Hannu Ylönen – 218 projects in a 46-year career
If there were a competition to see who was most knowledgeable about the electrical systems of
surface treatment plants, Hannu Ylönen would surely be world champion. Hannu has worked with
these electrical systems for 46 years and participated in 218 projects. When we talk about well-
deserved retirements, none is more well-deserved than Hannu’s!
“My job description has varied over the years, from drawing up offers to start-ups. In many projects
I have worked as designer, installation supervisor or project manager,” Hannu tells us.
Hannu began his career in the maintenance department of Upo Oy back in June 1970. Back then
the Finnish company made everything from home appliances to plastic pipes. The first surface
treatment lines were installed already in the late 1960s, but in 1974 Hannu transferred to Upo
Engineering, where work really began on developing surface treatment technology.
“When people asked me where I worked and I said at Galvatek, no one knew what we do.
Generally people assumed that we are in the galvanising business. When I explained that we
supply entire surface treatment lines that are used by other companies, and that Oras taps and
Abloy locks are made on lines that we supplied, then they understood.”
Galvatek changed hands over the years, belonging to Partek, then to Outokumpu, then to its
operative management, then to Kemira and now to its current owners. Between 1996 and 2004
Hannu worked as a shareholder in a supplier, but in practice he carried out electrical projects for
Galvatek lines. He returned to Galvatek in 2004.
Working whenever there is work to be done
“I’ve been involved in project work, which is never routine. Sometimes there is too much work and
sometimes too little. In recognition of this, Galvatek has relied on a system of local agreements
with employees for the past 20 years already, whereas other companies are only just beginning to
consider this option. Accordingly, we work whenever there is work to be done and take time off
during slower periods. Should a colleague from Japan call with a problem, we respond even during
holidays and time off. I have been on part-time retirement for a while, but still there are very few
days without work. Bonuses make up for any time off that I lose,” Hannu explains.
Hannu’s work supervising installations have taken him around the world, from Ulyanovsky in
Russia to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Galvatek is indeed a truly global company with
customers all over the world.
“In the 1980s we installed lines in Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia, for example, and I didn’t
always know how long I would be away for. If I told my family that I would be away for three weeks,
I could in fact be away for three months. Of course, I was able to come home for weekends at
times, but still we had no mobile phones, e-mails or other modern communication devices. I used
to reserve a phone call to Finland in advance once a week or so,” Hannu remembers.
Back in the office, markers and overhead projectors made way for computers in the 1980s. The
change was enormous, and all the new technologies had to be learned from the start. Around the
same time, surface treatment lines began using electronic control systems and eventually the
Galcont control system, which Hannu praises.
“The pace of work is also much faster these days. Whereas before we had a year or two between
the order and start-up, now we have six months. This simply wouldn’t be possible if we still used
markers and fixed-line phones. We also used to handle only one project at a time, whereas now
we can handle two or three simultaneously.”
People retire, expertise remains
Employees at Galvatek enjoy their work and long careers. Alongside Hannu, two other long-time
employees will be retiring in the near future having worked at Galvatek for decades. In recognition
of the expertise possessed by long-time employees, Galvatek has invested more than most other
companies in transferring this knowledge to new employees.
“The three of us who are retiring held nine training days for young employees, and we’ll hold
another nine training days in near future. Young employees are extremely well educated and
incredibly smart, but those of us with years of experience can still teach them something new
about this specialised field. I can then retire with a sense of satisfaction, as we have a very good
team spirit and I know that the others can do their jobs,” Hannu admits.
Hannu was on part-time retirement for the last five years. It is very likely that his expertise will be
called on from time to time in various projects even when fully retired, as is true with other recently
retired employees. What is for sure is that Hannu won’t be bored after he retires.
“As a young man I used to be a rally co-driver, and I also competed with snowmobiles and
motorbikes. With seven other friends from those years we still attend the Arctic Lapland Rally in
Rovaniemi in wintertime and the Neste Rally in summertime. I also attend historic car events in my
museum-registered Taunus. In addition, I have been a member of the local Lions Club for over a
decade, and I am somewhat involved in local politics. Plus I like to fish and hike in Lapland, and I
have four grandchildren to keep me occupied!” Hannu laughs.