The journey’s next step
A long history of innovation – as well as flexibility in the face of industrial and social transformation – has given rise to the Wärtsilä we know today. The decision to build a next-generation innovation and production centre in Vaasa is the next crucial development in this story.
During its history, Wärtsilä has undergone several transformations and managed to conquer new market areas with innovative products and services. Having built itself into a global business with ground-breaking products such as the Wärtsilä Vasa engine series, the company has advanced with both sea and land based solutions, to deliver complete lifecycle services for customers around the world. The power plant business changed Wärtsilä’s business model, and the company went on to successfully reposition its offering – moving from selling only products to profiling itself as a comprehensive solutions partner.
“With regards to innovation milestones, we have always been a front runner, leading the technology transformation towards LNG and dual-fuel engines in the marine industry. From the customer’s point of view, Wärtsilä was seen as an engine manufacturer just over a decade ago, and now we have successfully transformed into a technology services company, offering complete lifecycle solutions for the marine and energy markets,” says Hannu Mäntymaa, Director, R&D and Engineering at Wärtsilä.
Today, Wärtsilä sees itself as enabling sustainable societies with smart technology. The company aims to lead the marine and power generation industries’ evolvement and positive disruptive development towards a connected marine ecosystem, and a future that utilises 100% renewable energy.
In order to make this possible and to answer global challenges, experts from various fields of business and research need to be brought together. Announced in August 2018, the state-of-the-art Smart Technology Hub in Vaasa will gather all this expertise into a whole new realm.
By the end of 2020, all Wärtsilä functions and personnel in central Vaasa will be transferred to the new hub, along with the logistics and maintenance workshop operations from Runsor.
Mäntymaa says that the new centre for research, product development and production in Vaskiluoto represents a huge leap forward for Wärtsilä compared to the current Vaasa facility. Since the 1960s, the production site’s focus has been on the manufacturing and development of four-stroke engines. The new hub will now connect this know-how with a future-oriented approach, looking to create comprehensive integrated solutions instead of individual products.
“The centre will offer a framework for the development and co-creation of the next generation of smart solutions. It will be a platform for deepening partnerships beyond separate projects, working together with our customers, suppliers, and universities towards a shared vision. No single company is able to come up with all the innovations necessary to make such a profound change on its own. Together, we will utilise the opportunities presented by digitalisation and big data to tie together production, planning, services, and customer needs,” Mäntymaa explains.
By making use of, for example, automation, robotics, advanced product and system testing, and simulation, Wärtsilä is looking to broaden its role as an industry-shaping entity. This will require the development of hybrid solutions and new types of fuels and energy storage technologies, optimising the lifecycles of energy installations. And while shipping is already the most environmentally sound solution for transporting goods, much can still be done to minimise its inefficiencies.
“The expectation is that the new hub will enable us to better analyse the data available directly from our installations and utilise it in creating superior, faster, and more efficient solutions for our customers,” Mäntymaa adds.
Mäntymaa says that while there are players whose innovation efforts concentrate on either the energy or marine market, the Smart Technology Hub is unique in the sense that it brings together both, combined with lifecycle solutions and services. This allows the development of entire integrated systems.
“Another unique feature of the centre will be its Smart Partner Campus, where we invite all our customers and suppliers – as well as start-ups and academia – to take part in various innovation events and programmes, in the spirit of true co-creation.”
The hub will also be connected to Wärtsilä’s worldwide network of centres of expertise, such as its Acceleration Centres in Europe, Asia and North America. This will facilitate the efficient transfer of data and connecting competences also across various operations within the company.
“We have been investing in setting up Wärtsilä Experience Centres where, for example, a customer in Helsinki or Hamburg can be virtually present at the Smart Technology Hub. A trial run for an engine or system can be carried out without the need to physically travel to Vaasa.”
The hub will also advance the model of working with digital twins of physical installations, making development work more flexible. Optional solutions can first be simulated and tested, comparing their benefits, after which the preferred option can be taken into production.
An inspiring environment
“Vaasa is an excellent site for the hub as the region has the leading energy technology cluster in the Nordic region, with a university and various companies whose combined know-how and global connections offer significant synergies for us,” Mäntymaa says, adding that the ambition is to create an inspiring environment for experts to join forces.
Wärtsilä will invest EUR 83 million in modern testing and production technology for the Smart Technology Hub. The total investment will be in the region of EUR 200 million, consisting of office and factory buildings, logistics and infrastructure.
“We are hoping that the hub will be seen as the place to be in terms of the technology of the future.”