When Kari Välimaa was appointed Group Technical Specialist a few years ago, he was the first at Ovako with that role. As a specialist, he has developed cooperation with other units in the group, identified better working practices, smoother processes, and improved the steel grades.
Kari studied for an MSc at Helsinki University of Technology in Espoo, which is part of Aalto University today, specializing in metallurgy and process control. When it was time to do his thesis work, his professor recommended him to apply to Ovako in Imatra and write about continuous casting.
“I knew nothing about Imatra, but I was interested in the continuous casting process and moved there with all my belongings. It quickly became apparent that Ovako is an interesting workplace and Imatra is a city to thrive in. I spent my first six months writing about a problem in the process that causes the solidified shell of the melt to rupture so that molten steel flows out. My aim was to solve the problem.”
While he was doing his thesis, he started working with the development team at Ovako in Imatra. And right after graduation in 2007 he was offered a permanent job as a development engineer, specialized in continuous casting. Kari accepted without hesitation.
“I worked as part of the development team for a few years. As I developed myself, I was given more and more responsibility."
In 2013 he became Ovako’s first Group Technical Specialist. In this role, he was given the opportunity to develop cooperation with other units in the group in order to identify the best method of working to improve the quality of the steel and make the manufacturing process smoother to increase productivity. Today he is head of a process development team, which is responsible for improving the product quality and developing the production processes at Ovako Imatra.
“It’s a fascinating industry. When you talk about the steel industry, many people imagine that it’s dusty and dirty. But in fact it’s high-tech.”
Gaining insight into new and fascinating technology is one of the benefits that Kari talks about with his job at Ovako.
“But what I like most about my job is the variety. I work with many different kinds of people – with customers, universities, suppliers and colleagues from different departments and fields.”
He learns most from the cooperation within his team and with experienced operators.
“Studying provides the foundation, of course, but specialist knowledge comes through working and through your colleagues.”