Employee stories

40 years at Promeco

Ralf Aalto is a real jack of all trades, currently working as an assembler at Promeco’s Vaasa facility. This fall, he was honored for his 40-year career at the company. His story is one of commitment, professional growth, and the importance of the work community.

Ralf’s career journey at Promeco began in an interesting way. Initially, he joined a company that would later become part of Promeco, known as VM Group, in the late 1970s. Fresh out of school, Ralf first took a short-term role at a soap factory. Once that ended, his father, employed at VM, helped him secure a two-week stint there. This temporary assignment led to an unexpected opportunity: the then-CEO, Seppo Koistinen, offered Ralf a chance to stay on. However, Ralf had a commitment to fulfill – his military service – which he completed before returning to the company. But Ralf’s longstanding tenure at Promeco didn’t start immediately upon his return. In the fall of 1982, he briefly ventured out to work for another company, only to find it unsuitable. He recalls a particularly challenging day:

“I was assisting a plumber in a pit during the expansion of the Wärtsilä factory. Drenched in wet snow and rain, I realized this wasn’t the job for me.”

Luckily, a chance encounter with Seppo Koistinen changed his trajectory.

“Seppo asked when I was planning to return to work. I replied, ‘Immediately.’ And that marked the beginning of what has now become a remarkable 40-year journey with Promeco,” Ralf reflects.

Career Development

Ralf’s career at Promeco has been diverse. He started as a welder in a small workshop with about ten welders and one seamstress.

“We worked hard and sometimes traveled around Finland to install large partition walls in sports halls. As the business expanded, we moved to larger premises. Since the 1990s, we have been in this ABB hall,” Ralf says.

Welding is dusty and smoky work, and after a few years, Ralf grew tired of it. He learned to use a press brake machine on the job and gradually moved to press brake operator tasks. However, Ralf’s wrists were tested in this role, and he developed a severe case of tenosynovitis. This made working so difficult that the employer arranged a position for him in assembly.

“The employer saw this as a positive thing, as they value versatile skills here. I can now train others in different tasks if needed. I haven’t had any major problems in assembly; my physique has held up well.”

Growth in skills and knowledge

Over the years, Promeco’s equipment has been continuously updated and modernized. With automation becoming part of the work, Ralf has attended several courses with his colleagues and learned about computing. According to Ralf, the best way to learn the job is by doing and receiving proper training.

“No one can just jump on a machine and start producing products. You need solid basic knowledge, and the training has to be thorough. Fortunately, that has always worked well at Promeco. We always have skilled colleagues here who can teach others on the spot.”

When asked how Promeco has changed over 40 years, Ralf doesn’t know where to start. So much has happened over the years.

“The job description and products have changed, and the work environment has evolved. The number of employees has also increased as orders have grown, and the group now operates throughout Finland. Welding has decreased a lot; nowadays, in assembly, we use a lot of riveting, which leaves a very neat finish.”

The working environment has also undergone considerable transformation. Presently, in Vaasa, Promeco is gearing up to handle larger components, which involves tearing down walls and installing new cranes and additional equipment in our workshop.

“Our facilities here are top-notch, with a strong emphasis on safety. The company is in a continuous state of evolution. Whenever there’s an opportunity to improve something, we’re quick to innovate and enhance our operations,” Ralf lists.

Many reasons to stay

Over 40 years, there could have been many opportunities to change jobs but Ralf has remained loyal to Promeco. He has maintained good relationships with the owners and praises the workplace atmosphere.

“I’ve truly enjoyed working with my colleagues and being part of this work community. Currently, we have a lot of Estonians and Ukrainians on our team, and they are incredible individuals – diligent and proficient. The atmosphere at work is appropriately laid-back. While there’s room for independent work, there’s also effective oversight, ensuring that errors are kept in check. This has felt good.”

Ralf also commends his workplace for genuinely valuing and caring for its employees.

“We regularly receive recognition and organize enjoyable recreational activities. Most recently, we were on a cruise. Whenever someone suggests a sauna evening, our employer promptly responds, and we arrange the event. These are nice boosts to the ordinary workday.”

Retirement on the horizon

During the recent cruise, Ralf experienced a delightful surprise. He was called to the front row during an evening event and was given a beautiful speech thanking him for his 40 years of service at Promeco. As a service anniversary gift, Ralf received a CardPro gift card and four paid days off.

“It felt good to be remembered in that way. Although for me, it has been enough that I have been able to be here.”

Retirement is looming in October 2024. However, he does not plan to forget Promeco even then.

“40 years have gone by in a flash, and it will certainly be strange not to have to make lunch and cycle to work in the morning. I will definitely miss my colleagues, but then I will have to come and visit them here.”

Promeco will also remain part of Ralf’s family, as his son Joonas has followed in his father’s footsteps and works at Promeco in assembly.

“I have told Joonas that you have a really good job here.”