BIRTH OF A GLOBAL MACHINE

Our story begins in 1910, when a machine repair shop in Helsinki became known as KONE, Finnish for “machine”. More than a century later, KONE enables the smooth flow of millions of people in urban centers across the world.

Our History

CHALLENGER IN A CHANGING WORLD

Over the years, KONE has proven its ability to adapt to the challenges of a changing world. Its offering has ranged from industrial cranes to emergency room patient monitors, ice-skate blades, and nylon socks. But the elevator and escalator business has always been its main focus.

GLOBAL INNOVATOR

Breakthrough technologies, including the machine-room-less elevator and a superlight hoisting rope that enables elevator travel of up to 1 kilometer, have earned KONE a reputation as a global innovator.

URBAN OPERATOR

Stable ownership by four generations of the Herlin family has created a strong and supportive environment for development, allowing KONE to continue to respond to the people flow challenges of an increasingly urban future.

1910
to
1930

MACHINE SHOP BEGINNINGS

1910 - Former Stromberg Stable

1910

A machine repair shop named Tarmo was established in Finland’s capital, Helsinki, in 1908. On October 27, 1910, it was incorporated as KONE. The machine shop started refurbishing and selling used Strömberg motors under the KONE name from a converted stable. It also imported and installed elevators from Graham Brothers in Sweden.
1910 - First KONE logo

1910

The first KONE logo from 1910 is a solid, no-nonsense design that reflects the company’s modest roots as an electric motor repair business. The word “osakeyhtiö” below the image is Finnish for “corporation”.
1920s - Antinkatu factory

1914

When World War I struck Europe, Finland was still part of the Russian Empire. KONE produced 10 million brass shells and casings for the Russian army. KONE’s revenues grew, and staff numbers increased from 10 to 600. But elevator sales were low as the war strained Finland’s economy, bringing construction to a virtual halt.
1917 - KONE office factory Antinkatu

1917

Finland – formerly the Grand Duchy of Finland in the Russian Empire – becomes an independent republic.
1918 - KONE ad

1918

KONE’s advertisement appeared in the magazine Paperi ja Puu.
1919 - 13th elevator by KONE Freesenkatu

1918

The first elevators made of components produced by KONE were installed in the Helsinki area in 1918. Post-World War I elevator demand was low, and KONE started with an annual production of 4 elevators in 1918, a figure that grew to 100 in 1924. By 1928 KONE was cranking out an elevator a day.
1920 - Jakobsson couple gold medalist

1920

KONE featured in Finland’s sporting history in 1920 when its technical director at the time, Walter Jakobsson, and his wife, Ludovika, won Olympic gold in mixed pairs skating. The pair remain the only Finnish ice skaters to bring home Olympic gold.
1920s - KONE service vehicle fleet

1924

In 1924 KONE’s parent company, Strömberg, faced bankruptcy, weighed down by post-war debt and aging technology. Businessman Harald Herlin noticed that the KONE subsidiary was profitable and worth slightly more than its parent company’s debt. He bought the subsidiary, and in 1924 KONE became an independent company with Harald Herlin as its chairman and principle owner.
1927 - KONE vehicle with signs

1927

KONE’s business grew in the 1920s, and in 1927 it consolidated factory operations in a former margarine plant. Production jumped to 200 elevators that year.
1928 - Heikki Herlin Haapaniemi factory

1928

Harald Herlin’s son Heikki Herlin joined KONE’s board.

1930
to
1950

WAR, PEACE & REPARATIONS

1930 - Finland first escalator Stockmann

1930

KONE dominated the Finnish elevator market in the early 1930s, but that market was tiny. The Great Depression had cut sales to levels not seen since Harald Herlin bought KONE in 1924.
1930 - Heikki and Anna Herlin

1932

In 1932 Harald’s 31-year-old son Heikki, an engineer who had studied and worked in Finland, Germany, and the United States, became KONE’s managing director.
1933 - 45 ton crane hook

1933

KONE started producing industrial cranes to counter weak elevator sales. It also began producing its own electric motors, determined to boost and gain better control over the quality of its products.
1939 - KONE freight elevator with workers

1939

In 1939 KONE celebrated the production of its 3,000th elevator. During World War II, most of the company’s production capacity was converted to serve Finland’s defense efforts. KONE manufactured ammunition and wood gas generators for vehicles but also managed to maintain a modest level of elevator and crane production.
1940 - KONE harbor cranes

1940

KONE delivered its 200th crane.
1950s - 30 ton gantry crane Hyvinkaa crane factory

1943

The bombing of Helsinki and demand for industrial cranes to meet wartime production needs forced KONE in 1943 to move its crane production from its increasingly cramped factory in the Finnish capital to Hyvinkää, 55 kilometers away.
1945 - KONE workers Haapaniemi factory yard

1945

When World War II ended, the peace agreement stipulated that Finland pay heavy war reparations to the Soviet Union in the form of capital goods. Between 1945 and 1952, KONE sent 108 elevators (mostly huge service elevators), 202 industrial cranes, and 265 electric hoists to the Soviet Union, all paid for by Finland’s government.
1955 - KONE family day

1947

From 1947 workers had to spend their summers fulfilling the company’s share of Finland’s war reparations. KONE began to run summer camps for employees’ children, a KONE tradition that has been maintained to this day.
1948 - 2nd KONE logo

1948

The KONE logo was redesigned in 1948. Cogwheels were added behind the name plate to represent the expanding business focus on elevators, industrial cranes, and hoisting machinery.

1950
to
1970

MODERNIZATION AND INTERNATIONAL EXPANSION

1952 - KONE vocational school teachers and students

1950s

Finland’s construction industry took a long time to recover after the war, keeping domestic elevator demand at depressingly low levels. Housing complexes, shopping centers, hospitals and office buildings finally started springing up in the 1950s. Taller and larger buildings called for KONE to develop sophisticated group controls and automatic doors for its elevators. KONE also opened its own vocational school in 1951.
1952 - january 9 war reparations program celebration

1952

Sadly, KONE had lost many workers during the war. At the same time, it had to increase its skills and capacity to meet Soviet demands for larger and more demanding equipment than it had ever produced as part of the post-war reparations program. As a result, KONE was well placed to continue exporting to Soviet customers when the program ended in 1952. Exports started accounting for an increasing share of KONE’s business.
1958 - Pekka Herlin

1958

Heikki Herlin’s son Pekka Herlin joined KONE in 1954. In 1958, as part of a thorough management reorganization, he was put in charge of administration. The new management team began rethinking how the company should work: putting KONE’s dormant capital to work, considering how to modernize outmoded production processes, and looking at ways to develop its products.
1964 - October 1 Pekka Herlin became president

1964

Pekka Herlin replaced his father as KONE president in 1964. His team immediately began planning a modern elevator factory in Hyvinkää to replace the cramped and inefficient Helsinki plant.
1970s - Hyvinkaa elevator factory

1967

KONE opened its new elevator factory. It had a capacity of 2,000 units per year, double the size of Finland’s total elevator market and far more than KONE’s total annual output, which was only about 1,200 units.
1967 - 3rd KONE logo

1967

By 1967 KONE’s business had evolved, and the logo was redesigned to represent the company’s international ambitions. It symbolizes elevator cars and shafts and perhaps buildings. The blue and white colors reflect those of the Finnish flag and serve as a link to KONE’s heritage.
1969 - KONE presence Scandinavia

1968

KONE’s breakthrough came in 1968 when it bought ASEA’s elevator business. The Swedish business unit, with its Norwegian and Danish subsidiaries, was bigger than KONE. In one leap, KONE became market leader in Northern Europe. More acquisitions followed. Six years later, KONE had production, sales and service operations in nine countries.

1970
to
1990

RISING INTERNATIONAL CONGLOMERATE

1974 - Westinghouse plant

1974

In 1974, KONE took another gigantic leap forward, buying Westinghouse’s European elevator business. Westinghouse was a market leader in both France and Belgium, and its elevator business there was larger than KONE’s entire international elevator operation. It also included high-rise expertise, which KONE lacked. KONE turned Westinghouse’s unprofitable business around in less than four years and established itself as a major European player.
1975 - Assembly line Hyvinkaa factory

1976

KONE opened a new elevator testing laboratory at the top of its 68-meter-high test tower in Hyvinkää, Finland, in the summer of 1976. This enabled the testing of elevator speeds of up to 7 meters per second.
1977 - Escalator design

1977

KONE started escalator production based on its own design at Chateauroux in France.
1978 - Electric motor factory

1978

KONE built a new electric motor factory in Hyvinkää, Finland.
1980 - KONE service car

1980s

In the 1980s, KONE became a conglomerate with a presence on several geographic markets. It had divisions for elevators and escalators, cranes, electronic medical technology, wood handling for the pulp and paper industry, high-pressure hydraulic piping systems, and shipboard cargo access solutions. KONE started investing in R&D with the creation of a state-of-the-art facility in Hyvinkää, Finland, and placed service increasingly at the center of its offerings.
1986 - Tête Défense Paris

1986

KONE elevators and escalators were ordered for some of the most iconic buildings of the time, including the 120-meter high “Tête Défense” in Paris, the Opéra Bastille in Paris, and the new building of the ministry of interior for Saudi Arabia.
1980s - KONE operations global

Late 1980s

By the late 1980s, KONE was one of the world’s top 3 companies in elevators and escalators, cranes, wood-handling systems, and shipboard cargo handling systems. But Pekka Herlin and his team were growing older and finding it increasingly difficult to keep this diverse empire functioning efficiently.

1990
to
2010

STRAGGLER TO STAR

1990 - KONE logo

1990

In 1990 the KONE logo was tweaked. The letters inside the blue blocks were updated to a simple, modern font that suits KONE’s unified global business.
1995 - Elevator in Kremlin

1993-1995

KONE had been an innovator in the 1960s and 1970s, but by the 1990s it was lagging behind the competition in technology and production cost in many of its product divisions. It decided to divest all the businesses except elevators and escalators. Between 1993 and 1995 it did just that.
1994 - Montgomery acquisition

1994

In 1994 KONE bought the fourth largest elevator business in the United States, Montgomery Elevator Company, and made plans to move decisively into China and expand operations in India. In just a few years, KONE had traded product diversity for expanded geographical coverage in its core business: elevators and escalators. Its product range, however, was still not competitive enough.
1996 - Ecodisc

1996

KONE introduced the world’s first machine-room-less elevator, the KONE MonoSpace®, and revolutionized the industry. Powered by the KONE EcoDisc®, a thin, round hoisting machine placed inside the elevator shaft, the KONE MonoSpace was by far the most efficient and environmentally friendly elevator of the time. It quickly became the industry standard, and KONE later adapted the low-rise technology to mid- and high-rise elevators as well.
1996 - O&K Roltreppen escalator factory

1996

In 1996, KONE also bought the remaining shares in its escalator partner, Germany’s O&K Rolltreppen, making it the world’s leading escalator supplier. KONE went quickly from straggler to head of the class.
1992 - Antti Herlin

1996

In the autumn of 1996, Pekka’s son Antti Herlin was named deputy chairman of the board and CEO.
1998 - Kunshan factory

1998

KONE opened a Greenfield factory in Kunshan, China, just in time to catch the crest of the wave that would make China the biggest elevator and escalator market in the world.
1998 - Tytyri shaft technician

1998

KONE opened its high-rise elevator testing laboratory Tytyri in Lohja, Finland. For the first time, elevator travel distances of more than 200 meters could be tested before installation. The facility, still one of the world’s tallest test shafts, is situated in a limestone mine extending 305 meters below ground. At Tytyri, KONE can test speeds of up to 17 m/s – the only test site in the world where such speeds can be reached.
2001 - Jean-Pierre Chauvarie

1998

An indication of how deeply KONE was committed to globalization was the naming of a Frenchman, Jean-Pierre Chauvarie, as President.
1998 - Toshiba cooperation

1998

KONE also entered into a strategic alliance with Toshiba Elevators and Building Systems Corporation, giving Toshiba the right to make and market elevators based on KONE’s machine-room-less technology in Japan.
2001 - Jumplift

2001

2001 saw the introduction of the KONE JumpLift® construction-time elevator for skyscrapers, which enables a fast and safe construction process in all weather conditions. The elevator grows with the building and can be moved upwards floor by floor as high-rise building construction progresses. That same year Manfred Eiden, a German, was appointed KONE president.
2002 - Partek acquisition

2002

During the early years of the millennium, KONE took important steps to expand operations in the rapidly growing markets of China, India, Russia, and the Middle East. In 2002 it also made a lightning-swift move to buy Partek, a Finnish conglomerate. Like the legendary ASEA and Westinghouse deals, the acquisition of Partek involved taking over a company bigger than KONE.
1969 - KONE presence Scandinavia

2003

When Pekka Herlin passed away in 2003, his inheritance was deeply tied up in KONE shares. The Partek purchase provided a way for the inheritance to be divided up among his five children. Partek’s companies would be reorganized into a new company, Cargotec, whose shares were held by four of the Herlin children while Antti retained principal ownership of KONE. Antti took over as KONE chairman in 2003.
2003 - Taipei Financial Center

2003

KONE extended its strategic alliance with Japan’s Toshiba, a cooperative relationship that was topped off with the installation of KONE EcoDisc® hoisting machines in all but two of the elevators in the Taipei Financial Center in Taiwan, the world’s tallest building from 2004 until 2010.
2012 - Matti Alahuhta

2005

KONE was profitable, but it had fallen behind the industry leader in many key indicators. When Matti Alahuhta was appointed KONE president at the beginning of 2005, he set out to streamline KONE’s organization and improve performance across the board. Smooth people flow in and around buildings, and positive customer experience became central themes. KONE began to outperform competitors and established itself as a major player in the world’s fastest growing markets.
2005 - Cargotec harbour cranes

2005

On June 1, KONE Corporation was demerged into two separate companies. One retained the name KONE Corporation, the other became Cargotec Corporation.
2008 - Nouveau glamour design winning

2008

KONE was awarded a Good Design Award for its innovative KONE Design Collection. KONE was the first elevator and escalator company to receive a Good Design award. Founded in 1950, the Good Design Award is one of the most recognized design award programs in the world.

2010
to
2020

CENTENARIAN WITH VISION

2010 - KONE 100 years

2010

KONE celebrated its 100-year anniversary at its 1,000 locations around the world in 2010. By now, the company employed around 34,000 people, and delivered around 60,000 elevators and escalators per year.
2010 - Shanghai World Expo

2010

KONE featured prominently at the Shanghai World Exposition – the biggest in Expo history – supplying elevators and escalators to 21 pavilions. For the Finnish pavilion “Kirnu” (Giant’s Kettle) KONE designed a showcase elevator inspired by a Chinese lantern and featuring details such as handcrafted ceramic artwork flooring and a decorated glass shaft as well as the latest in elevator technology.
2012 - KONE MonoSpace® Elevator Shaft

2012

The iconic machine-room-less KONE MonoSpace® elevator was completely upgraded in 2012, resetting the industry benchmark with leading eco-efficient performance, premium ride comfort and award-winning design.
2013 - Antti Ikonen holding KONE UltraRope®

2013

KONE revolutionized the high-rise elevator industry with its groundbreaking KONE UltraRope® technology. The superlight hoisting cable has a carbon fiber core and eliminates many of the disadvantages of conventional steel rope, enabling future elevator travel of up to 1 kilometer while providing unparalleled elevator eco-efficiency, reliability and durability.
2013 - PFI access control

2013

KONE also moved decisively into smart building technology, introducing its KONE People Flow Intelligence family of equipment and software aimed at enabling people to move around buildings as smoothly as possible.
2013 - Kunshan Park motor factory

2013

KONE Park, the company’s largest manufacturing unit, was opened in Kunshan, China in April 2013. The site includes an engineering facility, R&D center, three elevator factories, and an escalator factory.
2014 - Jeddah Tower

2014

A service mindset, delivering on promises and working closely with customers has helped KONE seal deals for some of the busiest and most impressive buildings in the world, including the Delhi Metro in India, the Leadenhall Building in England, and, in 2014, the Jeddah Tower (previously Kingdom Tower) in Saudi Arabia, set to become the world's first 1-kilometer-tall building.
2014 - Henrik Ehrnrooth

2014

Henrik Ehrnrooth was appointed president and CEO in April, and his vision is to build on KONE’s strong service roots while continuing to introduce industry leading innovations that enable the best people flow experience in the world’s rapidly growing cities.
2015 - Technology innovation

2015

In September 2015 KONE repositioned itself for the digital era, announcing the creation of a new Technology & Innovation unit that brings together KONE’s R&D and IT functions.
2015 - Kunshan test tower

2015

In December, KONE opened its 36-floor test tower at the KONE Park manufacturing site in Kunshan, China. The 235.6-meter tower contains 12 shafts that can be configured for the testing of high-rise solutions and components at speeds of up to 15 m/s. A high-speed, double-decker elevator featuring Kone UltraRope™ technology carries visitors to a sky lobby and showroom at a speed of up to 10m/s.
2015 - KONE technician sustainability

2015

Over one billion people use KONE elevators and escalators every day. KONE’s head office remains in Helsinki, Finland, but its operations span close to 60 countries and its 400,000 customers come from all corners of the globe.
2015 - IBM partnership Chris O'Connor and Henrik Ehrnrooth

2016

In February 2016, KONE announced an agreement with IBM to use the Watson Internet of Things Cloud Platform to collect and store equipment data, build applications and develop new solutions. Over the coming years, KONE will connect its global maintenance base of more than one million elevators, escalators and building doors to cloud-based services to minimize equipment downtime and carry out repairs more quickly.
2016 - New mission

2016

KONE’s mission is to improve the flow of urban life. We continue to use our understanding of people flow in and between buildings to make people’s journeys safe, convenient and reliable. In short, we make cities better places to live.