After 12 years working at Kemppi, what keeps our Site R&D Manager Jari
Kettunen enthusiastic about the company?
Jari says that it’s the atmosphere of continual challenge that operating in
a R&D forerunner company offers – there’s always something new to
exploring something totally new, both professionally
and personally, is just what Jari did when he
decided to grasp the opportunity and move to Wuxi, China in March
Jari was already over ten years into an impressive career with Kemppi,
working with user experience and product concepts, including customer
understanding, industrial design, and the user interface design of welding
machines. So, when the opportunity came to establish and lead a local
customer support unit in China, Jari didn’t hesitate one bit.
In fact, for years he had secretly dreamed of working abroad, so this was
the perfect opportunity to fulfil that dream!
Why did Jari decide to take the opportunity, and what key lessons has he learned
since moving to Kemppi in China?
Jari came to
Kemppi from the other side of the table
It was back in 2011 that Jari joined Kemppi as a Design Manager. He moved
from the design consultancy business to a very different world in Kemppi – from
consultancy to the manufacturing customer’s side. That was something totally
new for Jari.
“I had been in
companies offering design services before, but now I was on the other side of
the table. Despite not being an engineer myself, I found Kemppi a really
interesting place of work from my perspective as a designer. Furthermore, I had
some welding experience, so that helped to understand the business in the
beginning”, Jari explains.
It’s safe to say that Jari was excited to join the company that is at the
forefront of design in the arc welding industry. And the same feeling has
lasted for nearly 12 years, as Jari has worked with user experience and product
concepts at Kemppi.
And no wonder – after all, user experience is something that can always be
further explored and improved, right?
Even though Jari fully enjoyed his work as a Design Manager at Kemppi’s Finnish
headquarters, he had secretly dreamed of working abroad some day. You know, it
was one of those thoughts that crossed his mind from time to time.
But knowing that Kemppi operates in 20 different countries, Jari’s thought
wasn’t that far-fetched after all, and wouldn’t require him to leave Kemppi.
An unexpected e-mail
made Jari’s secret wish of working abroad possible
As we know, sometimes life takes unexpected turns and catches us by surprise.
That happened to Jari at the beginning of the year.
It was a normal day at the office, when an unexpected e-mail arrived in Jari’s
inbox. It was from his department lead, who was looking for volunteers willing
to move to China to gain new professional experience. More precisely, the idea
was that “the volunteer” would establish and lead a new customer support unit,
where a small team of professionals would offer local support to local
Even though Kemppi has operated in China for over 30 years, we haven't
had many engineers who can give local support in case of welding machine
glitches or failures. Furthermore, those few that we did have were located in
Beijing, not in Wuxi.
So, in problem cases support was often requested from Kemppi headquarters
in Lahti, Finland. That's not always the best solution from the customer’s
point view, or for the company.
Jari knew that this was his time to grasp the opportunity.
“I thought that these things don’t happen every year – it’s now or never”,
Jari says, smiling.
So, he volunteered for the job and to his pleasant surprise, he got selected!
“Kemppi has always supported my desire to develop and train my skills. So I
was glad that I got accepted! For me, it indicated that I've been seen as a
valuable part of the company”, Jari says.
With over a decade of experience in customer experience at Kemppi, Jari was
definitely the right person for the job. And so, in March 2022, the next
chapter of his Kemppi career started in China.
Jari arrived in
China during the worst pandemic but it didn’t get him down
Jari arrived in China with his family during the worst phase of the
pandemic and spent the first 28 days in a quarantine at the hotel. Even
though it wasn’t the most pleasant time of his life, that didn’t get Jari down.
He was excited about the new chapter in his life – and the new challenges
he was about to face!
After a month, when he finally got to enter his new place of work, his
mission was crystal clear: he needed to put together a team that would be able
to provide customer support in case of welding machine malfunctions – just like
Having gained customer insight and experience back in Lahti, Jari knew
where to start – understanding the customers. But before being able to help any
customers, he needed a team around him with a wide variety of know-how and
competence. However, this wasn’t so easy; coming from a small market like Finland,
finding the right talent in an enormous labour market such as China was a big
change for Jari.
With the support of his colleagues back in Finland and drawing on his own
determination, the work slowly began to bear fruit. Today, Jari leads a team of
three – a team leader and a mechanical designer. And the plan is to grow the
“Together with the team leader, we are constantly developing our
operating environment and facilities, and how we can serve our local customers
in the best possible way in the future. And we are actively thinking about the future
composition of the team”, Jari says.
3 key lessons Jari
has learned so far with Kemppi in China
Moving to another country is, in itself, a big change, and starting
something new from zero is something you can’t fully prepare for.
However, it was this that got Jari, as a R&D Manager, excited about
moving to Kemppi China in the first place: the opportunity to create something
new and challenge himself.
What has he learned along the way, heading a team in China?
#1 There is a difference
between leading a new product development project and leading a design
As you might already know, Jari isn’t afraid of jumping into the
unknown. Even though he has an impressive career working with user
experience and product concepts, leading a new product development project has
been something new and totally different.
“During my Kemppi career so far I hadn’t yet been in charge of a new
product development project. Leading a product project differs quite a lot from
leading design and concept projects. Logistics, manufacturing, procurement and
commercialisation are some things I have learned about during my time here”,
“Luckily, I have been able to reach out to my Finnish colleagues in tricky
situations”, he adds.
#2 How to operate in a surprisingly
familiar new culture
According to Jari, he knew that welding is pretty much the same in Finland
and China, but he has been surprised how much the Chinese and Finnish people
have in common too.
“In both cultures we tend to be hardworking, polite, humble, and helpful
towards each other. That has been surprising to notice. Of course, there are
differences too – for example in terms of hierarchy”, Jari lists.
“Sometimes making myself clear in a foreign language is a bit challenging,
but I’m improving every day”, he laughs.
#3 How to look at things from
a different point of view
Having spent over a decade with Kemppi in Lahti, Jari has solid experience of
what it is like working in one of Finland’s most known companies in the field. But
after moving to China, that point of view changed quite radically.
“Kemppi is well known in Finland and Europe. We have a strong position
in the welding equipment market, and customers have high value for us and see
Kemppi as a high-end and high-quality brand. But in China, the situation is
completely different. Kemppi is not a big player here, and our position is not
strong or established just yet”, Jari explains.
“Therefore, we must be operating locally, get to know the local culture
and manufacture the machines in China. Even though the competition is extremely tough here, we are not about to
give up - on the contrary”, he adds.
“I’ve learned to see how Kemppi Lahti looks from this side of the world.
It’s like I’m looking at things from the perspective of another person. It’s
been an eye-opening experience”, Jari summarises.