Despite the company’s global presence as an industry forerunner, KPA Unicon retains its roots as a family enterprise. It was founded 28 years ago by Mr. Pekka Kovanen, who is still majority owner today. In one way or another, the whole Kovanen family remains active in the day-to-day operations of the business.
For instance, Mr. Kovanen’s daughter, Jonna Kovanen, is responsible for certain aspects of KPA Unicon’s marketing and public relations, and son Jukka-Pekka Kovanen was a longterm CEO of the company and moved recently to the board.
Initially, the company primarily focused on delivery projects for oil and gas boilers, and maintenance of oil and gas boilers in Russia. More than 1,500 boilers have been delivered to date, forming the backbone of KPA Unicon for many years. By 2010, management decided to shift gears towards renewable biomass energy sources.
“This strategic shift led to an acquisition in 2014, which expanded our portfolio to include biomass, specifically an innovative product called Biograte,” explains Jukka Pennanen, Chief Customer Officer at KPA Unicon. More than 70% of the company’s contracts in 2017 were for biomass technology and related services.
“By continuously expanding our service offering, we have secured top market positions in Scandinavia as well as in Europe as a whole,” says Mr. Pennanen. Currently, more than 50% of all district heating plants in Finland were installed by KPA Unicon.
Although KPA Unicon’s primary products are boilers and boiler plants, a shift is occurring away from project-based contracts toward more service-based ones. “First, we try to understand the situation of our clients – their environment, their business model – and then we develop a tailormade solution package,” says Mr. Pennanen and adds: “The world today is so full of technology and boiler types that our customers need guidance in terms of what the best option is for them moving forward.”
What sets KPA Unicon apart from its industry counterparts is its comprehensive approach to ensuring longevity in the lifecycles of its plants. “Fundamentally, we are partners offering a wide range of technology and service capabilities, including incorporating cutting-edge developments where applicable,” elaborates Mr. Pennanen.
Within the past few years, there has been a push toward digitization, utilizing big data and the Internet of Things to maximize efficiency. KPA Unicon has developed its own digital platform which allows for streamlined operation and maintenance of its power plants.
“This aspect really differentiates us from our competitors – regardless of the environment, our clients are given the capacity to closely monitor, analyze and report production data in real-time,” emphasizes Mr. Pennanen.
With the integration of the company’s digital platform, KPA Unicon is able to monitor its plants in real-time as well as offer 24/7 support globally – a plant lifecycle service. “At the moment, we have more than 60 plants under our remote operation from our centralized service center. The plants under operation are located in Finland, Sweden, France, Russia and Croatia. Chile will be on our list very soon,” says Mr. Pennanen.
The majority of KPA Unicon’s clients are from the energy sector, processing plants, food industries and also breweries. These are all industries that require steam for their production process, and need a readily available and efficient way to produce it. Utilizing residues from other processes, KPA Unicon can produce reliable and cleaner sources of steam. A concrete example can be found in KPA Unicon’s steel mill projects, for which it developed an innovative solution to the mills’ polluting exhaust.
The company created a system of burning the harmful gases of the coke oven in boilers, cleaning the flue gases that would otherwise pollute the air, and creating the steam necessary for utilization in the production processes of the steam mill.
Even as a leader, there is always room for growth. For the coming years, Mr. Pennanen has outlined a number of key objectives for the company’s continued improvement. “KPA Unicon should be perceived as more of a partner than a supplier moving forward, this together with new business models and benchmarking will ensure that we maintain our competitive edge long-term,” he notes.
With this in mind, the company has its sights set on further developing a presence in central Europe, North and South America as well as China and South Africa. “We see the trends in Europe and internationally toward modern and instant service delivery – there is significant demand for upgrades in terms of plant automation and efficiency. This can be achieved with the right partners,” concludes Mr. Pennanen.