The reason for everything was the Fordson Major. In the era of working horses, the curse of the fields in Eastern Finland - the stones - were sidestepped and sworn at. But when the era of the farming tractors began, a farmer Mr. Antti Kärkkäinen started to ponder how to get those cursed stones from the fields. Now there was force of the machinery available to compete those stones. As there was no ready made equipment to help him to accomplish that task he, as a clever man, invented his own equipment to pick up and move the stones from the field. This was the beginning of Antti's equipment inventions with "Stoneman-Antti" stone clearing device and "Big Mouth" stone clearing hook. This gave also Antti a new nick name, the Stoneman-Antti.
Neighbours of Antti were impressed by the inventions and they were eager to get similar ones for themselves. At the smithy in the neightbouring village a few pieces were made, but demand for the products kept on increasing.
Due to the great demand, Mr. Antti Kärkkäinen decided to convert the old barn into a new use. He founded in August 19th 1960 a company dedicated to production and marketing of stone clearing device. The first company, Rantasalmen Raivausväline (Clearing Up Device Rantasalmi) was established.
The company was strongly based on its product development. Own products and their development have been the corner stones for the company since the beginning.
Also the next product in line was associated with stone. Manure fork, which was later known as "PATU-talikko" (PATU-manure fork), created the company's products that same strong reputation what they still today retain.
In the end of the 60's new products were added to sortiment again, a flexy spike harrow, and the first forestry product, forest sledge.
As the founder Mr. Antti Kärkkäinen passed away in 1969, his oldest son Raimo became the managing director of the company. He passed the duties and responsibility for the development of the company to his younger brother Seppo in 1971. As the premises started to get too small, the first thing for Seppo to do was to move company premises first to Joroinen and further on to the new industrial premises In Kesälahti in 1974.
Those were the years when the company started also export sales. The first deal was exporting manure forks to Norway in 1972.
When the company moved to Kesälahti, the name was changed to Kesla, according to the name of the new home place. The company premises were clearly bigger and easier to extend than before. Also new products were developed, but mainly for agricultural purposes. In the 1976 Mr.Esko Paajanen was named as managing director of the company. The real stroke of luck met Kesla when it started the cooperation with Central Cooperative Hankkija in the 1977. Manufacturing volumes increased considerably. Kesla's close relationship with Hankkija and then with its successor Hankkija Maatalous lasted for over three decades.
Finland is well known globally from it’s green gold, forests. In the 1979 the board of Kesla made a very important decision to concentrate instead of farming equipment into forestry equipment. In 1980's the production grew strongly and turnover in the end of the decade reached almost FIM 80 million. Forest machines made Kesla also a real export company and the premises in Kesälahti were extended almost yearly.
In the 1984 Kesla acquired mechanization company Kartekki Oy from Ilomantsi, which was merged into Kesla later on. In the 1988 Kesla’s operations expanded to Joensuu when Kesla acquired majority from two new companies, Karjalan Rautarakenne (Carelian Iron Structure) and Foresteri Oy in 1988. This investment widened Kesla’s product portfolio lot when bringing timber and industrial cranes into Kesla. Later on Foresteri Oy was merged into Kesla.
On the way to stock exhange
In January 1988 Kesla were listed into OTC stock exchange list in Helsinki. On the same decade Kesla went to another branch by starting a design, marketing and manufacturing of access platforms. The recession stroke Kesla badly in the beginning of the 90's and the company needed rearranging. The main functions stayed and finally, when recession started loosing its grip, Kesla started a new growth with more importance on export functions. The value of exports grew rapidly overtaking the value of home markets in 1992. The export function have ever since covered more than 50 % of the turnover.
In the year 2000 Kesla broadened its forestry expertise into bioenergy by buying the rights for a patented wood chipper from Germany. Kesla developed the chipper further with its knowledge of metal structures, cranes, hydraulics and automation, resulting to one of the most competitive chipper package on the markets in its class.
In December 2005 Kesla Oyj became a corporation as the functions of the Ilomantsi production plant were organized as an independent subsidiary, 100 % owned by Kesla. This created a strong base for developing the Kesla Components' functions and business independently but also supported the idea of sustainable growth of the whole Kesla Corporation.
In the 2006 Kesla founded its very first foreign subsidiary, OOO Kesla in St Petersburg, Russia.
In the 2006 Kesla united its product brands PATU and FORESTERI under a common product brand KESLA. At the same time also product coloring was standardized. In 2006 Kesla sold it’s access platform business and decided to focus only into one area of the business, the forest technology.
In May 2007 Kesla acquired MFG Components Oy shares in Tohmajärvi. MFG Components is one of the leading companies in the planning, marketing and production of power transmission products and solutions in Finland.
In February 2012 Kesla registered a subsidiary Kesla GmbH in Germany. Kesla GmbH’s business started in March 1st 2012 in Sinzheim, Southern Germany. This subisidiary is one the Kesla’s biggest marketing investment into internationalization in Kesla's history. Subsidiary is responsible for sales, marketing and after sales of the KESLA -products in Germany.
In 2016, Kesla signed a cooperation agreement with AGCO Group Valtra and with Dalby Group Techmat in order to develop Valtra-compatible tractor accessories and provide recycling crane solutions.
The difficult years of the mid 2010s convinced Kesla that a change was needed. The company streamlined its operations by integrating end-product components from the Ilomantsi factory into the parent company in the summer of 2016. Resources were centralized in the forestry machinery sector, ending activity in the machine workshop system sector by selling MFG Components Oy´s manufacturing business to Kotka Power Tech Oy in September 2017. MFG Components Oy continued to operate as a part of the Group as an importer of power transmission products.
To grow from a company with a 40-million-Euro turnover to the next level, an inspirational vision was needed, including a clearer and more systematic management system, a deep understanding of customer needs, and value-added product innovations for the customer. The restructuring of the group also continued within the forestry machinery sector. The German subsidiary Kesla GmbH's spare parts operations were centralized in Finland and the cost structure of the company was reduced. The organizational structure of Kesla Group's parent company was changed so that the Forest Machinery sector’s majority turnover was made up of three sectors: truck and industrial cranes, tree-felling equipment and tractor equipment, which were defined as profit-oriented business sectors, each of which had their own named management and core members from various business operations. All the business sector operations are supported by after marketing and the company’s common joint operations.
In 60 years, Kesla has grown to become an international, successful and respected industrial partner, with three factories in Finland, a sales company abroad and sales in more than 44 countries, while exports account for around 70% of the company's business. Kesla has about 250 employees. Despite being an international and stock-market-listed company, Kesla continues to be a family-run company with flexible decision-making systems and human-oriented operations. Kesla's A-shares are listed on Nasdaq Helsinki Oy, through which the company has nearly 1,700 shareholders.