Being in the driver’s seat of The Switch since its inception in 2006 has, without a doubt, been the highlight of my career. Each turn in the road has been filled with excitement and adventure, testing the capabilities of the skills and resilience of the company in all kinds of unexpected and fulfilling ways.
When founding The Switch, one of the greatest opportunities I had was to put three separate startup companies together, building the new entity into a success and creating value by making the world a better place to live with new energy. My main focus was on building a customer-based next-generation company. This consisted of developing our people to become professionals, providing the right products and services and building supportive relationships with our customers and partners.
Luckily for The Switch, our customers were just as enthusiastic about making the big switch themselves as we were. Together, we have been able to revolutionize complete industries. We brought permanent magnet (PM) generators and full-power converters from being almost non-existent in the wind industry to becoming used 100% today in offshore wind. We were the enabler, providing the technology and building projects that our customers were seeking.
In marine, we repeated our achievement, transforming the PM shaft generator from a non-existent solution into preferred technology. And we foresee it becoming the standard in the coming years. We also feel a similar transition will take place with using PM motors in propulsion drives in a few years.
Our high-speed turbo products are still in an early phase for wider industrial use. But our new standardized product, without the costly customization, will enable us to move toward the same goal of revolutionizing the industry.
This part of the ride has been exciting and rewarding, because I have spent my entire business career with variable speed drive trains. With The Switch, I have been able to direct my experience and energy to save the world. It has been really rewarding to be the frontrunner in this arena, especially in Finland.
Still, the ride has also been bumpy. When we started, the wind industry was experiencing a huge demand, and there were many new wind turbine manufacturers jumping into the scene. In China alone, there were 80 manufacturers. Now 14 years later, only the fittest have survived. Unfortunately, I have lost more customers at The Switch than in any of my other jobs I had earlier.
The market has been filled with risk and chances. Not all projects were successful. But this did not dampen our spirits. Even today, we’re still driving for new challenges and not ever giving up.
We are deeply grateful to those customers and partners who have changed the industry forever with us, banking on new technology and putting their success on the line. They fought for our technology – and helped the world make the switch.
For our personnel, too, we are thankful to attract those mavericks who are not afraid to work in a startup company, where normal job security is not a given. It is a pleasure to see the eager and able young talent grow into their roles personally and professionally. It warms my heart to see what they’ve become since working at The Switch. We’ve had stories from our employees posted on our intranet showcasing all The Switch babies that have been born while their mom or dad are working for us.
The length of employment at our company is long, even in China, and many medals to celebrate long service have been awarded in Finland. Now, we are hiring new talent from outside the company to bring in experience to further develop robust processes and on-time deliveries. And today, all our over 200 personnel on three continents are part of the larger Yaskawa global family.
I’m also proud of our products and how we have been able to make the technology available to customers who were willing and brave enough to take a chance. We have spent a lot of energy, together with our partners, tailoring products to meet the specific needs of our customers. Since we have focused only on final assembly and testing at our facilities, we have built solid and trustworthy relationships with specialists in various areas to help us with our deliveries.
We have also worked to build our brand and project ourselves as a progressive company. When Yaskawa acquired us, some of our partners even questioned if it was the other way around – that The Switch acquired Yaskawa. So strong was our reputation and image.
Yaskawa became our owner in 2014, and we have been able to embrace this change. What’s been unique is that we have been able to continue to be ourselves. We are proud of who we are – and that we have been able to align ourselves with our Japanese owner. And even though the cultures may be miles apart, we have established a strong relationship with our colleagues in Japan. Expats from Japan came to Finland to get a better understanding of our way of working and to get the Japanese headquarters up to speed on what makes The Switch such a great ride.
The unity and shared values throughout our organization was something quite unique. This was even confirmed by the Japanese when they were carrying out their due diligence before the acquisition. To their surprise, the management they interviewed voiced similar thoughts and ideas about the company and our vision. Now that we have been part of Yaskawa for the past 6 years, we have grown to have our own role within the larger corporation. Our business has stabilized, and we continue as part of Yaskawa Europe.
The foundation of The Switch was built on the purpose of becoming a next-generation company. Therefore, we empower our employees on every level throughout the organization to make decisions. We encourage them to take up new challenges and not be afraid of making mistakes. Our company is steered by a values-based management team. One of those values, seriously relaxed, sums up our attitude nicely – we should have fun while doing our job every day, even if the stakes are high.
This has resulted in a wonderful team of fun-loving, yet seriously driven, next-generation talent – ready to take on the direction of the company they love just as much as I do. These next-generation leaders work well together in unity, not prioritizing any of their own unit’s achievements or products over others. Instead, they work for the overall good of the entire company.Therefore, with full confidence, I am handing the keys of The Switch over to the next generation. This decision was made in coordination with other long-term management members. Pertti Kurttila has retired recently. Dag Sandås, Reijo Takala and I will pass on our duties to the next in line, as of June 30.
Shortly, we will announce the next CEO of Yaskawa Environmental Energy / The Switch. There will be a natural evolvement in the roles of management and organization. But the main thing is that The Switch journey will continue… with the new and vibrant energy of our next-generation leaders.I wish them all my best and know they will continue to travel this road with as much passion as I have had. Let’s keep on making the BIG switch to a better future!
Jukka-Pekka Mäkinen, President and CEO