History

The story begins with an Indian motorcycle

E.S. Lahtinen Oy was established on 31.10.1928, when Mr. Erkki Samuli Lahtinen signed an agreement to represent Indian motor cycles. At first, the business idea was to sell motor cycles and bicycles and to repair all kinds of machines.

First there was an anvil..

The first ialasinnvestment was a 80 kg anvil, which was brought to the construction site before the workshop was even built.
The investment was successful, in fact, the anvil is still in use today.

Kicksled series production begins

PK esite v1935By teaching himself and experimenting Samppa became a skilful machine builder. The motorcycle business did not increase very successfully, but by disassembling them he got good parts to satisfy the needs of machine building.

The self-designed and built production machinery especially helped in the manufacture of kicksleds, beginning in 1933. Some of those remarkable machines are still in use. In the wood work department there was a band saw which was in use for over 70 years, which had been assembled using parts from the famous  Model-T Ford.

Marketing through wholesalers

Pajan laajennusIn 1936, the workshop buildings had to be expanded to keep pace with the large batches being ordered by wholesalers and dealers. Esla also began subcontracting by providing bicycle pannier racks for other firms.

Kicksleds distributed nationwide by train

In the early days, kicksleds were delivered to customers via train. Koura had its own stop on a railway siding, where sleds could be loaded onto wagons. Many hundreds of kicksleds could be loaded onto each wagon using a racking system to stack them in layers.

Samppa builds a steam engine

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Samppa Lahtinen was officially trained to ‘operate steam engines according to imperial legislation’. The title was useful, when the workshop was equipped with a steam engine that he had taken from a locomotive, which operated all the machines via shaft drive.

Electricity comes in 1947

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Koura village did not receive electricity until 1947. In the meantime, they had to cope using steam power and other methods.  Kicksled runners are made from spring steel, and it requires a lot of processing power to shape them. The image shows the back of a large flywheel, which was rotated first with steam from burning wood or a motorcycle engine and sometimes even with muscle power.

 

A new factory

Uusi tiilihalli v1963

In 1963 a new factory, known as “the brick hall” was completed. Manufacturing of all products was transferred there and the old blacksmiths forge remained a workshop.

More products to balance the seasons of the year

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histo10The production of kicksleds is seasonal and other products had to be developed to keep the business going. Garden harrows and liquid gas grills were good balancers of the season. However, their production was stopped when it was decided to manufacture equipment for mobility.

The export begins

Taittokelkka

In 1977 Esla started exporting to foreign countries, initially to Sweden. For this purpose, kicksleds were redesigned to be foldable for easier transport and storage. Today, all kicksleds are folding, although the original style remains unchanged.

New factory site

Uusi halli 1978

In 1978, the factory plot was too small, even if the neighboring property had been purchased. The site was restricted by roads and railway lines. Therefore, the company was forced to move to a new site only 300 meters away. Since then, the company has operated in two locations within Koura village.

E. S. Lahtinen Oy

Perhekuva 1947

In 1979, the business became registered as a limited company and the founders six children were appointed as the first shareholders. The business is still proudly a family-owned company and all the shareholders are second, third or fourth generation descendants of the original founder.

Going on to wheels

rullakelkkaAnother page was turned in the history of the company in 1980, when wheels were placed under the kicksled and it became useful throughout the year. After that the main target has been the development of different kinds of wheel equipped mobility devices.

Plastic runners

Potkukelkka T4 punainen liukujalaksilla

In 1982, Esla started to produce plastic runners, which can be attached below the existing steel runners. Plastic runners widened the suitable terrain for kicksleds because they slide well in rough winter conditions and also bear the riders weight more efficiently over soft snow.

ESLA -trademark

Esla logo

In 1983, the ESLA trademark was introduced. It is an abbreviation of the company’s founder and the firm’s name. Later Esla has proven to be a successful name within international marketing.

First computer

IBM PC AT

In 1985, the first computer was acquired from IBM PC / AT with a colour display. It cost 100,000 Finnish marks, equivalent to 17,000€ in 2016. This single unit was used by a  number of employees according to a schedule. Enthusiasm was high, and Esla began to build and use production management programs, etc. as was deemed necessary.

First robot

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In 1988, Esla purchased its first welding robot, a Hitachi M5030. Robots are still very important in our production and later the company also acquired automation for its powder coating line.

Kickcycle

Potkupyörä 3300 punainen

In 1990, the four-wheeled kickcycle, which has long been the company’s main product, was developed. The design was so successful that over time nothing has been required to change. All spare parts are still available for old kickcycles.

Subcontracting boosts production

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The company has been subcontracting  steel parts for other companies since its founding. Subcontracting know-how has focused on using punch press work to produce components  from sheet metal. In 1991, the company began further processing of aluminum profiles for Mäkelä Alu. Since then, aluminum parts manufacturing has grown steadily.

Own tool manufacturing

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For a long period of time within Esla there was a seperate workshop for the sale and repair of bicycles and cars. When subcontracting increased, the workshop building was converted to tool manufacturing, where Esla can produce its own press tools. Having the ability to produce tools in-house is particularly important for subcontracting work, which often features a short delivery period.

To the Olympics on a Kicksled

JättikelkkaKicksledding was the demonstration sport in the Lillehammer Winter Olympics of 1994. To celebrate it the world’s biggest kicksled was built. The height was 3.63 m, the width 2.2 m and the length 7.25 m. Giant Kicksleds have also been built to serve as sales promotion items.

The Kickspark

Kickspark punainen

In 1997, developed with input from kicksled athletes, a new model of kicksled was launched, the Kickspark. All its features have been trimmed down to focus on performance. Later, it has become a popular sled with amateur athletes also.

The Millionth Esla

Potkukelkka T4 punainen liukujalaksilla

In 2001, the millionth Esla kicksled was completed. The range has been expanded over the years. In production, if all the size and color options are considered, there are over 30 different models.

Fire

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In the early hours of the 9th of September, 2003, a raging fire was about to consume the kicksled factory. Fortunately, the fire was extinguished correctly and the major appliances were rescued before the roof collapsed. Production didn’t need to have a big break, although 600 m2 of factory had to be rebuilt. Then the benefit was clear to have work  in two different locations.

Long-term employment

Mäen Jaska sorvaa

The company has many long-term employees and redundancies have been avoided through the years. In the same role, our longest serving employee was Jaakko Mäki. Jaakko came to work at the age of 15 in 1955 and retired in 2008, he began as a riveter, then moved on to welding when that process became accessable. Jaakko held the same job for a continuous period of 52 years and 3.5 months.

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