Finland is a small but efficient northern country that is home to many world-class companies. Their competitive advantages have included high-level expertise, customer insight, co-operation, and the courage to do things in new ways. VR FleetCare is a provider of rail fleet maintenance and lifecycle services that is on its way to becoming the leading fleet maintenance company in Northern Europe.
The company’s extensive industry experience and roots in Finnish society provide it with a strong foundation, but why is it the best choice as your fleet maintenance partner or manufacturer?
This year marks the 160th anniversary of VR FleetCare’s maintenance business, which began with looking after the fleet of the Finnish railway operator.
After the maintenance business was incorporated a few years ago, VR FleetCare began to successfully execute its growth strategy. Growth is sought via other railway traffic and in neighbouring areas, covering all Northern Europe.
“Our Finnish roots taught us to live frugally during the early days of the company. This has enabled us to build unique expertise in extending the lifecycle of rolling stock and components. We also specialise in repairing components that have been discarded by others. By doing so, we operate in line with our values and harness the circular economy as part of our operations," says Peter Guldbrand, Vice President, Commercial at VR FleetCare.
“There are also other advantages to being Finnish: we have a very broad range of competencies and a high standard of safety in working life, which produces highly committed employees. Finns are also known for their reliability. We keep our word and do things exactly as agreed.”
Operators and Fleet Owners Face New Challenges
Climate change is driving global action, while urbanisation is increasing the need for public transport. This will further increase the popularity of rail transport in the future. What does this mean for operators?
In the near future, all rail companies, operators and fleet owners will need to carefully consider how to respond to the growing popularity of rail transport. The procurement of new rolling stock involves long processes, and there is a need for short-term solutions. All existing rolling stock needs to be in use, and many operators are considering ways to extend the lifecycle of their fleet.
“Fleet modernisation and retrofit projects are our bread and butter, and we solve all of our customers’ challenges according to their wishes. We also have a very strong partnership network. The same subcontractors are used for building cruise ships and for equipping trains and wagons,” Guldbrand says.
When a company’s production operations are in order, its location does not matter a great deal. For two decades now, VR FleetCare has applied the lean methodology in its production operations, which is also known as the principle of continuous improvement. This has enabled it to standardise the quality and efficiency of its production. As a medium-sized organisation, the company is also agile, which may not always be the case for large organisations.
VR FleetCare’s agility is also evidenced by the speed at which the organisation has prepared for a new area of production: the manufacture of freight wagons. Existing production lines can be modified to support the production of smaller batches of wagons.
“Due to Russia’s war against Ukraine, our customers in Finland and the other Nordic countries have a need for rolling stock to serve freight traffic, as the Russian rolling stock that was previously used for freight operations stopped operating, and some rolling stock manufacturers became subject to sanctions. Under these circumstances, we recognised that we have the design and production capabilities necessary to manufacture small batches of rolling stock in response to the changed needs of our customers. We are now in discussions with several customers, but we still have capacity for more,” Guldbrand notes.
The Digitalisation Trend Is Growing Stronger in Rail Fleet Maintenance
Success in the international market in rail fleet maintenance requires not only a high level of competence but also a touch of creativity and the courage to do things in new ways.
"In the manufacturing industry, maintenance processes have been built on a digital foundation for a long time now."
“The development of cloud services and computing power, the decrease in prices and examples from other industries have finally brought digital services to rail fleet maintenance as well. VR FleetCare’s solution is an in-house development team for digital SmartCare services, consisting of experts in many different fields. We also produce these services for rail infrastructure maintenance. The proactive prevention of malfunctions and determining the root causes are the cornerstones of modern maintenance operations. We want to find cost-effective and easy-to-implement solutions to our customers’ problems,” Guldbrand concludes.