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Global Insights

An Interview with Ola Ulmala, CEO of ALLU

FocusOn – Global Insights. Interviews with the top executives of manufacturers and end users of equipment for the industries served by FocusOn publications

In this edition, Roger Murrow interviews Ola Ulmala, CEO of ALLU

52 year old Ola Ulmala M.Sc (Civil Engineering) has been CEO of ALLU since 2014. Before that Ola had a distinguished career with Rammer (part of Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology) culminating him becoming Vice President for Breakers, Sandvik Construction

His time at Rammer, Sandvik and now ALLU, has seen Ola become highly experienced in the global construction equipment business. Recently Ola led a major rebranding of ALLU which has reconnected this market leader with its customers, aiming at ‘transforming’ their operations through the use of this highly innovative and productive technology.


In the early years of your life, what did you want to be when you grew up?

In my early childhood I wanted to be a chef, but this later changed to be a lawyer or get involved in the construction business, which of course I did.

Is there one person in particular that has had a major impact on the direction you took professionally?

I have been fortunate to deal with many interesting people during the many cross roads of my life. For my Master’s thesis the university was contacted by my future boss asking whether there was a student who was extrovert enough to get interested in sales. The member of the university staff then laughed and said: “yes, I know one”. That was my step into the sales world and the first job linked to the thesis.

Thereafter I have been extremely lucky with great bosses. During the time at Rammer/Sandvik two to mention: Kauko Juuri and Duncan McGregor. Both great mentors providing guidance and support.

Can you briefly describe your career and how you came to be CEO of ALLU?

The Rammer business has a clear link to the attachment business. ALLU does the much the same and needed a person with the experience to further develop the ALLU business. Its dealer network needed reactivation and to be rebuilt. The person who headed up ALLU also required the knowledge gained in different roles in a company in order to take ALLU through the next steps with customer focused valued added approach, modern IT systems, marketing etc.

I met with my predecessor (the former CEO of ALLU) who had made great strides at ALLU and grown the business (Kauko Pylväs) but he was approaching retirement age. After several discussion and meetings with the main shareholders (ALLU is a family company), I was appointed.

You spent many years at Rammer / Sandvik. Was it a difficult decision to leave such a large and well respected company?

When you are at one company for a long period of time you develop great relationships and learn a lot. However I have placed great emphasis on maintaining my contacts and continuing my ‘learning curve’. I had 17 years in a large international group which presented its own challenges. Now I have the opportunity to develop a family business that has grown from an innovators idea to an international company.
What lessons have you learnt from your time with Rammer? Is there anything you would have changed?

The main thing I learnt at Rammer was ‘team spirit’ and the power of people with similar attitudes and targets. These are fundamental for success and going that extra mile. You need these attributes to survive in a tough business. I have also learnt that when people truly believe in the company, the products and solutions they try to develop, they provide the necessary motivation to drive for the result.

The distribution network was the strength of Rammer. Dealers and distributors were key, and working with them was an excellent way of learning about the business. Basically, when the dealers do well, so does the manufacturer. In parallel to the dealer business, the time spent within an OEM business with large international partners was highly educational. This is especially relevant when I moved from product sales to ‘selling’ a business.

As to things I would change, I would say that for any owner of a company is to carefully consider the strengths of the businesses or teams the company might have acquired. If the numbers prove the business and the team is strong, concentrate in supporting the business. Basically instead of changing something that is strong and solid, a question could be “how can we support you to do even more?”

Rammer has a reputation for excellence of product and aftermarket care; how have you taken these core concepts to ALLU?

ALLU has a strong history in dealer sales. Even more emphasis has been put to being truly close to the dealers and customers. Supporting a dealer to develop good business is truly beneficial to all. This means frequent contact, true transparency and partnership. All these build trust and will be highly beneficial for the business – for the dealer and ALLU.

In layman’s terms, can you please describe the ALLU product offering?

ALLU TRANFORMERs are attachments that can transform ‘waste to value’, ‘Trash to cash’ etc. It’s about the technology providing value more than the product. The products sort, separate, mix and crush (crush materials like bricks). Also The Processors are attachments for the same businesses, applications and customers. It’s just the IN SITU way of operation which is a different.

Why is the ALLU range so highly regarded?

ALLU has the excellent reputation of going the extra mile for the customer. This has to be even with product development which has been very flexible. Pretty much everything has been possible. From the business side ALLU, has been the innovator of this type of business and has been successful in this for the last 30 years. From the product side, the design has always been (even to the extremes of ‘no wear allowed’) robust, delivering long lasting, highly productive and reliable products.

Which geographic markets is ALLU strongest in, and conversely, weakest?

We are currently strongest in the Central EU and US, where as we are at the development stage in Asia.

ALLU’s sales have increased in the last two years. Considering the increased number of competitors how was this growth possible?

It’s not about the competition. It’s about market presence and the push to serve globally the local customers. It is essential to keep your feet on the ground and communicate with the customer, deal with his/her actual issues and make sure that any problem is truly solved. A professional and committed dealer network is a network of partners for ALLU. We will make sure that our dealers see ALLU as a great business opportunity.

What business segments have delivered the most growth?

Innovations are one key element of the ALLU way of doing business; new products are great growth opportunities. These include the M-Series and the G-Series Transformers. The most interesting single application is the mine clearing project in Germany: screening out mines from the sand.

ALLU now has some very impressive equipment which is ideal for surface mining and quarrying; is there untapped potential in these segments, and if so, where?

There is untapped potential everywhere! Whenever we start discussing ALLU products in most cases our solution is new to the customer. Also any limitation of a solution with suitable applications is only in our minds. Actually many of the applications are the result of customers innovative thinking themselves with us providing the tools.

A highly interesting untapped market is for the M and G-Series. Their usage in is in the process industry, where their added value can rather clearly be specified to the customer – savings in time, savings in less down time, savings in less CAPEX needs, fewer pieces of machinery needed for the same job and so forth.

What is the most successful product that ALLU has introduced since you joined the company?

This is a difficult pick with many developments taking place; not only complete products but also utilization and service. The most impressive volume sale product is the ALLU TS structure. It provides clear value to the customer and has proven a great success.

What other market segments (besides quarrying and surface mining) do the ALLU products cater for?

The list of applications is a mile long. Actually mining and quarrying are rather new segments for us. ALLU typical applications are: material handling, composting, waste processing and handling, and civil engineering projects like pipe lines.

Is there any particular ALLU product that really ‘excites’ you? If so, please can you tell me why?

It is really the entire product and application range. After all the years it is still a ‘new’ market; everywhere you go, it’s new whether its Processors or Transformers.

Briefly, how does ALLU go about introducing new and innovative products?

It starts always with the customer, even to the extremes of being a ‘one off case’ which from a business perspective a challenge. Listening to the requirements of the customer and dealers is a great source of ideas and thinking.

A good example would be the G-series. A customer approached us many times with a specific business need where an ALLU Transformer was seen as an alternative solution. The trouble was that the carrier was a 300 tonner and we had no product for it. The TRANSFORMER as a process was guaranteed to work, but we didn’t have a big enough one. A project was launched and from clean A4 to installation in less than one year. Fabulous.

When we ask manufacturers what is the number one request from the end user, we hear a variety of responses from better fuel efficiency, lower maintenance costs, higher productivity, immediate availability of parts and service. What do customers most commonly ask of ALLU?

As funny as it is, mostly application knowledge: “What can I do with this?” Or, “will it work with this kind of material? “Or, “Can it actually do my particular job?” Also one common request is concerning ease of field service. This is why we’ve moved towards field service friendly wear parts and established the customer support as ALLU SUPPORT.

Looking forward, what are the major customer operating trends that will effect ALLU product development?

From an application point of view, environmental topics are high on the agenda in most countries – e.g. mixing additives to neutralize contaminated soil. Ease of adaptability, flexibility for different applications will be a growing future trend. Again, solutions like ALLU TS are born from those needs – ‘one ALLU two fragment sizes’.

When the workday ends for you, what makes it a ‘good’ day?

What makes my clock tick is to be able to help and support. If I manage to help a customer in finding a solution that benefits him or her, or if I am able to support somebody in his/her routines to make their lives easier… that’s a truly rewarding experience.

Many thanks for your time.

About interviewer Roger Murrow: Roger is an editorial contributor to the FocusOn Group to offer interviews, insights and comments on the latest developments in the industry.

Roger has been involved in the quarrying, tunnelling, construction, demolition and recycling industries for 25 years. His experience involves senior marketing roles in a number of manufacturers, then as the founder of internationally renowned PR Consultancy MMC 2100 Ltd. In recent years he has been using this experience to write articles for numerous international magazines on a variety of industry subjects.