Merja knows 40 years of Hansel’s history
In the golden 1980s, young people starting their careers often began at the lower steps of the employing business. Merja Leppänen, who currently works in Hansel’s financial unit, started her career as an office assistant, that is, an internal courier, at Government Purchacing Center (VHK), which was typical of the time. The task was a good start to a long career, first at the VHK, then at Trading House Hansel Ltd, and now at today’s Hansel.
In her own words, Merja has not stopped thinking about the passage of time, as the changing job description has kept her work motivation high and the work interesting over the years. The next step from being a courier was to be promoted to a post handler, which meant preparing the mailing of announcements. One mailing might have included even 10,000 customer announcements! The content of the announcements was very similar to Hansel’s current communication: information on what kind of contracts Hansel has signed with suppliers, and which products and services are available. Back then, at the start of the 1980s, VHK also had its own printing office, where Merja worked as a substitute from time to time. One detail of the printing office’s operation is deeply etched in Merja’s memory:
“There was a rule against using the copier for more than 20 copies. Any bigger printing work was done with the in-house offset printing press. Fridays were the cleaning days for these bulky machines, which was physically draining due to lifting the rollers.”
Customer work groups have been an important part of our customer cooperation for several decades. For example, until the 1990s, VHK delivered new parents’ maternity packages, which were acquired through Kela’s competitive tendering. As is customary these days, a customer work group was established at the start of the competition process for designing and testing suitable products to include in the procurement. The customer work group clearly chose good and high-quality products, as Merja says she brought up both her children with the same maternity package.
International winds of change in the 1990s
Merja began working as an invoice clerk in the early 1990s, having worked as an invoice handler for a few years. She would have been interested in working as an invoice clerk sooner, but she did not meet one of the requirements for an invoice clerk back then. It was not about a degree in financial administration, but something completely different.
“The touch-type system was considered an essential skill for invoice clerks, because the work supposedly contained so much typing, such as the product name and the customer’s street address,” Merja reminisces with a twinkle in her eye.
However, the handling of purchase invoices was soon added to the invoice clerk’s tasks. Merja had suitable experience, and she began her career in the invoicing department. She was also involved in a work group that was designing an invoicing system for Hansel. When working as an invoice clerk for the trading department, Merja also gained experience of the twists and turns of international trade, as Trading House Hansel Ltd took care of the procurement of development aid products, including their export to the target countries. Merja completed a degree as an export assistant while working, which was helpful when working at the global customer and supplier interface. For example, Merja got to present how the delivery process of Finland’s food aid worked to the representatives of the World Food Programme (WFP).
“I gave the presentation in English – me, who can’t speak English,” Merja laughs modestly.
A tight grasp of customer hierarchy
When working in customer relations, Merja oversaw the managing of Hansel’s entire customer register and hierarchy.
“Customer hierarchy is the basis for all our business. The sales are based on having correct and up-to-date customer data,” Merja emphasises.
Her work as the customer register’s administrator continues. Merja’s other tasks in the financial unit include invoicing and the monitoring of supplier responsibility. A few years ago, Hansel established a new reporting system. Merja was closely involved with commenting on its development work.
According to Merja, development work should first focus on finding out why the current model is laborious or otherwise fails to give the desired results, and then on designing a feasible solution that can give the desired results with as light a process as possible.
In the last couple of years, the number of Hansel’s joint purchases has increased significantly, particularly after the numerous purchases performed with dynamic purchasing systems (DPS).
“The number of individual joint procurement contracts has at least doubled, so it would be simply impossible to handle reports manually,” Merja says.
For Merja, the best part of working at Hansel is having amazing co-workers. As well as her colleagues, Merja praises Anssi Pihkala, the Managing Director, whose example of an open working culture guides the entire work community.
Unparalleled work experience
Merja’s vast experience first at Government Purchacing Center, then at Trading House Hansel Ltd, and now the current Hansel is second to none. She has worked as
- a courier
- a post handler (including temporary duplication work)
- an invoice handler
- an invoice clerk
- an exports assistant in the trading unit
- a back-office support in customer relations and
- an administrator of customer hierarchy and supplier information.