Out of love for technology and ballet
Managing director Hannu Savisalo and ballerina Maya Plisetskaya
In places as far apart and diverse as a Canadian pulp mill and the Sydney Opera House, process-control technology developed by a Mikkeli-based company prevents corrosion.
Called Savcor, the firm was founded by Hannu Savisalo and a fellow student sixteen years ago. Now among the absolute world leaders in its field, it has grown into a cluster of companies with distinct areas of focus. Those include, in addition to preventing corrosion, process metering, vehicle computers, wood-measurement systems and Surfcoat protective coatings only a few microns thick.
"Corrosion is nowadays a key problem in technology and in process industries can bring development to a complete halt. Electrical corrosion prevention does not endanger the environment and is energy-saving. It also means savings for companies, because unnecessary shutdowns for repairs, which can sometimes take surprisingly long, are eliminated," says Savisalo.
"You have to be able to measure how metal feels"
As Savisalo explains it, some very simple matters are involved in corrosion prevention: "When metal begins to corrode, electrical current flows out of it. We just feed in an opposite current, that's all.
"The trick is to know where and how. A metal surface could be compared to human skin. One has to be able to measure how metal feels at any given moment, how much it is hurt when chemicals of various strengths touch it. Several interdisciplinary techniques are needed here: one must know about chemistry, electrochemistry and metallurgy. One also needs expertise in mechanical means of problem solving, electrical insulation techniques and dealing with electricity at sources of current."
The biggest single user of Savcor anti-corrosion methods is the wood-processing industry. Methods have also been developed for protecting concrete structures like bridges and parking facilities as well as for underwater objects like ships and oil- drilling rigs.
Mikkeli-based Savcor sees to it that Sydney Opera House has no problems with corrosion.
The equipment in service in Europe, South America, Africa and Asia is controlled and monitored from Finland. North America has its own control centre. One could easily imagine that a control centre for such sophisticated technology would look like something out of a sci-fi movie, but it is nothing like that. Instead, it is a small room with two ordinary-looking microcomputers, which a single person monitors, occasionally printing out graphical reports from various parts of the world.
"Would you like Plisetskaya to dance in Mikkeli?"
Hannu Savisalo and his wife Ulla, who works as Savcor's administrative director, share a love of ballet. It inspired them to tackle an ambitious project, and as a result the fourth Ballet Mikkeli - starring Russian Imperial Ballet dancers and soloists as well as world-famous guests - took place in autumn 1997. The biggest attraction of them all was the legendary Maya Plisetskaya.
"A Bolshoi agent contacted us and asked: 'Do you want Maya Plitsetskaya to dance in Mikkeli?' How can anyone reply anything other than 'yes' to that? Things just went on from there," is how Savisalo recalls the birth of the now well-established ballet festival.
The Imperial Russian Ballet has a 50-dancer troupe and several regular soloists. Russian and foreign soloists are also taken on for tours. In Mikkeli the ballet is accompanied by its own ensemble, which comprises soloist-level musicians drawn from the best symphony orchestras in Moscow.
"When art is of a high enough standard, everyone understands it. Culture is an essential aspect of our corporate image-building and has clearly raised our profile in the eyes of customers," says Savisalo.
Savcor, Telecom Finland Sonera and Finnair are the main sponsors of Ballet Mikkeli. Savisalo says he has never had any reason to regret his investment in high-level culture. Autumn is a good time for doing business and some of the guests that the ballet attracts to Mikkeli are key Savcor customers..