The history of Tepcomp goes way back to 1984, when Henry Sahonen and Heikki Mustonen founded the company Turun Elektroniikkapalvelu Oy. The enterprising duo knew each other through their previous employer, Teleste, where Henry was employed as Materials Supervisor and Heikki as Quality Supervisor.
Both were well acquainted with the electronics business. In addition, both had the courage atypical to enterprising individuals to implement their ideas. Contract manufacturing of electronics, of course, was a business area in the significance and expansion of which both men strongly believed.
In practice, business operations did not start until 1985. The initial premises consisted of rented accommodation covering 100 m², located on two floors at Vajossuontie 3, in the town of Turku. In their small workshop, the duo manufactured their first product for Wallac, which to this day remains a customer of the company.
Henry Sahonen started as the Managing Director of the company. The company received a boost when a dexterous new staff member, Lenita Lund, was snapped up for the production section. Along with Lenita, the company began to acquire more and more employees and, within two years, the company already had more than 10 members of staff. The company still employs several of the persons who joined in the first few years. During the initial years, the first major investment by the company consisted of a flow soldering machine.
Even though the economic collapse and the subsequent chaos in the business world may have seemed insurmountable to many, the resourceful Heikki Mustonen could predict the future. He discovered, during his numerous customer visits, that there was demand for traditional manual setting. However, due to the tight pricing competition in Finland, the work could not be undertaken cost-effectively.
Heikki was aiming for increased efficiency in the production chain and, in 1993, production was initiated in Russia, in the small village of Wärtsilä, by way of subcontracting. The premises for this were leased from a local timber mill and, initially, used production machinery from Finland was transferred out to Russia. Responsibility for the Russian operations was taken by Ulla’s brother, Sami Norppa, who was persuaded by Heikki to take up a new challenge across the Eastern border.
Sami relocated from Kuopio to Joensuu, from where he visited Russia over the next eight years some 2 000 times. The materials for goods under production were delivered by road to Joensuu, Sami then took them by road to Russia, and returned to Finland in the evening with the finished goods. At the outset, it wasn’t quite so straightforward, but inside a two-year period we learned the ways of the land, and the bureaucracy on the paperwork front was soon handled with professional precision.
Manufacturing in Russia grew very quickly and, eventually, out of the small 3000-strong population of the village of Wärtsilä, as many as 50 were employed by Tepcomp. The locals were appreciative of the company and the economic benefits it brought to the region. With hindsight, the Russian operations might well be described as dynamic.
The launching of LED operations
When it came to key decisions, Heikki Mustonen adopted a centralised management style, although he did carefully listen to the views of the company’s employees. During his management term, Heikki learned to take fast decisions and to react to changes with the right moves. The year 1997 brought along a significant milestone, which determined the new direction the company was to adopt. Tepcomp commenced the development of LED products, for which Heikki Mustonen had high hopes.
The very first LED customer solutions consisted of front and back lights for bicycles. Going forward, Tepcomp supplied items such as side lights for coaches, which were largely developed by the in-house design team of Tepcomp. The product design and development unit served as a useful partner for many a customer, since there were few similarities between conventional bulbs and LED technology. That same year, the first full-time buyer was engaged by the company.
In the 1990s, surface mount setting, to a large extent, was performed by hand at Tepcomp. In 1998, the industrial workshop at Oriketo was put up for sale, due to insufficient space. New premises were found at Virusmäentie 65, which contained more floor space and better facilities for new machinery. In the following year, the company acquired a Mydata surface mount machine – as well as a Reflow burner. Initially, the machine was operated in two shifts and its operation was studied by the entire personnel. In practice, the machine never had a day off!
From new strength to new growth
Towards the end of the last decade, Heikki and Ulla Mustonen started to consider retirement and the sale of their company. Their enterprise had been fruitful, but it had also taken its toll. The couple wished for new blood to elevate the company to its next phase of expansion.
A corporate acquisition in 2010 saw the company change hands. The new majority shareholder was Pekka Leppälä and the minority shareholder Uudenmaan Pääomarahasto. Various other candidates were also interested in acquiring Tepcomp.
Heikki considered the sale of Tepcomp long and hard, and various candidates for the purchase were interviewed several times. It was his firm wish that Tepcomp should continue in good hands, and that business development should play a major role also in future. Heikki met Pekka Leppälä on a number of occasions and became convinced that he had found the right man.
Pekka has under his belt nearly ten years’ of experience in selling paper machines in all corners of the world. He enjoyed a lengthy career at Metso and, among other matters, was responsible for their Italian sales and marketing activities for a three-year period. From Metso, Pekka moved on to Finpro, as their Marketing and Communications Director, where his role was to assist Finnish companies in establishing overseas. In addition, for a period of time, Pekka was the Managing Director and Partner at Entre Marketing. Pekka’s technical background, strong management experience and knowledge of international trade are the most likely traits to have landed the company sale in his favour.
Pekka Leppälä took over as Managing Director and Chairman of the Board on 7.4.2010. Pekka employed Ulla for two months, and Heikki for six months, so as to ensure a successful transition period. In practice, Heikki and Pekka spent six months face to face in one room, during which the invaluable capital of know-how was exchanged.
Change of management resulted in a change of company structure and an increase in personnel. Presently, Tepcomp employs approximately 135 staff. The design and development unit of the company has been strengthened, employee roles specified and more investments in machinery made. The latest SMD production line, Mydata SX100, was installed in June 2011.
In 2011, the company relocated to new, bigger premises at Kaurakatu 46, which consists of the previous premises of Teleste. The spiritual inheritance of Tepcomp continues inside the same premises where its seed was sown nearly 30 years ago.
Various innovative openings within the LED market have created a basis for future success. The personnel of Tepcomp promise that the next chapter of this story will prove interesting.