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At this time of year, it’s customary to take stock of the past and consider the future. This time, I want to stop staring into the rear-view mirror and look forward through the windscreen.
The reason, of course, is the pandemic that has plagued us for the past two years. While business has been good in some sectors despite these exceptional times, it’s caused friction for most. This has also affected Finn Lamex, because our core business is closely connected to tourism and travel. The impact of the coronavirus has certainly weakened demand for our products – last year, for example, turnover was more than 40% below our target.
Typically, our customers’ business activities are characterized by a degree of caution. Products aren’t bought to keep in stock, just what’s needed urgently – and they have had to be delivered very quickly. Even during this unusual period, critical orders have been processed smoothly thanks to the skilled and flexible staff at Finn Lamex.
The coronavirus is unlikely to disappear entirely in 2022. However, we believe the situation is beginning to improve, and we’re aiming for a higher turnover compared to 2021. A precise forecast is impossible at this stage, but at the moment orders are moving quite well considering the time of year and the ongoing coronavirus situation.
There’s a sense that the underlying sentiment in the sector has shifted. Customers are daring to move again and becoming more active than in the past couple of years. In addition, many exporting countries are ahead of Finland, and a sharp deterioration of the situation has often been followed by a rapid change for the better.
This year at Finn Lamex began with product development – for example, in projects aimed at improving quality with machine vision. We’re also planning to make more use of digital solutions in the future and do away with manual records, reporting and analysis, among other things. We also have a longer three-year project underway, and this year we will focus on clarifying our future actions.
On the strategic side, we’ll continue the work we started before the pandemic: searching for support in new sectors – such as heavy machinery and motorhomes – alongside our work with buses. Some progress has been made towards this goal during the pandemic, but it will take time. Right now, travel restrictions and event cancellations are slowing customer acquisition. In addition, developing new windscreen models in the industry is a long process. There aren’t any magic tricks. However, this is the direction we’re working towards continuously.
Light on the horizon
In the longer term, the future of Finn Lamex and the industry as a whole is positive. The global mega-trend of urbanization will continue, and with it the need for public transport, including buses, will increase.
We also believe we’ll find enough products and customers in the heavy machinery segment who suit us in terms of their quality, price, and production volume expectations. As with the rest of our production, we focus on higher-end products, for which there are fewer manufacturers worldwide.
A third positive sign is that more demanding curved glass continues to gain popularity in the bus sector. These significantly improve driver visibility – and therefore, passenger safety – and we have a strong core competence in their production. In the long term, the hope is that this same safety-first approach, which is already better understood in Europe, will also come to the fore in North America. This would increase the demand for safer, high visibility curved glass and improve Finn Lamex’s prospects in the US market.