Since it began in 1834, Wärtsilä has been at the frontier of engineering innovation. At first a small sawmill by the rapids in Värtsilä, a village in Eastern Finland, it later transformed into an iron works called Wärtsilä, and its business marched along into the 20th century. Then, following the collapse of the Soviet Russian market, the company encountered financial trouble. In 1926, a young engineer named Wilhelm Wahlforss came in to restructure the company with unprecedented speed and efficiency, earning him the nickname Speedy Ville.
Through domestic acquisitions, Wärtsilä developed into a diversified conglomerate, that included some of the most iconic names in Finland, such as the Arabia porcelain factory, Iittala glassworks and the lock and key company Abloy.
During his 43 years at its helm, Wahlforss turned Wärtsilä into the biggest company in Finland. Kicking off a long tradition of firsts – from setting up the first Nordic galvanisation plant to branching into shipyards to moving into building diesel engines – Wahlforss firmly established the company at the forefront of innovation.
In response to ever-changing circumstances at home and abroad, the company has often set out in new directions. Later acquisitions were concentrated on the engine and propulsion business, and Wärtsilä began to refine its expertise in supplying the global marine and power generation markets with the world’s most efficient engines running on gas.
During the last ten years, maintenance services have become a substantial business for Wärtsilä. So has liquefied natural gas (LNG), both in terms of LNG-powered vessels and establishing LNG infrastructure – including at home in Finland. Innovative ship and power plant designs are advancing, along with other fuel alternatives like propane, ethane and biogas, and the integration of solar power is skyrocketing.
With the dawn of the digital era, the most rapid changes have been virtual ones. Genius Services and other digital tools are constantly progressing to help customers improve their profits and pave the way for Wärtsilä’s future, too.
Much as Wärtsilä took shape – and, in the process, helped shape the nation – during the last century, it is ready to mould the world of tomorrow, both in Finland and across the globe. Wärtsilä has moved beyond boundaries to deliver ever-smarter solutions that keep its customers one step ahead, and it plans to build on this momentum as the world advances ever more swiftly into the future.