Kesla - from 60's to today


”There is something special and unique about the people of North Karelia. They are rugged and down-to-earth but, at the same time, they are becoming increasingly competent and open-minded in a very modern sense. Above all else, they are sincere.”

Pasi Koivumaa

The beginning: Stone and Antti


When the small farmer Antti Kärkkäinen bought his first Fordson Major in 1954, he began to wonder how he could defeat the scourge of Eastern Finland’s fields, the stones. Antti was a clever man, and so he developed his own stone-clearing machine, Kivi-Antti (“Stone-Antti”), which was presented to the general public at the Mäntyharju agricultural exhibition in 1956. Sales took off well, and the successful product was marketed by the farmer himself, who founded a company called Rantasalmen raivausväline (“Rantasalmi clearing tool”) in a granary on his farm in 1960. The company introduced new inventions, such as the PATU harrow, which was first presented to the public in Vääksy in 1968. With the new products, the company’s operations increased.

Facilities grow small


The company’s growth posed challenges to logistics, as the factory was located inconveniently far from the railway, and even the road was not very good. Thus, the search for larger facilities in a logistically better location began as early as 1969. In the middle of the search, Antti Kärkkäinen had his fifth thrombosis and passed away, and his son Seppo continued the business. The municipality of Kesälahti took a positive view of the expanding company and built 1,800 square meters of production facilities for them, which the company moved into in 1974.

In 1974, the company already employed around 20 people. Over the decade, the number of employees and production increased: two railway cars full of goods, known under the PATU brand, left the factory. After the move, Rantasalmen raivausväline changed its name to Kesla according to the name of its new home. The company pioneered forestry equipment for tractors. One of the factors that stimulated its growth was starting cooperation with Hankkija.

Livelihoods from the woods


In 1979, the Board of Directors of Kesla made an important decision to move from field to forest, from farming machinery to wood harvesting. Operations started to grow strongly in the 1980s, and at the end of the decade turnover was almost FIM 80 million. Forestry machines also made Kesla a real export company. The facilities in Kesälahti were expanded almost annually during the 1980s due to growth. Kesla expanded to a new locality in 1984 by purchasing and merging with the Kartekki Ky machine tooling shop in Ilomantsi. In 1988, Kesla’s operations also expanded to Joensuu, when Kesla acquired from S. A. Tervo the Karjalan Rautarakenne machine shop and a controlling interest in Foresteri Oy.

It was a decade of strong growth in the market for forest equipment for tractors. Kesla also started manufacturing larger cranes as a result of the acquisitions. The company was listed on the stock exchange in 1988.

Growing share of exports


At the turn of the 1990s, Kesla took over new territory and began to manufacture new products, work platforms. In the early 1990s, Kesla was also hit hard by the recession, and operations had to be reorganised. However, the core of the company remained intact, and after the recession eased in 1993–1994, Kesla started a new growth in which export operations played an even more important role. The volume of exports exceeded domestic sales for the first time in 1992 and has grown steadily ever since, amounting to over 70% today.

Multitalent of forest technology


At the beginning of December 2005, Kesla Oyj became a group when the operations of the Ilomantsi factory were incorporated into Kesla Components Oy, an independent wholly-owned subsidiary of Kesla Oyj. Kesla also established its first subsidiary: OOO Kesla in Russia. However, the subsidiary’s activities had to be run down due to the 2008 financial crisis.

Kesla presented its new corporate and product look at the FinMETKO 2006 machine exhibition in Jämsänkoski. The strong PATU and FORESTERI brands and the related colourings were harmonised into the KESLA brand and black-grey product colouring. The harmonisation of the brands and colours made Kesla a unified marketing entity, improving the company’s visibility. Kesla became the “multitalent of forest technology”. The company introduced the 2000 series of truck-mounted cranes, the 200 and 300 series of forest loaders and a new generation of harvester heads.

The work platform business was discontinued in 2006.

Decade of growing pains


In February 2012, Kesla registered Kesla GmbH in the German commercial register. The subsidiary is responsible for sale of the company’s products and sales support to German dealers and customers. 

Kesla continued to work in close cooperation with forest machinery and excavator manufacturers. Already in the early part of the decade, the company launched a new generation of products: the 21 series of cranes, second-generation harvester heads, proG grapples and upgraded timber trailers for tractors. City cranes with stability control were also developed from large truck-mounted cranes to reduce cyclicity. Growth was particularly strong in the Asian market. After three decades of cooperation with Hankkija, Kesla gave up the partnership and started cooperation with AGCO International. Towards the end of the decade, the company was divided into three business units: tractor equipment, wood harvesting equipment and truck-mounted and industrial cranes.



Rising from a turnover of EUR 40 million to the next level requires an inspiring vision, a clearer and more systematic management system, a deep understanding of customer needs and product innovations that create added value for the customer. The realisation that activities should be updated to the next level did not come without problems, but as a result the company’s values and strategy took shape, making it easier to meet new challenges. In 60 years, Kesla has grown into an international, successful and valued partner with three factories in Finland, a sales company abroad and sales to more than 40 countries, with exports accounting for approximately 61% of the company’s annual turnover. The company employs about 250 people, who are proud to be part of the Kesla squad.