The Birth of TMK

At NCD Equipment we feel that our suppliers are part of our extended family. We believe in supplying the very best in quality and customer satisfaction. This was a journey that started with TMK, the first product that NCD supplied into the UK. We are very proud of the relationship we have built with TMK and we have told of the journey Nick took to find them. Now we wish to tell you about the journey that lead to the birth of TMK and the creation of a simple, but feisty Tree Shear, which has taken both TMK and NCD Equipment on a path that neither company had ever dreamed of.

History of TMK

Based in Hankasalmi, a province of Finland, which is part of the Central Finland Region, TMK have spent the last nine years taking an idea had by Tenho Koponen, and creating it into a global brand. Let’s go back to 2009, Tenho owned some land and a forest along with a small earth moving business. It kept him busy through the warmer months but when winter arrived the ground froze and Tenho found that his excavators sat there doing nothing.

With time on his hands, Tenho began to take a look around his land, he is not one to sit still and has a keen mind to solve problems. He noticed that young trees in his forest needed to be thinned, to help others grow into an established and strong forest. The snow was thick and the temperature far below freezing, as much as Tenho wanted to thin the forest, the thought of doing so with a chainsaw did not appeal to him. This was when Tenho’s thoughts turned to a tree shear, one that could fit onto an excavator. It was an epiphany, a way to make use of the excavators in the winter, while maintaining the young forest.

Innovation

Tenho purchased his first tree shear, however, it was clumsy and not a good tool for the job. Due to its size the shear would damage the tree’s surrounding what it cut, this had a negative effect on the forest because the damaged trees were meant to support and be part of the forest. He also found that the shear didn’t hold onto the cut tree for long enough, and eventually the shear broke down completely. Tenho was frustrated. Researching the market he found that there were no shears that suited the job he had. “There must be a better way?” He asked himself. With his problem solving mind, and a good understanding of engineering he decided to build his own tree shear.

The First TMK Tree Shear

After a few trial and error shears, what better way to make a great product than to make a few mistakes first. Tenho created a shear that was different to other shears on the market. It had only one grapple, while others had two, thus making it smaller and stronger. It was also easier to use. Tenho also considered the damage caused to surrounding trees by the shear he had bought, he didn’t want the shear he made to create the same problem; as a result he made the right side of his shear, which cannot be seen from the excavator, straight, which in turn reduced the damage to surrounding trees.

Tenho had a shear, now he needed a name. Being a family man Tenho wanted to create a brand name that incorporated his family. His full name is Tenho Markus Koponen, his son’s name is Tony Mikael Koponen, in fact his whole family’s initials are TMK, a product, brand and eventually a business was born.

Tenho’s initial intention was to use the shear for his own work, however the more he used it, he began to see that he had created a brilliant shear, one that could revolutionise the tree shear market. He decided to take a risk, after all there is always a risk when creating something new, all great products started with a risk. In 2009, just before Christmas, Tenho loaded his prototype shear onto his trailer and took it to a local factory, called Multimek, in Multia. He showed them his shear and asked if they could make him 5 test shears, they agreed, leading to the first TMK Tree Shears going into production.

Marketing

Marketing at the beginning was simple, with Tenho using his iPad to film the shear working and then posting this to You-Tube. The first people that enquired about the shear were sceptical, they didn’t think that only one grapple could do the job that TMK were claiming that it could. Thanks to the videos this scepticism was resolved, after all, with the TMK Tree Shears, seeing is believing. Like with most business’ as they start, they have to run alongside other work commitments, Tenho continued with his earth moving work.

In 2014 an opportunity offered itself to Tenho, there was an expo to be held close to where Tenho lived, the organiser convinced him to exhibit the TMK Tree Shear, not one to shy away from a challenge Tenho attended. It was a success and following this Tenho attended the FinnMetko, which was also a roaring success, turning TMK from Tenho’s hobby into his main business, and focus.

NCD Equipment and TMK Partnership

The TMK Tree Shear was being sold into Finland, but in August 2014 Tenho received an email in Finnish, not great Finnish but it was a good effort, from a young man in the UK called Nick. Fortunately Tony can speak good English, resulting in him taking over the discussions with Nick. Nick wanted to come and visit TMK and see the shear working. These were exciting times for TMK as Nick was their first foreign contact, little did they know then that Nick would be the first of many. Nick flew to Finland, to see the TMK Tree Shear in action for himself, he was impressed with what he saw, and agreed wholeheartedly with TMK’s motto for the shear “Simply Efficient”. Nick knew the shear was a great product and he didn’t waste any time discussing his intentions for the TMK Tree Shears in the UK.

The business meeting that followed was one that Nick would never forget. Saunas are part of Finnish culture and this was where the business meeting took place. Everyone was naked and while they were discussing what would happen next, Nick was gently whipped by a friend of Tenho’s and Tony’s called Pekka with Finnish Vihta, which is made of Birch; it is a form of massage, and is seen to be great for the stimulation of the skin. From here, they all went for a skinny dip in the clear lake nearby. Nick’s face was an absolute picture as a lady paddled past them in a kayak.

Following the meeting with Nick, TMK realised that there was a market, a big one at that, outside of Finland. From here on Tony joined TMK to assist with the filming. They filmed more You-Tube videos, this time recorded in English. Slowly more foreign dealers came on board. Supported by Nick the UK market really took off and Nick was able to assist TMK in finding dealers, in France, America and now New Zealand.

Product Development

The TMK 300 that we all now know is not that different from the original TMK Tree Shear that Tenho designed and built. The blade is now 12mm rather than 10mm thick and there are some other small adjustments that have been made. TMK have become very good at listening to what their customers want, all the modifications have come from what customers have suggested. TMK have also prided themselves on creating new attachments to accompany their shears. This has included the Collector and the Delimber, which were also created due to what their customers needed. The Delimber was created after farmers in Finland wanted to use the bottom part of a cut tree to make firewood. To do this they needed to be able to clear the branches from the tree.

Tenho was initially not convinced that it was possible, due to the strength of the excavators, however, after some very persistent customers, who wouldn’t let the idea of the Delimber go, Tenho accepted the challenge. From this the Delimber was born and Finnish farmers had the perfect attachment to remove the branches from the trees, and Tenho went a little further making it easy to control and it doesn’t require extra hydraulics.

TMK pride themselves on being innovative and willing to listen to customers ideas. The UK market is calling out for a tilt mechanism. TMK are currently testing a prototype. It’s a new challenge for them as most excavators in Finland come with a rotator as standard. The product range has grown for TMK with the new TMK 200 and 400 proving popular. They now have a shear that fits from mini 2-tonne loaders all the way through to large 30-tonne excavators. They have also created the Turbo Cylinder, which has also proved to be a massive success.

TMK Today

The team at TMK clearly had to grow. They now have over 20 countries which they are supplying to and a growing product range. Tenho remains as the CEO and President. Tony is the Export and Marketing manager. Tony’s uncle Mika Koponen, now works with them full time as their Product Designer. He is the brains behind the new ideas and products, he has lots of experience and previously worked as a Design Engineer for Valmet.

Family Affair

Markus Särkkä was initially a trainee with TMK, who has now become a valued member of the team, as their Export Coordinator and Jukka Kouko, previously worked as a digger operator for Tenho, who uses this experience with machines to handle all the sales to the Finnish market. Finally Tony’s cousin Jesse Koponen, joined the team as their Marketing Coordinator. Initially, Jesse worked with TMK as a consultant on projects. He had a flair for the role, which showed through with the stunning photos and footage he got of the TMK range, along with how he presented the shears and the brand. He was too good to not be a full-time member of the team, which is what he now is. TMK are fast becoming a global brand. TMK footage, social media and creation of adverts are all handled by Jesse, some of which have been seen worldwide.

TMK’s goal to become one of the biggest and well-known tree shear manufactures, is achievable within 5 years. An ambitious goal is supported by an amazing team. Including their extended TMK family and efficient product range, this goal is without a doubt achievable. With new products on the horizon and TMK’s ability to listen to customer feedback, their ambitions are within reach. Maintaining a high level of customer satisfaction, will also aid in their achievements.