Knowledge is the key to sustainability development

It’s Mirka’s knowledge that helps the company keep up with the quickening pace of sustainable production.
– Even frontrunners must always think two steps ahead, says Mats Sundell.

There is a lot more tech involved in producing abrasives than many may think. The new electron microscope in Mirka’s laboratory produces images at a magnification of 50,000 times. Mirka’s developers use it to detect the smallest defects on a gritted surface.

– For example, we analyse how different adhesives affect the backing material, or what happens when grains of grit get stuck on the abrasive’s surface, says Development Director Mats Sundell. A glance around the development department reveals a robot that is testing abrasives for epoxy resin, the material used by boat builders such as Baltic Yachts and Nautor Swan in lamination. Producing abrasives is an energy-intensive process, and for Mirka, sustainability means the development of products with a long lifespan.
– Product development is all about testing and retesting how different materials perform in different situations, and ways to extend the equipment’s durability. We also test the performance of new materials, such as cellulose-based technical textiles.

Mirka is a regional pioneer

Aside from overseeing the company’s product development efforts, Mats Sundell is also responsible for ensuring that products meet sustainability requirements. And for a company of Mirka’s size, this entails a lot of work. No fewer than eight people in the organisation dedicate their working hours to keeping track of the latest laws and directives.
– Finland has long been at the forefront of the green transition, and Mirka is a regional – and European – pioneer in sustainable development. However, that doesn’t mean we can rest on our laurels. Things are moving fast, and we must make an effort to keep up with it all.
Mats Sundell talks about the plethora of new laws and regulations governing industry at EU level, but above all about the advancements in the US.
– American industry is catching up with developments in Europe. Although their developmental work started much later than ours, they are investing enormous sums in the form of government subsidies. Right now, knowledge is the key to staying ahead, and to understanding where we’re heading.

Ecosystem for the manufacturing industry is being built

Mirka is also investing in its green transition. The company has just received funding from Business Finland for a five-year project to build an ecosystem for the manufacturing industry. Mirka is one of the largest manufacturers in the region, and Mats Sundell expects that other regional manufacturers will benefit from its developmental work, regardless of the size of their operations.
For companies like Mirka, with a long tradition of sustainable thinking and with the fundamentals covered, there are other, far greater challenges.
– What we’re trying to assess now is how much we are prepared to pay for sustainability. Balancing sustainability on one side, and growth through investments and innovative thinking on the other, can be difficult. How much are you willing to pay for a more sustainable product?
Recycling abrasives consists of complex equations, involving Mirka’s tens of thousands of product codes, and the varying recycling directives in different countries.
– Our two core products are also very different from each other. While our Power Tool equipment has a long lifespan and is repairable, abrasive paper is used for approximately 30 seconds and then discarded.

Mirka – About us

Mirka produces flexible abrasives and innovative patented products that enable dust-free sanding. Its research and development department and its Power Tools segment play important roles in the business. The factory and headquarters are located in Jeppo, Nykarleby, and the company has 18 subsidiaries worldwide. Over 97 percent of its products are exported to more than 100 countries. Mirka is part of the KWH Group.

Read our other Sustainability stories

This series of articles have been produced within the CIT-project (Circular Insights and Transition) which is financed by the European Regional Development Fund, The Council of Ostrobothnia together with all Development companies in Ostrobothnia.