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Over the span of the past 70 years, Finnish arc welding equipment manufacturer and software developer Kemppi has grown from a small family company to a global welding technology leader and a pioneer in its industry. In addition to the 70th anniversary of the company’s founding, 2019 marks the 100th birthday of its late founder, Martti Kemppi.
Martti Kemppi was a man of many skills with an entrepreneurial attitude. He learned the importance of initiative early on and established an enterprise with his brothers. Veljekset Kemppi Oy (Brothers Kemppi) was founded in Lahti on 23 May 1949. In the beginning, Kemppi operated in a workshop in the family home’s backyard and manufactured many kinds of commodities such as milk carts, special soil spades, sauna stoves and, naturally, welding transformers. Despite the shortage of raw materials during the post-war years, the company started to thrive.
Inventiveness and hard work are the key components of success
Martti Kemppi believed that anything is possible. He encouraged to experiment without fear of failing, as he trusted that was the only way to create something new. His basic planning principle of “discarding all extras from the machines as much as possible while retaining superior welding features” was born in the 1950s, when the development of the first welding rectifier started. A similar focus on uncomplicated user experience and functional design is an integral part of Kemppi’s product development still today.
In 1977, Kemppi revolutionized arc welding equipment by introducing the world’s first welding power source to use inverter technology. Since then, it has become the dominating power source technology in welding as it allowed the manufacturing of lighter but more effective arc welding equipment. Inverter technology also improved equipment controllability and made it possible for a single welding power source to be used for several different welding processes: MMA, MIG/MAG and TIG welding. This had never been possible with earlier welding equipment that were based on rotating transformers, magnetic amplifiers or thyristor rectifiers.
Leading arc welding into the digital era and beyond
The arc welding industry experienced yet another turning point in 1993 when Kemppi took the first steps to move away from analog welding technology and developed a new, numeric way to manage arc characteristics. The result was the introduction of the first digital welding power source in the world. Nobody could have imagined that managing the quality of arc welding could be done that fast, precisely and in real time. However, other major welding management breakthroughs were yet to come.
In the 2000s, Kemppi expanded its business from equipment manufacturing to providing comprehensive solutions to its customers. This push also led to Kemppi becoming a forerunner in the Internet of Things (IoT) in welding. The world’s first universal welding management software, Kemppi ARC System, was launched to the market in 2014 and turned the industry’s focus to digital welding quality verification, hidden welding defect identification, and weld traceability. Even before this, Kemppi had taken an active role in highlighting the importance of digital welding management in building safe infrastructure around the world.
A true innovation changes the way we see and do things. It can be a minor ergonomic improvement, a new way to trace a project, or an alternative approach to an existing production process. In all cases, innovation makes the users’ life somehow easier and brings new value to it. This was also the guiding principle in designing Kemppi’s flagship MIG/MAG welding system, X8 MIG Welder, which combines modern welding technology with software.
Launched in 2016, the X8 MIG Welder was Kemppi’s first welding system with a native connection to its cloud-based welding management software, nowadays known as WeldEye. The welding system’s integrated IoT-based technology enabled the introduction of digital welding procedure specifications (dWPS), which render the traditionally-used printed WPS documents unnecessary. Welders could now use the system’s wireless user interface at the welding station to search and view welding procedure specifications and activate them to automatically set up their equipment with the right parameters. The new process that improves both welding quality and productivity has since been developed further to support digital work orders that contain all the necessary details to get a welding job done.
Local presence with a global view on welding
Being a privately-owned family company, Kemppi is nowadays led by the third generation, Martti Kemppi’s grandchildren. Reaching the top during the past seven decades would not have been possible without skillful people, team effort, and open-minded customers. It is curiosity that drives people to experiment, and it is cooperation across borders that creates success.
”Grandpa told us to hire people who are better than ourselves, and we have managed to do that. We have over 800 top professionals in Finland as well as abroad. That’s the source where we will find the talent and passion to astonish our customers also in the future,” Teresa Kemppi-Vasama and Antti Kemppi assert.
A global mindset has guided Kemppi since its early years. The company’s foreign trade started as early as in the 1950s, not long after its establishment. Deliveries were made to Turkey, Thailand, Vietnam, Tanzania, Peru, and Chile, among others. Subsidiaries were opened all over Europe and by the end of the 1980s, already more than 80% of sales came from exports. While internationalization was accelerated by the second generation of the family, the third generation is building Kemppi into a truly global company. Local expertise is seen as a key business factor.
Besides introducing new market entries, Kemppi has strengthened its local presence in a number of important growth areas. New robotic welding application centers were opened in China (2017) and India (2018). Last year also saw the establishment of a new welding torch factory in Wuxi, China. In 2019, Kemppi acquired 100% share of an Italian welding torch manufacturer Trafimet Group S.P.A. which especially strengthens Kemppi’s aftermarket business.
70 years ago, Kemppi started out as a small family company. Today, Kemppi is a multinational industry pioneer that has subsidiaries in 17 countries and a partner network that covers over 60 countries. While the future is still unwritten, it is almost certain that the company will still be guided in the years to come by the words of Martti Kemppi:
“You must have the courage to experiment and test the limits.”
Very interesting read. Martti Kempp sounds like he was quite the man. It’s great to see the company is staying true to his original values.
His story is very inspiring, and he definitely created a solid foundation for future generations to build upon.