Finnish Firm Finding Success Beyond Scandinavia

IN DEPTH: Refuse Collection Vehicle Manufacturer NTM’s Template for Expansion

Established in 1950, NTM, has grown and grown. But further expansion was becoming difficult in Finland. The solution? Add an additional manufacturing facility. Malcolm Bates paid a visit to Kidderminster, UK.

These two DAF LF-based NTM ‘K-Series’ units featuring side-loading pod for collection of an additional waste stream outside the NTM production facility in Kidder- minster, UK.

Image ©

Established in 1950, NTM (Narpes Tre & Metal), has grown... and grown. But further expansion was becoming increasingly difficult in Finland. The solution? Add an additional manufacturing facility to help provide capacity for future expansion into new markets. But where? Malcolm Bates paid a visit to the new facility in Kidderminster, UK.

Until recently, all re- fuse collection and recycling vehicles produced by NTM were manufactured in Finland. Originally produced to satisfy the local market, the strength and reliability of NTM products soon helped create a strong export market – first in neighbouring Scandinavian countries and then in other European markets. And potentially, globally.

But as demand has grown, so too has the product range. Whether it’s the long dark winter months in Finland, or the endless daylight hours in sum- mer that are responsible is hard to say. But whatever the reason, NTM product designers have – and still are – responsible for some of the most in- novative design solutions in the waste and recycling industry.

Examples? The NTM range can provide products for front, side, or rear-end loading. NTM claims that the front-end loaders (suitable for three or four-axle chassis), feature the larg- est body capacity of any competitive product and come with several high spec features – such as front loader arm sideshift – to enable drivers to get onto containers in tight spaces more quickly and safely.

‘Innovation’ is likewise a key feature of the small- est vehicles in the NTM range – the compact ‘Polybody’ sideloaders. All- plastic construction makes them ide- ally suited for the collection of food- waste, for example, where hygiene and ease of cleaning is important. Being ‘self-coloured’ (they don't require painting), Polybody units can also be utilised for general waste collection in rural areas, or for the collection of clinical waste. Units are available for chassis up to 10 tonnes gross weight.

SPOTTING NEW TRENDS
Indeed, it is providing specialised solutions for the collection of food- waste – and collecting it separately from other domestic and commercial waste streams – where NTM design- ers have set the trend.

The larger steel bodied ‘MAS’ product line has been developed specifically for dedicated foodwaste collections. It features a sealed body/hopper unit to avoid lea- chate spills and is available on two and three-axle truck chassis, providing payloads from 10.6 up to 15 m3 capacity. NTM was one of the first manufacturers to recognise the advantages of taking the weight and moisture out of normal domestic and commercial collections and that foodwaste col- lection contracts would require larger vehicles as well as smaller units – put- ting the company in an ideal position to win a significant share of this expanding global market.

GLOBALLY UNIQUE
So what about vehicles for ‘main- stream’ refuse (garbage) collection operations? Again, NTM offers an impressive range of solutions. There are product lines designed to collect one, two, or three separate waste streams – all with the further option of a front-mounted, side-loading ‘pod’ suitable for the collection of food waste or glass, for example.

But here’s the big USP (unique selling proposition): NTM is the only manufacturer to offer a system capable of collecting four separate waste streams in a single pass. The ‘Quatro System’ is used in conjunction with four-compartment wheeled bins and a lifter that empties all compartments in a single lift – each compartment having a different capacity designed to suit the waste stream being collected. Already popular in Sweden, the Quatro ensures all waste streams are isolated to avoid cross contamination.

The latest innovation from NTM – the ‘Trio’ – can collect three waste streams using conventional domestic wheeled bins. The Trio features three rear-mounted bin lifters – one for each compartment of the main body unit.

If required, a forth waste stream can also be collected in a front-mounted, side-loading pod. This surely makes NTM the only manufacturer on the planet to offer TWO different systems capable of collecting four individual waste streams, each on one collection vehicle!

A GROWING REPUTATION
Being big on innovation was fine when NTM products were only available in a few specific markets like Finland and Sweden, where the annual demand for new refuse collection vehicles is modest. But as the reputation for toughness, reliability and product quality spread more widely, it resulted in increased product lead times. The solution?

While there is plenty of room for expansion in the town of Narpes, what there wasn’t, was an endless supply of the skilled labour needed to enable production to be increased much further.

Faced with a similar situation, many manufacturers would look to ‘outsource’ production to a location where labour rates were cheaper, thus increasing production and profit. Not NTM.

FORWARD THINKING
One of the largest markets for NTM products outside Scandinavia is the UK. “NTM-UK had already been established as a factory-owned subsidiary for many years, but while we had the facilities to mount the compact K-Series range on chassis here in the UK, we didn’t have the space or production capacity to meet the increasing demand for larger vehicles,” Paul Westley explained. To improve the situation and create more production space, LinkTip – a specialist UK manufacturer of compact collection vehicles, sideloaders and caged tipper units and original producer of the Polybody range – was acquired in 2010.

However within a few years, the LinkTip facility was soon working at full capacity just to meet increasing demand from UK customers. It was time for some ‘Blue Sky’ thinking.

The case was made to acquire a larger facility in the UK – one with full manufacturing capability, including fabrication, assembly, painting, finish-off and final inspection. A facility big enough to not only meet growing demand from the UK, but provide additional capacity to enable NTM to compete in growing international markets as well. It was a bold plan.

“It has taken a lot of work to set up and install what amounts to a parallel production facility to the one in Finland,” Paul Westley explains. “The Kidderminster facility is now fully operational. Initially, we’re producing NTM ‘K-Series’ RCVs here, which is helping to free up production space back at the main factory in Narpes.” he adds.

Paul Westley is being far too modest – it has taken three years of hard work since NTM purchased the vacant Kidderminster site (it was previously used to build high-end motor launches) in July 2015.

In this first year of production in the UK, 200 new units are expected to be produced – with more to come as further capacity comes on-line. The local UK content of units manufactured in Kidderminster is already close to 50% and rising. Significantly, over 25% of all new NTM units delivered into the UK market are now larger 26-tonne gross KG-Series.

The added production capacity should enable NTM to build close to 900 new RCVs next year. “NTM production has been growing year-on-year for the last three years,” explained Niclas Pada, NTM corporate director, Refuse Vehicles Division.

CONCLUSION
NTM now employs some 500 staff in total – 200 of which are located outside Finland. A figure that is expected to grow. So what can we expect next? Further production capability is already being planned, together with additional paintshop capacity – although painting before assembly is increasingly being used as it provides a higher quality solution.

“Establishing a full manufacturing facility outside Finland was a major step for NTM,” explains Niclas Pada, “But the Kidderminster facility has provided us with a template that we can use to establish production elsewhere if required,” he adds. NTM now also has a facility in Bremen, Germany, and is looking at opportunities in other global markets.