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Secret of Finnish log homes

Friday, July 18th, 2008

Secret of attending parties
Official dress code baroque

Picture yourself in a large party, maybe slightly official with uncomfortable dress code and quite splendid surroundings. You were supposed to come here with your friend but she had to stay home because of migraine, so you are all alone in a party where you don’t know anyone and everybody seems to be making (or at least having) more money than you. Quite a task to feel relaxed, don’t you agree?

A Finn in a haystack
I hope you didn’t think you can get away from the party, because you are stuck there. Fear away though, amazingly you are going to meet a genuine Finn. Agreeable person, really quite surprisingly straight-forward and honest, but do you know what this Finn will ask from you as soon as he has the chance? “So, what do you think about Finland?” Ha ha, ain’t that quaint? We are overly concerned what others think about us, spiritually Finland is insecure teenager. You know what you would ask, How are YOU?, What do you think about the band?, Excellent food, eh?

World is 99,9% non-Finn
Just about 99,9% of world population are not Finns. Now that’s one heck of a big party! Can you imagine, how desperately insecure Finns feel themselves? All those people and nobody we know. Solution? Try to be better than you really are. That’s why we make so good log homes. We don’t want to be stared at, while there is a whole world in the same party.

RESOURCES:
This post is part of International Marketer Review Blog Carnival at Cindy King.

Log cabin storage

Sunday, July 13th, 2008

pigeon sitting in front of log cabin storage

It’s a big step for a pigeon and so it would be for a mice too. This last step - pictured in the photo above - is bit higher and open for specific purpose. The idea is to create a distance, which can’t be crossed by all the hungry little critters. This in turn saves amazing amount of food stuffs stored.

foundation level system to keep uninvited guests at check

Look at this structure, first layer is there to create a level base, on which it is easy to build further. It is clearly visible how the foundation level is much newer than actual log cabin over it. Also notice how the first layer of foundation is built over rocks and stones, so that those lowest lying logs won’t get wet and start to rot. Boy they knew what they were doing back in the day (or century for that matter).

Let’s to move our eyes bit higher. Stretching up from the first layer we have vertical posts and on top of them very broad logs. Think how hard it is to climb forward while back is pointing towards ground, so the purpose of this combination is to drop every single interested critter on their backs. Top of the post is the point of no-climbing-forward and food is saved.

old log cabin storage

Now we can observe the building’s shape in general. Foot of this log storage cabin is relatively small and walls extend outwards as we go upwards. This gives maximal cover for walls against rain and sunshine, extended overhangs seal the case with non-existence of windows. This is your everyday log cabin fortress. One thing that testifies for the fortress cabin is the date of erecting, which is estimated to be around 1850, later generations have made some small modifications on the structure, like more decorative architraves, but essentially it is like it was originally built.

RESOURCES:
This post is part of The Homesteading Carnival at HowToMe.

The best American log home manufacturer?

Friday, July 11th, 2008

Which company is the best American log home manufacturer? I’m playing with an idea of representing an American log home company here in Finland. I know this is tough market, because half of world’s biggest log home companies come from Finland. Still, I believe that American rustic log homes have a suitable and distinctive style, which is hard to imitate. Log cabin rental business is growing by leaps and bounds in Lapland and rental companies need specialties to compete efficiently.

American log homes have character
That’s true, say what you will, but American log homes are one of a kind, bit like American cars - big, bulky, powerful and cool. Unfortunately, American car manufacturers are in a bit of a trouble, markets cry for efficient cars and companies can’t deliver. Let’s hope the log home industry understands to jump the energy efficiency bandwagon and doesn’t just lull itself into thinking that people will buy those dream log homes no matter what. I’m all for dreams but if we can’t afford them, then we just have to change our dreams. Anyway, back to the topic.

Local competition in Lapland

log cabin home in Finnish Lapland

Now, here is a photo of competition. You will see this sort of new log homes and log cabins in ski resorts of Lapland. Good thing with this style is that it reads log home all over it. However, like most Finnish log homes, design is so Scandinavian that it starts to lack character. This kind of Scandinavian-styled log cabin will surely loose against rustic American log home. The victory prize is yet another happy family of overnight renters. So, any recommendations? Please, just type it down to comments.

Honkarakenne Oyj

Tuesday, November 7th, 2006

FIFTIES
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.

SIXTIES
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.

SEVENTIES
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.

EIGHTIES
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.

NINETIES
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
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.

SOURCES FOR THE ARTICLE:
Financial statements
http://helecon3.hse.fi/FI/yrityspalvelin/pdf/2002/Ehonkarakenne2002.pdf
http://helecon3.hse.fi/FI/yrityspalvelin/pdf/2003/Ehonkarakenne2003.pdf

NAN financial statements from 1988 to 1999
http://www.nan.shh.fi/corp/Honkarakenne/index.html

Cooperation with communes, construction companies, builders, investors, developers
http://www.kaupunkiuutiset.com/artikkelit/arkisto/artikkeli.php?artikkeli_id=972
http://www.teijo.fi/lomarakentaminen/honkarakenneoy/
http://www.laatumaa.com/page.asp?Section=10&Item=496
http://english.forestindustries.fi/index.html
http://www.maastorakentajat.com/index.php?id=24
http://www.aitokoti.fi/
http://www.kerimaa.net/cottages.php

Process development
http://www.anilinker.com/anilinker/references/cases/honkarakenne.xhtml

Biggest log home
http://newsfromrussia.com/main/2003/10/15/50517.html

News
http://www.arvopaperi.fi/article/id=18695
http://www.yritysopas.com/uutiset/2003-07-02-Honkarakenne-irtisanoo/

Articles
http://www.yrittajat.fi/sy/home.nsf/www/yrittamisenjuhlaa1986_1990/$file/honkarakenne_oy.pdf
http://www.comfortloghouses.com/Honka%20brochere/Born+in+Finland+20060629.pdf

New Category

Tuesday, October 24th, 2006

Log homes from Finland is the new category. In this new segment I am going to focus on Finnish log home manufacturers. Finnish companies can provide amazing value for your money. The reason for this is the Finnish mentality – everything should be simple and efficient. Think of a Nokia mobile phone or Finnish design, not too many excess lines there, eh?

One by one I’ll introduce you every single Finnish log home and log cabin manufacturer. There are over 200 such companies here in Finland, so you guys will be entertained or infotained for quite some time. Granted, most of these companies are tiny and probably refuse to export, even we all sign a petition.

Log home industry in Finland

Sunday, December 18th, 2005

Sometimes I do wonder this industry. It seems that our industry exists just because of a freak accident. I am talking about log home industry from Finnish point of view.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
Our country is relatively large when compared to population. This means that we have lots and lots of forests. Finland’s location on northern hemisphere gives us lots of pine and fir tree forests. Accidentally these trees, especially pines, make excellent log cabin home raw material. Hence we have abundant supply of log home building material.

FURTHER HISTORY

This is the basic setting. From historic point of view, log homes and log cabins were very popular in Finland until rebuilding efforts after the Second World War. We had to move masses of people away from Carelia, an area taken by Soviet Union (nowadays Russia). To accommodate so many people, in such a sort time was hectic operation. Problems arose from these people having no land, and therefore they had no access on timber. Logs are difficult to transport over distances, unlike saw-processed timber. This resulted into increasing timber frame building.

CLOSER HISTORY
Another historic milestone was the demographic change and urbanization of Finland. People moved to cities from countryside and single-home houses turned into apartment blocks, no timber used at all. Log home building nearly vanished but there was a savior in form of recreational log cabin building.

WAY OF LIFE
You might have heard Finland to be referred as a country of thousands of lakes. All those urbanized people wanted to have a summer cottage by lake. Log cabins came to rescue. Log structure is very solid and can withstand dry, cold and unused winters as well as humid, hot and active summers. Logs also played an important role in bringing some nostalgic atmosphere for this idyllic log home living. Making log cabins provided jobs to countryside, lumber was acquired and cabins built locally. Soon Finland was full of tiny father and son operated log cabin companies. Some of these companies managed to grow.

INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT
Markets in Finland are tiny and soon biggest log cabin rush was over. Some companies had managed to build their operations to industrial level so that machinery was largely used in milling the logs instead of handcrafting. These companies worked hard to build nationwide brands and many of them managed to do this. Among these companies we got our first log home and log cabin exporters. Today Finland boasts with the world’s biggest industrial log home manufacturer Honka and several others that are somewhat smaller.

EXPORTS
Exports of Finnish log homes started with nearby area deliveries – Sweden and rest of the Scandinavia, Russia and Germany. These areas still form bulk of Finnish log cabin and log home exports. True jackpot came from Japanese markets. Finnish log home companies have been able to sell cabins to Japan by thousands. Apparently there is something in Finnish log cabin design that pleases Japanese aesthetics. The look of Finnish log cabin as well as log home is very clean and streamlined, there is something very “Scandinavian design�? in them. One reason for this is that once our log home companies had filled the original market demand for rustic log cabin homes, they had to expand their product slate and offer log homes that fit into suburban setting.

FUTURE
Finnish log homes have not had much success on American soil, because of the lack of rustic feeling. Honka has been trying to educate U.S. homebuyers, but with relatively modest results. More and more Finnish companies are adapting to foreign markets, because tough domestic competition has improved their quality and design. I believe that in the future, Finland will have couple of log home industry giants.

  • Log home photos

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