April 21, 2011

Nationalism is bad for business

In my home country Finland there was just last weekend parliamentary elections where a small, populist party took all of a sudden 39 seats out of 200. Anti-immigration, anti-EU & anti-everything party with a funny name of "True-Finns" is now going to be in the parliament, maybe even taking part of the coalition government. Oh no !

My learnings in the world of construction has been that nationalism never boosts development. The most self-sufficient and nationalistic market areas have many time the most backward technologies in use. The adaptability for change and new things makes the difference between the good and bad - nationalism does not help in this.

I remember so well one discussion at teh World of Concrete exhibitions in USA some years ago where a visitor asked what kind of references we have in the state of Kentucky - I told that unfortunately none so far, only references in 30+ countries and several states in USA - and I got the answer that our solutions are unfortunately not suitable.

On other repeated story in our company is the technical approvals required by national building authorities. Why does it take several years to approve a product in one European country if the product has already been approved in several European countries before? The nationalism of these institutes slows down new innovations and lead to non-development.

New ideas, new methods, new thinking has to spread around the world. Although I might insult some of my dear Finnish customers, I want "True-Finns" out of the Finnish parliament. Maybe my dream becomes true in four years. Nationalism is just never good business for international companies, neither helps the industries to be more competitive.

April 11, 2011

Reputation of precast: not always perfect

If reputation is lost, reputation can be lost for a long time.

I was last week visiting Moscow and its neighboring areas. To visit Russia is always a good experience - tall, beautiful buildings surrounded by old relics in horrible condition. Most new residential buildings are today made by cast-in-place/in-situ - most old buildings from Soviet era from precast.

The huge precast factory towns of 60's and 70's are now history because people are now buying their apartments, they are not anymore "assigned" one. And when people buy, they also want quality and individualism. The old precast method where same element design was used in thousands of buildings were all the same, and all bad quality. The enclosed picture tells it all.

How can one convince apartment buyers that the new precast residential buildings can be of high quality? Very difficult - a lost reputition of this building method is very hard to gain back. All this despite that the facts are right, new technologies are excellent. Feelings are something no engineer can find good solutions for.

April 4, 2011

Design outsourcing is a reality of today - even in construction

When joining Peikko about 6 years ago I came to work for the field of construction from a totally another field, telecommunications. What struck me then was the lack of international collaboration in design, which was already daily bread in telecommunications then. In 6 years back there were not many companies which were even interested in outsourcing their design to third countries. Right now it is not only on the lips of many, it is really happening today. Just three concrete examples: 1) Northern European based structural design company is ramping up a large design office in India to participate in the local market, however, to also make basic design to its traditional home markets. 2) A Saudi precaster does not want to hire and locate expats to its company premises in Saudi Arabia; instead, it buys most of the required element drawings from a Philippine company. 3) Vietnamese entrepreneures have a small customer front-end organization in France, and tens of structural desginers working for Franch projects in Vietnam. In some Western European countries an AutoCAD drawing of a precasted wall element costs about 50 euro to make. What if the price is only 20%, the drawing is done in 50% of time and the quality is equal? Would this change to way we make business? And we are not talking about here only costs, but also design time and quality. Peikko's challenge is to be there where the design is made - to help and facilitate the design - and the current presence in 30 countries is only a beginning of our journey.