An interview with Peikko’s Vice President of Product Development, Ján Bujňák.
Original interview by Róbert Turza for Hospodarske Noviny newspaper
Ján Bujňák is responsible for the development of connection products at Peikko. He recently gave an extensive interview to a Slovakian leading daily business newspaper Hospodarske noviny. Here are some excerpts from the interview, where Ján speaks about the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the construction business, on Peikko’s R&D and how Peikko is able to fulfil the promise of making construction safer, faster, and more efficient.
Peikko claims to be able to build projects faster. Is the readiness of parts from production the reason for this?
The Empire State Building, one of the first skyscrapers in New York, was built in an extremely short amount of time, just 13 months. Back then the builders managed to accomplish it in such an extremely short period of time because they simplified the design and construction process as much as possible and focused exclusively on what was essential. It is like building a Lego set; using the same components, layer by layer. Things can be done quickly and efficiently and that is what we are attempting to do. The goal is to bring to the construction site parts as ready as possible, which thereby simplifies the construction process as much as possible.
I read once that this type of construction could be considered more expensive. Is this the biggest disadvantage on the market?
It is a question of perspective. If someone wants to build a multistory building in the centre of a big city and has contracted tenants, is it better for them to build at a slower, slightly less expensive pace and wait, or is it better to have something with a bit higher up-front cost, but that can be built much faster, enabling the space to turn a profit more quickly? The investor has to make this calculation. I am convinced that a half-year or full year of lease payments is able to cover any additional costs.
Your technology is suitable for constructing larger facilities, such as hospitals. We have been talking about such a project in Slovakia for a long time. Are you going to complete for this contract?
Our company is willing to contribute towards doing any project better and faster. Our designers have completed construction projects around the world, we know how to build efficiently and fast, and we have the know-how and the experience from markets that could serve us well as examples.
The global markets were impacted last year by the pandemic. How did 2020 develop from your perspective?
Our sales grew by eight million Euros to 238 million and profitability remained on a strong level. We also have not cut back on any of the investments that were planned. We also won a number of projects that we otherwise would not have received under other circumstances as potential customers would have previously seen us as being expensive.
Were the years spent building up positions on European markets an advantage?
Until the pandemic, we had higher production costs due to the almost exclusive production of parts in Europe. After the pandemic hit, we benefited from the fact that we have six production plants in Europe and can fulfil our orders on time, in the required volume. This could no longer be said of our competition [who import products from Asia].
You use a lot of steel in your production process. How did that affect you?
There is tremendous uncertainty on the commodities market. Steel prices are rising rapidly. As a large producer, we have contracted suppliers for some time ahead. That is why we are able to deliver our products on time, which not everyone can. The goal is to build out a supply chain that is as diversified as possible.
What does Peikko do for research and development?
Added value is the ultimate goal of research and development. This means that our products must have the necessary quality, and be reliable, and we must primarily resolve the problems that builders face. Well-designed and prefabricated parts are able to prevent a host of problems. R&D also includes work on European certificates. They guarantee the quality of products as required on the European market.
Are the ideas sourced from research or the construction site?
R&D always begins and ends with the customer. It is key for use to respond to the customer’s needs. We have to consider customer needs in this process as well as feasibility, if we are able to produce it, tinker with the design, produce prototypes, and so on. Moreover, our industry is strictly regulated in Europe. If you make a mistake, lives are at risk. This is why we have to declare the conformity of our products with safety standards.
What do customers want the most?
Our customers expect us to create solutions that will make their lives easier. Therefore, it is our job, not their job, to identify and solve problems that they might not have thought of, and at the same time to provide them with a solution that they may not have even known was feasible. It is a very complex process. But if you are successful in bringing it to a close, typically we produce an innovation that changes the rules of the game.
Do you have any specific examples?
The best example is our DELTABEAM® system, which was developed thirty years ago. DELTABEAM® is a product we are constantly improving. We create software, technical components, production solutions, simply the whole package with added value.
Is the next generation leap approaching?
Sustainability and digitalization are the absolute priority for everyone. The most efficient form of recycling will be required in the case of steel alone. Here, too, we have the advantage of being one of the first companies to come up with a recycled steel beam. Not everyone is able to supply and process this product at the same time. We can, and once again, it gives us a competitive advantage.