A brief history of what leads us to where we are today



Two beginnings

The story of Komatsu Forest has not one but two beginnings. One in Sweden and one in Finland. In Finland, state-owned Valmet Oy was founded after the Second World War. The company quickly became a key player in forest machine development in its home country. In Sweden, 1961 saw the founding of the small company Umeå Mekaniska in Umeå, in a region characterised by a strong forest industry and deep-rooted traditions in innovation and entrepreneurialism. Umeå Mekaniska was interested in finding new solutions for mechanising heavy, manual industrial work. 1965 saw the unveiling of a completely new machine called Skruven (The Screw). This was a unique concept and the first major stepping stone towards mechanised harvesting. Skruven had rotating helical screws at the bottom of a large bed into which bunches of trees were fed. Its efficiency was revolutionary.


Volvo shows an interest

The 1970s saw rapid development at Finnish Valmet. Parallel to this, a highly innovative environment was evolving at Umeå Mekaniska in Sweden. In both Sweden and Finland, specialised forestry contractors were growing in number as mechanisation became increasingly widespread in forestry work. 1972 saw further development based on the trials held with Skruven. Tviggen, as its successor was named, was a single-stem machine with a chain-driven saw and it proved to be an overnight success. All the technical innovations that outsider Umeå Mekaniska had introduced started to attract the attention of bigger players in the Swedish forest machine industry. Attention that in 1976 resulted in Volvo BM acquiring Umeå Mekaniska as part of its investment in the forest industry. In 1979, Volvo BM began collaborating with Valmet Oy on tractors.


First single grip harvester

The year 1984 marked a milestone in global forest machine manufacturing. This was when Umeå Mekaniska launched the world's first specially designed single grip harvester, the Valmet 901. A single grip harvester meant that felling, delimbing and bucking could be achieved with a single grip rather than two grips. The Valmet 901 also had a fully rotating and levelling cab. This technical solution is now more than 30 years old, but is still considered the ultimate method for sustainable productivity. This huge technological leap forward increased Valmet Oy's interest in Umeå Mekaniska and in 1986 Umeå Mekaniska became wholly owned by Valmet Oy. As a consequence, the brands were consolidated under the Valmet name, and this remained the case for 25 years. In 1989, the ties between Sweden and Finland were fully consummated when the company changed name to Valmet Logging AB.

Valmet 965


Several new markets

Due to restructuring within the Valmet Oy group, of which Valmet Logging was a part, in 1994 the name was changed to SISU Logging. The 1990s also witnessed new steps in the company's international expansion, with businesses established and acquired in growth markets such as Australia, South America and North America. The beginning of the 1990s heralded the first ever introduction of a completely new harvester head specially developed for the South American market. This was a harvester head to be used with an excavator as the carrier, which proved to be a highly successful concept for harvesting the forest plantations of the target continent. In 1998, it was once again time to change names when the first private owner, Finnish industrial group Partek, took over. The new name was Partek Forest.


Japanese owner

In 2000, an informal collaboration was entered between Komatsu and Partek Forest and rumours that Komatsu wanted to acquire Partek Forest abounded. In 2002, a change of ownership was announced that caused great surprise. The Finnish state decided to sell Partek to the Finnish lift and escalator manufacturer Kone. Kone's acquisition cleared the way for Komatsu to buy out Partek Forest. In 2004, Komatsu Ltd became the owner and renamed the company Komatsu Forest. Komatsu Ltd saw synergy and development opportunities wherein technology and products from forest machines could make Komatsu's construction machines a more attractive proposition, for plantation harvesting in particular. The first evidence of Nordic-Japanese collaboration came in 2005, when Komatsu Forest introduced an excavator kit that could quickly convert an excavator into a harvester.


The machines change name

The next major step was taken in 2011, when the machines changed name to Komatsu, after 25 years of the Valmet brand. They did, however, keep the classic red colour. In 2012, Komatsu Forest acquired head manufacturer Log Max AB, together with Log Max Inc. Under the ownership of Komatsu Ltd, product development was ramped up considerably. Within just a few years, five new forwarders and five new harvesters were launched. In 2016 the Komatsu 931XC was launched, followed by the Komatsu 901XC in 2017. The XC-series harvesters have a unique solution for eight wheels compared to other manufacturers. The machines are built around Komatsu's unique, tried-and-tested chassis concept with an articulated joint and a swing axle, a tilt function for the cab and crane and Komatsu's load-sensing stabilisation. This concept has proven to be effective for several decades. The Komatsu XC-series machines combine the swinging rear axle with a bogie mounted on the single axle. In 2018, Komatsu acquired Quadco & Southstar forestry attachment operations, as well as Oryx Simulations, a world leading company within development of simulator systems for heavy-vehicle applications.