Archive for November, 2006

My log cabin project

Thursday, November 30th, 2006

Before I start to go through the visual documentary of my own log cabin project, I’d like to build a foundation for the story. It started long ago, back in 1997 when my cousin told that he had a million dollar opportunity (actually it was a two thousand dollar opportunity, but let’s not mind about that). He had come across two cheap Honka log cabin kits that just screamed to be bought.

After a quick phone call, Honkarakenne made some arrangements and following day the log cabin kit was resting in my cousin’s garage. Actually at that point there were two of them, but since this is a story of only one of those cabins… You’ll just have to follow the storyline of the late bloomer. Unfortunately it took almost a decade from the kit to finally make it to present location by the lake. But that is a topic for a whole new picture.


The use of campaign

Tuesday, November 14th, 2006

Log homes and log cabins can be surprisingly difficult products to understand. You get all kinds of sets and degrees of deliveries. Moreover, log homes and log cabins are image products, just open any log home magazine and it is all about emotion to have one not about money it takes to buy one or skill it takes to build one. These are the reasons why it is so easy to be lured by advertising while shopping log building.

Seth Godin had a piece about nutty pricing. I don’t know how was the case with Seth’s example, but nutty pricing can sometimes be clever pricing. Many log home companies name various delivery choices with normal buyers campaign mentality in mind. They might have four different delivery packages for certain model e.g. like this: basic, normal, deluxe and service.

The idea is to rely on our logic thinking. We automatically go and presume that service package is the best, however they set the package pricing lower than deluxe so we believe the company when it says that service package now has special pricing because of the season (it is always the season for log homes). If we go into the details and compare the delivery contents, we notice that deluxe was indeed much better, but to notice that, you have to go and have long discussions with the sales agent.

Mind about the product and the price it is not always what the label says.

Honkarakenne Oyj

Tuesday, November 7th, 2006

Honkarakenne Oyj is the company behind the Honka brand. Company was founded during the fifties. This was the time when Finland was being rebuilt in the aftermath of the WWII. Name of the game was speed and new technologies and materials. To stay with the competition, Honkarakenne took hand hewing and started to turn it into an industrial process.

Industrialization and use of heavy machinery in the production of round logs cemented Honkarakenne’s position as one of the market leaders in Finland. Industrial manufacturing in turn helped Honkarakenne Oyj to increase productivity and that lead into sales expansion towards export markets. After all, Finland is a small market and wouldn’t suffice as a sole market area, thus next big areas of development were marketing, sales and exports.

Sales started to pick up and volumes grew rapidly. Increasing home market saturation and also Finnish mark (currency) devaluations were reasons for internationalization. Japan is the first big foreign market.

Stock market listing brings cash for the company to really kick-start international operations. Honkarakenne solidifies their status as a leading log home manufacturer and garners strength for future growth.

This decade sees Honkarakenne to complete their internationalization process. Honka brand is now known on all three main markets in Asia, Europe and North America. Subsidiaries are in charge of local business operations.

Honkarakenne expands outside their traditional business area and starts a subsidiary named Honka Holiday that operates cottage-renting business. Company is looking new markets to increase sales.

YEAR 2003
Honkarakenne agreed to build the world’s biggest log home to Russia’s Sochi. House was to cover 4500 square meters and would have swimming pool, several saunas, restaurants and other luxury amenities. This one log building was just a part of bigger project totaling 20 log house cottages.

Year 2003 was otherwise very challenging for Honkarakenne, as they started to rationalize their operations. They had too many manufacturing locations to be truly efficient and downsized as well as closed down their sawing operations.

Cottage renting business, which had been part of the company since 1996, was separated and it started to operate under the name of Honka Holiday – yet another attempt to streamline organization.

YEAR 2004
This year saw one life-changing decision from Honkarakenne. They introduced Aitokoti brand, a line of log homes, which were designed to fit suburban areas. Vacation home building has seen its better growth days domestically and now growth would be in the area of normal home building. This approach worked and is working well in Finland, which might be the reason, why Honkarakenne tested similar features in Germany.

Year 2005
Year was catastrophically dire for Honkarakenne because their sales plummeted in Germany and slowed in Japan. Traditionally these areas have been very strong for Honkarakenne. Moreover their recent investments on Alajärvi and Karstula factories have taken toll on company’s finances and while slowing sales mean less manufactured log homes – modernized factories have not been utilized to the fullest. Technology investments have also included information and process technologies to optimize production and logistics. place at different locations.

Problems in Germany can be pinpointed to the fact that company walked over their sales network and introduced new concept of selling housing packages. This move was aimed to higher visibility and ease of operation and increasing profit margins. In practice Honkarakenne was trying to turn into homebuilder instead of vacation homebuilder. However, German customers are used to unique and personal housing solutions and resulted mess dwindled sales. Now operations have been returned back to previous and sales have picked up. Year 2006 should therefore be much better.

Year 2006
This year has seen interesting developments at Honkarakenne. They have joint-operation with Finwood to manufacture lightwood storage cabins and other light structures. On the other end of spectrum they invested on TimberHeart and that increases their factory utilization plus they will have a shot for new inroads to get design-oriented customers.

In the United States, Honkarakenne decided to switch gears and instead of their subsidiary leading marketing and sales, they now trust in six independent importers to open the market.

21.07.2006 Honkarakenne issued a profit warning. Turnover isn’t developing as estimated and therefore profit is also going to be lower than expected. However, result is going to be better than year 2005 and because third and fourth quarters are the strongest quarters, they still might reach the goal for this year.

Today, Honkarakenne has over 150 distributors, agents and dealers worldwide. Two thirds of the production is exported, and Honkarakenne happens to be the only log home and log cabin manufacturer that operates locally on all three main markets – Asia, Europe and North America.

Honka product lines include pre-designed but customer modified buildings and also totally custom-designed log structures. Company has introduced designer models to attract new customer segments.

Company has been trying to develop project building expertise by taking part into new construction projects with builders and investors. Holiday centers, spa accommodation, hotel lodging or vacation areas. These sorts of projects don’t have stellar profit margins but they do generate lots of turn over so they can be very lucrative for big industrial player. Here they have an advantage because not to many construction companies have such material expertise.

More about Honkarakenne Oyj at their website.

Financial statements

NAN financial statements from 1988 to 1999

Cooperation with communes, construction companies, builders, investors, developers

Process development

Biggest log home



List of Finnish log home manufacturers

Monday, November 6th, 2006

This is a growing list of Finnish log home companies (they sure try to use word honka in their name - do you know what honka means?). Links will light up as soon as I manage to write a company profile.

Honkarakenne Oyj

Kontiotuote Oy
Finnlamelli Oy
Kuusamon Hirsitalot Oy
Oy Weekend House Finland Ab
Vuokatti Hirsitalot Oy
Vaaran Aihkitalot Oy
Honkamajat Finland Ltd
Honkakartano Oy
Honkatalot Oy
Ollikaisen Hirsirakenne Oy
Lapin Punahonka
Pohjankari Oy
Suoranta Oy
Rantasalmi Oy
Suomen Lomakoti Oy
Timber-Hirsi Oy
Vehasen Saha Oy
Ikihirsi Oy
Kiimingin Mökkinikkari Oy

  • Log home photos

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