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Janne Kuivalainen

Janne Kuivalainen: Re-defining the Attributes of Excellence

Transformational leaders focus on helping members of the group support one another and provide them with the support, guidance, and inspiration they need to work hard, perform well, and stay loyal to the group. The primary goals of transformational leaders are to inspire growth, promote loyalty, and instil confidence. These are the attributes that define Janne Kuivalainen, CTO with Danfoss Drives.

Janne Kuivalainen has covered areas from system integrator sales to project engineering and from R&D teams to combined product management and development organizations. The key to overcoming the challenges has been staying customer focused. And this has been important in all jobs he has had.

It keeps you on the right track and helps to convey sustainable direction setting into the organization during transformations. Another area that he found useful was being curious to expand his knowledge and dare to try out new things. Then you know what works and what does not. And it also helps to you can lead by example. Teamwork brings results and building the right teams for the right tasks and networking externally and internally are important to me. And results are delivered when there is a focus.

Keeping focus in today’s rapidly changing world is one kind of challenge itself and it requires solid strategy with agility. One needs to have a big picture in mind while setting measurable goals with short enough pivoting options as we learn as we go. This feedback loop is also very important to Janne on a personal level. It’s an effective learning mechanism to get feedback from the people around you.

In an interview with Insights Success, Janne shares valuable facts highlighting his professional tenure in the niche.

Below are the excerpts from the interview:

Tell us something more about your company and its mission and vision; how does your company thrive towards enabling advancements in the modern industry?

Danfoss is a Danish family-owned company focusing on businesses getting more out of less by rethinking our energy systems and using our energy smarter. We have nearly 42,000 employees and sales in more than 100 countries and factories in more than 20 countries.

Our purpose is to decarbonize with our customers and create long-term value. Our unique products and solutions provide real value to our customers toward decarbonization in an intelligent and cost-efficient way. As a family-owned company, we intentionally focus on the longer view. And we are living it! Electrification is one megatrend that we are heavily investing in. We electrify mobile working machines in the maritime industry, help hybridization in various industries and finally Semikron-Danfoss is a strong player developing and delivering innovative solutions for automotive applications.

Digitalization is another megatrend where we want to be the preferred partner of our customers when it comes to improving solutions to deliver more with less with the help of simulation and modelling. We have had physical application development centres for co-innovation with customers for a long time, but now we have added digital dimensions to them.

Enlighten us on how you have been impacting the industrial and electrical equipment niche through your expertise in the market.

To me making an impact on the market is a combination of the right timing and type of action. One good example is market data analysis about the industrial ethernet market penetration. I was heading one project more than 20 years back where we did the very first industrial product with integrated industrial ethernet connectivity, with a bit lag of market demand, but it was targeted for innovators.

With another product and platform and almost a decade later it was clearly to support early adopters but also to be prepared for early majority phase of the market development.

Those were calm steps, but enablers for digitalization at the field device level. Today, the essence is to have an adaptable and maintainable software platform with advanced simulation capabilities and versatile and secure data connectivity to enable fast co-innovation with customers.

Describe in detail the values and the work culture that drives your organization.

Mads Clausen, founder of the company, said once “Action speaks louder than words,” and I like it very much. We need to dare to change, and it means action next to planning.

Volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity in today’s world is to stay. My response is to become learning organization. Open and inspiring working environment where people can safely challenge the status quo and celebrate successes and failures as learning opportunities is a must. But it comes also with responsibility to drive own development and organizing work in a way that ownership of deliverables is clear with end-to-end accountability to ensure right business outcomes.

Undeniably, technology is playing a significant role in almost every sector. How are you leveraging technological advancements to make your solutions resourceful?

Everything starts from the customer’s needs – technology is enabler to value. In our business, variable speed drives and power electronics, we can help our customers with more and more advanced solutions in energy efficiency and customer process effectiveness. Technology levers in energy efficiency are new materials helping to minimize power losses and control algorithms, and the system efficiency is what counts for our customers – not the component level – and that is why we invest in application specific know-how.

And the later part is also important in improving the effectiveness. For example, increasing computing power with reasonable costs is enabling edge computing functionalities with our products allowing us to introduce condition-based monitoring functionalities helping our customers to optimize the availability of their processes.

What, according to you, could be the next significant change in your sector? How is your company preparing to be a part of that change?

The next significant change is ongoing readily and its sustainability. We are in the sustainability business – our solutions are very much at the core of energy efficiency and green transition.

And we are a long-term partner to our customers and suppliers around the world. In that sense, ESG is not new to us, but it clearly shapes us and motivates us to make a step-change here. We have three main initiatives decarbonization, circularity, and diversity and inclusion.

Decarbonization is very much helping our customers to decarbonize, which I referred to earlier, and also making our own operations carbon neutral. Circular solutions are an important part of our business, and we have a strong service business readily to extend the lifetime of our products; and next step is to invest more in tools, processes, and methodologies to minimize the environmental load of materials used.

About people. Our foundation is high-performing, diverse teams. As a global company, we have found out a long time ago about the power of diversity. But it’s clear that there are other dimensions as well; for example, we have formed employee resource groups to shape the culture and foster inclusion.

Where do you envision yourself to be in the long run, and what are your future goals for Danfoss Drives?

I want to deliver solutions that help customers to become even better-performing companies. And I want to do that by building winning organizations that can learn and adapt to

C anging business landscapes. By following these objectives, I am evaluating emerging opportunities when they come. This has brought me here, and I believe it also carries me in the future. In this CTO & Head of technology role with our newly organized Danfoss Drives, I have a purposeful task to do to ensure that we will be the preferred decarbonization partner to our customers. Our business is really in the center of green transition, and I do my best so that we would be even better known about it.

What would be your advice to budding entrepreneurs who aspire to venture into the industrial and electrical equipment niche?

Our industry is producing physical products and industrial capital goods. It typically means heavy investments to get started. And as products has often over 10 years of lifetime, lifecycle services are playing an important role in many industries we serve.

That said, for entrepreneurs targeting to go for a product business, selection of sub-segment and application with the right differentiation and finding the right innovators among customers, becomes a critical success factor next to securing funding to get there.

Alternatively, as data and digitalization are playing a bigger and bigger role in value-add, and today’s products are producing a lot of data with better interfaces and data access including security, this opens new dimensions in benefitting from application-specific know-how. The key is really insight into applications and customer value drivers.

Applying AI or ML directly into industrial processes without prior knowledge about the value drivers to create new novel value-adding solutions will not be easy. But combining insights of process know-how and new novel technologies like AI or ML can potentially create new valuable solutions in various industries and applications.