Go straight to the content

Jyväskylä – the hub for Schaeffler’s Industrial division product development team

Jyväskylä – the hub for Schaeffler’s Industrial division product development team

Few know that the tech giant Schaeffler’s Industrial Division has a successful product development team of twenty working in Jyväskylä. The cornerstones of this unit, established four years ago, include an agile development process, an active partner network, and local professionals.

When Jarno Suomela, living in Jyväskylä, negotiated to join the multinational Schaeffler for a product development role nearly five years ago, the plan was to relocate with his family to Germany. However, everyday life had become so firmly rooted in Jyväskylä that the family ultimately decided to stay here.

Based on discussions and investigations with the top management, the company recognized Finland's strengths in terms of developing a new product. Suomela secured a contract with Schaeffler and was tasked with establishing a product development unit in Jyväskylä as part of the Schaeffler Lifetime Solutions unit.

The purpose was to design OPTIME, a new type of product utilizing IoT, for condition monitoring and maintenance of industrial machines. Normally, the development process of a new product takes 3–4 years, but for OPTIME it took only about a year.

For the "opening lineup", Suomela recruited two experts he already knew.
“Since we were familiar with each other and our strengths, we didn't have to spend time getting acquainted. We hit the ground running from the very first day, and a prototype was ready within 3-4 months of the start," Suomela recalls.

"In hindsight, it's easier to recognize the significant impact of being able to build both the team and the partner network from scratch. We have a unique operating environment here in Finland. With that foundation, we were able to create a new kind of process that yielded results quickly. Establishing the unit in Finland turned out to be a success story," Suomela summarizes.

Read more:  >> Jyväskylä sparks innovation in industrial giant Schaeffler 


Excellence in competence and partner networks – assets of the Jyväskylä team

A more detailed analysis reveals that the success of the product development unit is a combination of several factors. According to Suomela, the first factor is expertise.
"The disintegration of Nokia ten years ago led to the emergence of a distinctive business ecosystem where each company excels in its field. Additionally, the personnel of these companies know each other well. It provides a solid foundation for collaboration."

"Considering the needs of Schaeffler, Finland offers ideal technology expertise, especially in IoT", he says.

The second pillar consists of industrial customers who, on a global scale, are not particularly large and therefore seek a competitive advantage through innovation and technology.
"We found many excellent pilot customers with whom the product was developed," Suomela explains.

Success would not have been possible without the trust of the management, with large corporations often having strict processes to follow. Initially, Suomela and his team received support and permission from the management to operate with their process. The special authorization for product development has now been internally audited and established as part of the team's way of working.


Focus on User Experience and Customer Value

Suomela highlights focusing on user experience and customer value as a key factor in their success, rather than just a "technical exercise." He states that the team had a clear vision of the customer value they wanted to build from the very beginning.

"All users of the product are individuals accustomed to user-friendly consumer products and who appreciate simple design."

"Our designed sensor is very different from traditional industrial products – in addition to being simple, comfortable, and easy to use, it resembles a consumer product in terms of color and form," Suomela describes.

"The result is an easy-to-use and affordable product, which is now used worldwide by tens of thousands of pieces.”

Having the right talent in Jyväskylä

Jyväskylä has been a great place for the unit to grow and develop, with employees being able to easily balance their personal and professional lives here. According to Suomela, the city is filled with great talents and the right profile. The product development team has grown to 25 members in four years, with 22 of them working in Jyväskylä.

Suomela estimates that in a year, the size of the Jyväskylä team will be close to thirty.
"Our recruitment has been extremely successful. We have used a partner for headhunting, making the process very smooth."

He points out that the number of employees alone does not provide an adequate picture of the scope of their operations.
"The business has multiplied several times in four years. Jyväskylä is extensively involved in this business."

Growth from hydrogen technology

Lifetime Solutions’ product development unit has strengthened its position in four years, and now Schaeffler is planning the expansion of a business unit related to the hydrogen industry to Jyväskylä. Hydrogen technology is a significant part of Schaeffler's Roadmap 2025 strategic framework.

”Finnish hydrogen know-how already has a good reputation around the world. We are currently looking for a hydrogen technology expert in Jyväskylä who would take responsibility for the company offering, along with the technology and business partner network,” Suomela says.


The cornerstones of success according to Jarno Suomela:

1 Expertise and know-how
2 Strong technological competence
3 Focus on customer value and user experience
4 Motivated customer and partner network
5 Management support and permission to act in a new way


Text: Annukka Ollitervo
Photos: Kari Merikanto

Check out other articles