Quality Manager Seppo Aho

Hi, my name's Seppo Aho. I've been Genelec's Quality Manager since 1997, and I live in Iisalmi, Finland, with my wife.

My work is to assist our personnel with quality management and environmental issues at every level of our organisation. This starts right from onboarding where I prepare new employees with information about how we operate and the importance of our quality and sustainability goals. I'm also responsible for regularly analysing and improving our Quality and Environmental Management Systems. This enables our business to maintain very high manufacturing standards, so our users will be happy, and our ecological footprint minimal.

I start most working days around eight o’clock by reading and replying to emails, and I'll generally have a meeting at nine, so I'll also get ready for that. The largest part of my work revolves around quality management, which is an essential part of ensuring we remain monitoring industry leaders. We have several cross-functional teams covering this area, and each team has a set of tasks that require my attention. The teams are full of great people that constantly achieve goals with an incredible motivation and professionalism.

Alongside our teams' own quality and environmental assessments, we're also advised by external organisations, who ensure that we keep well-rounded and informed approach to our corrective actions. Recently, a modern global approach to standards called the ESG (Environment, Social & Governance) framework has brought a new dimension to the sustainability considerations of my work. I'm proud to say that Genelec's been extremely conscious of social and environmental issues ever since its founding in 1978, and we're always delighted to see new and positive global developments in these areas.

Considering the wider Genelec community is also incredibly important for my work and that's something our company has paid a lot of attention to. For example, it's highly beneficial to extend our quality and sustainability considerations to our relationship with the partners that tackle our resource supply and product distribution. Additionally, the feedback we get from our partners and end users is useful for finding the most effective improvements possible.

When I'm done working, I like to relax - especially by reading books written by Nordic authors. It's also enjoyable to do a bit of gardening and home maintenance during the summer months, which I often follow with a countryside walk or bike ride. Sports have always been a big part of my life; most recently padel, which I play with my old childhood friends. During the colder months in Iisalmi, there's great opportunities to play winter sports, or to plough the snow if you're out of other exercise ideas!

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Cycling in the Pilvilampi area near Vaasa, surrounded by old forests and beautiful nature.

I must give a special mention to martial arts, because I find it much more challenging and satisfying than other exercise. Practising it has enabled me to meet fantastic new people with a range of different backgrounds. I feel like it's the perfect way to stay healthy, and I enjoy the way it focusses on respect for one another. I've made several long-lasting friendships through martial arts, and in July last year, I happened to meet an old sparring partner. It was the first time we'd seen each other since I moved away from Finland's capital city in 1997. We had a brilliant time catching up over a two-hour coffee!

I lived in Helsinki for most of the 90s, and like most young people I listened to a lot of music. At some point, I visited a local HiFi shop, looking for a high-quality audio system. For a premium experience, their salesperson recommended Genelec active loudspeakers. Around the same time, I read a lot of positive things about Genelec in a magazine called 'Tekniikan Maailma' (World of Technics), so the company had really started to get my attention at that point.

In 1997, I noticed Genelec were searching for a new Quality Manager, and I was feeling ready to leave a much larger company in which I performed the same role. I applied for the job at Genelec and was invited to an interview at the old Helsinki office in Töölö. When I arrived, I met our brilliant founder, Ilpo Martikainen, for the first time. The interview was conducted by him and our old Marketing Manager, Veikko Hyvönen. Veikko asked me practical questions about quality systems, and Ilpo was more interested in getting to know me, for instance asking which books I'd been reading recently. Notably, the whole interview had a calm, thoughtful and relaxed atmosphere, which I later realised was exactly how Ilpo and Veikko would always conduct their meetings.

From the first day of my job, I had a sense of great friendliness and professionalism from everyone working at Genelec. I'd like to give a special mention to Ritva Leinonen who was our Financial Manager at the time; she helped me so much with the practicalities of moving from Helsinki to Iisalmi. I also got an exceptional introduction to our production team from former Domestic Sales Manager, Keijo Hautala, and Production Manager, Väinö Iso-Markku. In those days, all of Genelec's new employees would try working in production, so they could experience the core of the company. I'll never forget how an experienced technician told me proudly that “we manufacture the world's best loudspeakers” as she showed me her quality checklist at assembly. I've heard many similar proud comments from our young staff over the years, which shows how faithfully we've kept our devotion to quality.

In the year 2000, Genelec conducted a comprehensive sustainability study called the 'Life Cycle Assessment of Genelec Environmental Effects', and since then, sustainability has steadily become an ever larger and more important part of my work. That study resulted in some very robust developments to our Environmental Management System before its eventual certification in 2005. In 2008, Genelec officially declared sustainability to be as important as quality and profitability, which turned our long-time preference for eco-friendly operation into a concrete, measured commitment.

Nowadays when I follow the news, sustainability is mentioned all the time, for example the recent case of rivers drying out in France and Germany. On a global scale, humanity's efforts are unfortunately proving too modest to tackle our environmental and social challenges. For that reason, I feel that everybody should observe 'The Keeling Curve', which is a measurement of our atmospheric CO2 levels. A quick look will demonstrate where we're heading with the climate if you're not aware of it already. Indeed, an increasing volume of atmospheric greenhouse gases is our biggest and toughest challenge.

On a positive note, many world leaders, both political and industrial, are acknowledging the importance of action towards sustainability. Big steps will need to come from large-scale legislation and agreements, yet individual behaviour remains important. I've often heard the phrase that "one person cannot make a difference", but this is not true at all. I like to bear in mind that mighty rivers are made of tiny drops of water, and each of us who acts will contribute to a powerful flow of progress.

At home, my wife and I avoid unnecessary consumption wherever possible. We repair what we can, and we try to find long-lasting products when it's necessary to buy something new. We've reduced our energy consumption with better insulation and an air-to-water heat pump system, plus we're considering an investment in solar power. We've minimised our trips by car because driving is a major contributor to environmental damage. We always recycle household waste like metal, glass, cardboard and batteries. At this moment however, it's tough to recycle plastic in our local vicinity, so we'll continue to push for more progress there. Overall, I think it's important to make recycling systems that are so easy and convenient that children can use them - then they're set up for success!

When I think back across my career, I'm very proud of the journey that Genelec and I have been on together. We've pushed hard to do the best we can with quality and sustainability, and we've made a lot of memories together. I often think about the times we've earned quality and environmental system certificates, and the incredible moments when we've achieved tangible improvements. If I had to choose one memory that stands out, it'd be the prestigious EOQ (European Organization for Quality) congress in 2016 at the Finlandia Hall in Helsinki; a fine opportunity to learn from the best in the field of Quality Management. The speakers and attendees were mainly from the EU, though several travelled from as far as China, Canada, Japan, Israel, and the United States. During that evening, I was truly delighted to be awarded a medal of honour from the Finnish Association for Quality (SLY), alongside three other esteemed recipients. In my opinion, a part of my award also belongs to Genelec and the other quality and eco-conscious companies I've worked with over the years.

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I received the honor medal from the Finnish Association for Quality for the work done to endorse quality.

Greetings from a colleague:

Seppo and I have been workmates and friends since the late 90s! I've come to know him as a 'systematic bureaucrat' in the most positive sense.

Seppo keeps a tight grip on his work with a friendly, matter of fact and instructive approach, while he promotes a quality-rich culture throughout Genelec. Over the years, I've noticed that he has an amazing ability to get inside complex issues to fully understand them, which makes him perfect for his role.

I really appreciate you, Seppo, as a person and as a thoroughly reliable teammate.

Your colleague, Kyösti Janatuinen