President and CEO Riku Kytömäki
The year 2020 ended strongly for Exel Composites. The adjusted operating profit as well as revenue increased compared to 2019. In addition, our order intake improved, resulting in a strong order backlog driven by an improved underlying demand at the end of 2020. Operating cash flow in 2020 increased compared to the previous year.
Overall, Exel has so far mitigated the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic well. The health and safety of our employees, customers and business partners is a priority for Exel Composites. For the most part, operations at our factories were close to normal throughout the year within the limits of the implemented safety measures. Many of our manufacturing units are located far from densely populated areas, which has reduced the impact of the pandemic on the company. Due to preventive and mitigating actions, we have not suffered from significant shortfalls in staffing or materials due to the pandemic. I am particularly happy to see that our strategy based on diversified customer industries and regions has supported us in these difficult times and reduced the impact of the sudden drop of demand that happened with some of our clients.
In the fourth quarter of 2020, revenue increased driven by Buildings and Infrastructure as well as Defense customer industries. In the full year 2020, the volume increase in Defense and Wind Power made a significant positive contribution to Group revenue. I am very satisfied with these results as they reflect the successful execution of our strategy. Wind Power is one of our strategic focus areas and continues to grow as our largest customer industry. Other strategic focus areas grew too: Camouflage net support poles in the Defense customer industry as well as conductor core applications in the Infrastructure industry are good examples of how extensive R&D over several years yields results. The conductor core application is the outcome of determined long-term product development and a technological break-through that can increase power transmission capacity. The camouflage net support poles, on the other hand, are an example of how we have been able to leverage our global footprint and cross-selling within the Group. These customer industries have remained more or less resilient during the Covid-19 pandemic. Transportation, on the other hand, has clearly been negatively impacted by the pandemic and revenue in the customer industry declined in the fourth quarter as well as in 2020.
Geographically, revenue increased in the regions Asia-Pacific and Europe in the fourth quarter. In 2020, Asia-Pacific showed strong growth, while revenue in Europe increased slightly. In the region North America, revenue declined across nearly all customer industries in the fourth quarter mainly due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Despite the impacts of the pandemic on many fronts, adjusted operating profit increased by 36% in 2020 compared to 2019. In the fourth quarter, adjusted operating profit more than doubled compared to the same period in the previous year. The strong improvement reflects the impact from the cost savings program completed in 2019, an overall favorable sales mix and operational efficiency improvements implemented during the year across the Group. We were also able to leverage our position as a growing global buyer in a materials market weakened by the pandemic.
2020 will remain in history as an exceptional year in many ways. The pandemic continues to cast a shadow over the global business environment also in 2021 although vaccination programs are expected to relieve the situation. Despite the pandemic, we start 2021 in a good position supported by a high order backlog. I warmly thank our employees for a job well done, and our customers and other stakeholders for outstanding cooperation. Stay healthy and safe, and let’s make 2021 an even better year!