Timo Kiilakoski – Raute history’s very first programmer

Laura Aronen

Timo Kiilakoski has left his marks on Raute’s history. What kind? Let’s go 40 years back to April 11, 1983, to get into that. That is when Mr. Timo Kiilakoski started his career at Raute.  

Timo’s educational roots are in computer science. He was working at his first job after graduating when his girlfriend back then, who was working at Lahden Vaaka, passed on the news that ‘Raute is putting together an automation team’. That was Kari Sintonen who had transferred from Vaaka to Raute to run the automation team. And that was the beginning of this story as Timo was the first person to be hired to the automation team and the very first ‘bit guy’ at Raute.  

Raute’s brand new two-man automation team had the goal to automate Raute machinery’s controls. The first controls were created already in the summer of 1983. During the first year, Raute’s automation team and Vaaka’s electrical engineers developed the first PLC (Programmable Logic Controller) for Raute which was called RIC85S. Back then there were no commercial solutions available. What to do? Create a solution of our own. And that was quite a solution as ‘RIC’ served the customers for around ten years. ‘RIC’ was done with fewer components, and it was easy to make and change. “Needed changes and updates for printed circuit boards were done by us,” describes Timo.  

Over the years, different kinds of Raute machines became familiar as Timo worked with all the machines that RIC was transferred. In addition to the automation field, Timo has got his share of electrician’s duties as well to understand how contactors and relays work.   

Since the glorious days of ‘RIC’, Timo has continued his work with automation and programming. The Raute automation team consists of around 40 experts working on PC Applications, PLC Programming, and other kinds of automation systems support and development. Timo works in close cooperation with his own team of 10 automation engineers. Timo works with and is responsible for how the product is moving in the line. His tasks include designing the process controls and eventually creating the program. The program is created piece by piece.  

My favorite child has always been the peeling lines and everything related to peeling, such as clippers. I have been fortunate to be part of developing the camera systems for veneer peeling and composing since the beginning. Cameras were already combined to ‘RIC’. So, Veneer Visual Analyzers (formerly known as VCA) are especially close to my heart,” tells Timo. 

Best ideas are born on-site with customers 

Half of his working time, Timo has spent travelling around the world on customer sites. Especially the traveling days at a younger age is something that Timo reminisces with a smile on his face. 

My first trips headed to France, and I fell for France quite much. I spent a lot of time there. Then I went to Gabon and fell for Africa. After that came the Far East and I was hooked again. Over the last couple of decades, my work trips have been focused on Chile where I have been involved with many interesting projects. The longest continuous period I have spent in Chile has been a year and three months. That was my first trip to Chile,” shares Timo. 

Nowadays Timo is a familiar face to many in the industry. Working together with the customer is something Timo values in his job tremendously.  

A lot has been developed hand-in-hand with customers. There, the best ideas are born on the mill floor, resulting in the best controls. The biggest development happens in the field, no doubt. A customer might have an idea, a wish that you would probably never come up with in the ‘home office’- After the new functionality is tested and proven, it can also be utilized elsewhere. For example, the visual analyzer (VCA) has been optimized at the customer site over the years and nowadays those findings and functions are merged into the core machine,” Timo explains. 

Work doesn’t change but the means do 

For Timo, in the 2000s the change in the automation field has been remarkable.  

We have things like MIS, and everything is in the cloud. Networking is a big development step. This has made things simpler and easier. In the old days, you had to drag all kinds of tools with you. No way you would have survived without them. Today, you basically only need your laptop which you plug, or even better do wirelessly, and all the troubleshooting and diagnostics can be done,” says Timo. 

Although a lot of development has happened, the process control functions do not change.  

The work itself doesn’t change but how you do it and what kind of tools change instead. Thinking about these machines, the process is cast iron. The biggest challenge is to learn to use new tools, which typically happens every other year. That is what takes the most effort,” Timo summarizes. 

What’s next? 

Currently, Timo is finishing off his last projects in Chile before retiring. 

Raute has been like a second home for the past 40 years. I really love my work. This has been a perfect job for an introverted guy like me as you get to do things independently. You get to see your work from the beginning till the end. With this experience, this feels more like a hobby to me,” Timo concludes. 

Timo’s retirement plans include renovating an old house, fixing cars, and maybe some traveling. Who knows, maybe we will get this forever young expert to help us with some projects still in the future. We’ll see! 

Finally, any ‘last words’? 

Always travel with two suitcases – to keep your work and civil separately. Never mix your shitty work clothes with your normal clothes. So, always two so your suit won’t smell.” – Timo Kiilakoski