent of all gears in the world are spiral bevel gears, and within that percent, Ata Gears is a well-known and respected manufacturer.
“It's better to be the best in the world in one small area than average in a hundred larger ones,” Kontiainen says in summary.
Cover photo: Ata Gears Ltd / Sami Helenius.