Behind the gaskets | Expert interview: Developer of digital services and smart solutions

Jaakko Niukkala started at TT Gaskets as a summer employee in 2010. After working alongside his studies for several summers, he did his diploma thesis for TT Gaskets on radio frequency identification (RFID) and the use of sensors in gaskets. After completing the Master of Science degree in electrical engineering, he started working for the company permanently.

– My title is Smart Engineer, which in brief is about developing product and service innovations. We produce smart solutions, the future of our customers in our minds. My job is to bring innovations to the traditional field, such as solutions that increase safety by identifying and measuring gaskets at the site, says Jaakko Niukkala.

Under construction: a tool for material selection

Ideas for innovations come either from the wishes of customers, from other TT Gaskets’ employees or from Jaakko himself. The development and implementation of solutions requires active networking and finding suitable partners.

– We are currently developing, for example, a material selection tool, about which we are discussing with an IT service provider and seeking perspectives from various companies. The idea is to help in the selection of the material of the gaskets via the internet, so that the customer gets an answer when needed, taking into account the conditions and the medium substance of the process. The tool is scheduled to be launched at Subcontracting Trade Fair in the autumn.

TT Gaskets’ goals are abroad, but for pilot projects, we are primarily seeking partners from Finland. The material selection tool enables low-threshold to contact us and at the same time it’s a step towards e-commerce-type thinking.

– We will develop the tool further so that we could recommend a product directly according to the specks. Innovation typically progresses step-by-step. Small but sure steps forward, without biting off more than we can chew at once. First, we collaborate with smaller customers, then bigger ones and finally we aim abroad, Jaakko describes the development work.

Long-term work requires restraint

Jaakko tends to think about the goals for the next day in advance. His versatile work includes among other things making documents, test reports and funding applications, meeting with clients or partners, monitoring projects and producing content for the intranet and writing a blog for TT Gasket’s website.

– We have new, great TT Lab facilities where I sometimes physically test the functionality of the samples with a test flange or a hydraulic press. I’m also involved as an expert in internal projects, such as our solar power plant project, which makes us the first in the world to manufacture gaskets by using solar power.

– Sometimes I join customer meetings with the salesperson in charge, to talk about the more technical side of our new services. TTG Smart Gasket is a service for identifying, monitoring, and measuring gaskets, and TTG Smart Tracking prevents counterfeiting through spare parts tracking. My work is motivated by solving problems and developing something new. My long-term goal is to revolutionize the entire world of gaskets.

As a fun fact, Jaakko says his mother started working for the same company when Jaakko was only five years old.

– My mom retired when I was doing my thesis. As a child, I didn’t know one end of the gasket from the other, and now I’m trying to reduce the recurrence in her work by automating what she once did.

Work and leisure in harmony

The people at TT Gaskets are in the same boat, the work is done in good spirit and with the right attitude and good humor.

– We know each other, and we know who’s responsible for what. We have been successful in recruiting, and employees are trusted by giving us freedom and responsibility. I myself have discussed with my supervisor that I could advance my career to the position of supervisor. As innovations expand, we may sooner or later need helping hands. We also have positive experiences with, for example, trainees from Tampere University of Applied Sciences.

– In addition to work, I’m also active in my free time. I’ve been involved in various roles in scouts for about twenty years. Football is another hobby of mine in many forms, on the field, on the sidelines, and in the stands.

– A house we bought at the end of last year keeps me busy at home too. The upstairs surface and kitchen renovation was completed at the beginning of the year, except for the toilet. Underdrain renovation is completed and next we will move downstairs to the sauna-washroom-fireplace department, where preparations have already been made. The summer includes, for example, a scout camp in Lapland as well as renovations and football of course. While hiking in Lapland last summer, I thought it was raining when mosquitoes hit the tent cloth, Jaakko laughs.