Focus and expansion
A good inventor constantly gets new ideas. In addition to landfill compactors, the company also manufactured plastic products and patrol boats, which were delivered to the Iraqi military in the late 1970s. At the same time, Tana compactors were manufactured under license in Spain and East Germany.
Tana changed ownership 25 years ago, when its current owner Kari Kangas acquired the company together with two partners. The new owners decided to focus on landfill compactors and create a more simple and productive company.
Product development was accelerated. Norwegian importer Gitmark played an important role in developing the business. In Norway, Tana’s market share in landfill compactors was 100 percent, the Tana Drivers Club was established for customers, and products were jointly developed by the importer and the factory. One example of these R&D projects was a patented swing frame system that protects the gearbox from overloading and possible damage.
Waste becomes fashionable
The history of the growth of landfills has gone hand in hand with industrialisation, urbanisation and rising living standards. In the past, waste was mainly organically degradable, and its further disposal was not a long-term problem. As metal, glass and then even plastic gradually began to accompany the waste to be disposed of, actual landfills began to take shape. Volumes started to increase considerably for both municipal and industrial waste already in the 1950s. Larger and larger areas were needed for storing waste, as well as equipment for handling it.
It quickly became clear that dumping alone was not enough. Uncompacted waste not only took up a considerable amount of space, it also caused a variety of problems. Loose and airy waste smelled and also burned more easily, often causing inconvenience to the surrounding area, especially in summer. In addition, it brought with it quite interesting problems, for example in the form of rats. So equipment was needed to compact the waste.
Something has to be done
In 1971, we were still almost a decade away from the Waste Management Act and any actual requirements for landfill management. Nevertheless, Matti Sinkkonen from Jyväskylä was a visionary who understood the need to compact landfills in Finland. And if there was demand for some kind of landfill compactor in Finland, what kind of demand might there be in the big world, where consumption was far ahead.
There was little recycling at the time, and it was mainly based on the idea that recycled products could be utilised in some way – not so much on environmental considerations. Metal, glass, paper and cardboard were collected for reuse, but much also went directly to landfills. The waste that had to be compacted therefore varied considerably, both in composition and size. The landfill could contain ordinary household garbage bags or a truckload of tin barrels – maybe empty, maybe full of who knows what. It is often said that one’s imagination is the limit, but this did not apply to landfill waste. There was a need to develop a machine that could handle anything it came across.
Another thing to consider was that landfills, especially those that had not been compacted in the past, could hold quite a surprise in terms of carrying capacity. Heavy machines could sink deep or tilt, so it was imperative that they did not flip upside down very easily – preferably not at all. Naturally, power, durability and the ability to drive were also called for. There was plenty for Sinkkonen to do.
Fortunately, Matti had prior experience with compactors. Tana compactors with rubber tyres and based on the Valmet D361 and D864 were used for roadworks already in the late 1960s. However, bigger machinery was needed for landfills, so Sinkkonen’s company Kone-Jyrä teamed up with Valmet to develop two large, articulated compactor models with rubber tyres based on the Valmet 910 and 1110 industrial tractors. They were sold as part of Valmet’s municipal equipment series under the Valtra name with model numbers 30/90 and 30/115. The numbers referred to the maximum total weight in tonnes and engine power. These machines, too, were mostly intended for more traditional soil compaction tasks, but the idea for landfills came from this: what if they were adapted for waste applications?
From a rural community to the world
Crawler and wheeled tractors, as well as wheeled loaders, had already been used for compacting and transferring masses in landfills, but the problem was not only the weight but also the narrow compaction area. Whether they had rubber tyres or steel wheels, let alone rollers, the compaction power was limited by the track gauge. But if a roller with steel drum was used on the landfill, and the drum had teeth or spikes, it could work. That’s what Sinkkonen thought, so he got down to work. When his first product was ready for sale, he exhibited it at the international trade fair in Hanover, Germany, under the new company name Tana Oy in 1971. When a local customer showed interest in buying the machine, he made his first sale.
Sales then accelerated, and very soon it became clear that the market really was further away from the countryside of Jyväskylä. With the introduction of the Waste Management Act of 1979, demand began to increase also in Finland. When the 1980s arrived, sales were made internationally, not only outside Finland but also outside Europe. The company began license manufacturing in Spain and the GDR.
Tana keeps in flat
Tana compactors became popular because they really worked. The structure was durable and designed especially for landfill applications. The machine did an efficient job, and while it could not do anything else, it did not need to – whereas wheel loaders and bulldozers were a somewhat half-witted solution to these special conditions, Tana machines did the job. And this was noticed among customers. In April, for example, the City of Naantali’s Real Estate and Construction Board stated the following when justifying the acquisition of Tana machines: “The price of a Tana compactor varies from FIM 360,000 to FIM 500,000, depending on the size and model of the machine. It is unlikely that a better compacting machine with a Tana roller can be found, only cheaper but at the same time worse solutions.”
The popularity of the machine type is also indicated by the fact that in Finland people began talking about a working method called “tanaaminen”. In other words, compacting landfills specifically with a Tana. In practice, this meant compacting the waste layer to about 2-3 metres by driving back and forth several times over the waste. The machine was then used to spread about 20 to 30 centimetres of cover, which was often construction waste and even slightly contaminated soil. After that, new waste loads could again be unloaded on the load-bearing surface that could be driven on.
A time for everything – and still to this day
In Finland, the number of open landfills began to fall sharply from the late 1990s, when legislation began to change in an unfavourable direction for open landfills. In the end, the task of landfill compactors was to assist in landscaping and remediation of decommissioned open landfills. However, there are still customers in the world for landfill compactors, and Tana has remained at the forefront of development. Modern driver-oriented working conditions, 3D machine control and even more efficient machines are part of this development. Moreover, the company has not relied on just one product but has increasingly invested in the circular economy in waste treatment equipment, such as chippers, crushers, shredders and screens. This is a result of the intensification of product development that took place in this millennium, behind which has been Kari Kangas, who has owned Tana Oy since 2005. Since 2008, machine manufacturing has been carried out by its cooperation partner Toijala Works.
In another 50 years, Tana’s history will probably be written with a very different range of machines in operation. However, compactors will still have a very strong role to play in this history, as they provided a solid foundation for current operations.