Jorma Kinnunen, Senior R&D Manager, tells us how Peikko’s innovative bolted column connections became the industry standard and, in fact, how Peikko developed the standards for the industry.
Tough products meet tough customers
Although our bolted column connections are now the industry standard, when I started at Peikko, in Finland, in 1996, our system was not so well known abroad. So, when we went to new markets, we didn’t expect an easy sell. However, sometimes the criticism was surprisingly rough. For example, once we presented samples of our column shoes to the director of a German company and he simply said, “why are you putting scrap on my table?” Then we explained how our solution would give him higher execution quality with smaller tolerances. Well, that did not work either. He replied, “we are not watch makers,” and pointed to the installation tolerances for our bolted connections. He referred instead to the bolted connections in a giant and complex concrete element with integrated column and footing, which was visible outside his office window. It was made by his company, and according to him, it was an innovative and advanced concrete product. I thought that this gigantic concrete element was a negative development, a step backwards, with its transportation, handling, lifting and installation problems.
You might think we had have given up, but we knew our bolted system was good, so we persisted and kept trying to sell it. And you know what? That company later became our customer as well, and they started to use our products.
So many reasons for success
Although the market had pre-judged expectations and was slow to accept our idea, we still found that we could partly convince our customers. And, when our products proved themselves, more and more companies began to be interested and started to use them.
The most obvious selling point was the quick and easy erection of precast columns. One of the best examples was when one of our German customers was using our bolted column connection system. They managed to install a precast column in just 6 minutes!
With Peikko’s bolted column connections, there were so many different ways our customer’s found savings and benefits. Faster column erection also meant less crane time per column. Then they found that the foundations did not have to be so deep and thick, with a lower foundation slab height, which saved them both work and material. Then, because the column connection is ready for temporary loading as soon as the nuts are tightened, they did not need to brace the precast columns during the erection phase anymore – again this meant less work, less cost, and less material. And the bolts with threads and nuts made it easy to adjust the vertical and horizontal position, too. Once they dared to try our way of doing things, there was a lot that they liked.
Creating the industry standards
Now, we can safely say that Peikko’s bolted column connection is the industry standard for standardized products. However, people might not know that we actually developed the standards for the industry, and it is these that enable our customers to enjoy the benefits of connection products for bolted connections.
When we started, there were not any European declaration procedures with which to declare the essential performance of bolted column connections, either for standards or technical approvals. Peikko had to do the development work and we also had to educate the authorities a little so they could understand the benefits. We developed and defined the specifications and procedures for testing and assessment. This took a lot of time and work, including structural calculations, and tests and their evaluation for mechanical resistance, stability, safety in case of fire, as well as sustainable use of natural resources. Everything in the ETA assessment for bolted column connections was first developed by Peikko.
When we were finished the work and all the relevant authorities had checked and approved the specifications, and the documentation was ready, finally Peikko’s bolted column connections were issued with an ETA assessment. And as a result, our products could be CE marked to certify their essential performance and characteristics.
Back then, the management at Peikko have been visionary and future-oriented when they included ETA approvals in their plans, and current ETA assessments to enable CE markings are implemented in Peikko’s strategy. Today, all Peikko column shoes and bolts are tested, assessed, and approved.
Big in the paper industry
Back in the 1990s, although there was some customer opposition, we also had a lot of success in the pulp and paper industry in Europe. At the time, there were significant investments in recycled paper in Germany, Austria, Italy, and Spain. And, at Peikko, we managed to get involved in those investments. The reason for this is actually a little funny. Teräspeikko, as we were known back then, was a Finnish company and Finland was well known as a paper industry country. Because of this, customers thought that Peikko products must also be good for use in the paper industry. They were right, but the logic was a bit strange!
Even then, we had to overcome some resistance. For example, there was a paper mill project in Italy – and at the time the biggest paper mill project in the world. During the first construction phase the first smaller precast columns were erected on site smoothly without any feedback but, for the next stage, the construction company contacted us to say “we can’t erect these huge precast columns with your technology.” Well, I knew that it could be done, so I contacted a Finnish installation company and arranged to send their team to Italy to resolve these mounting problems. When we informed that to the company in Italy, they called back a few days later to say they could manage by themselves, after all.
Maybe there was a little pride at stake. Maybe they did not want to try something new. But our technology worked just fine, as we knew it would, and they managed to assemble and construct the complete plant no problem.
Constantly improving with R&D
One thing to note, of course, is that we have been improving the design of our bolted column connections from the beginning. The industry changes all the time, with more and more demanding structures, so at Peikko we need to meet those needs. We also have to be ready and able to respond to customers’ needs and wishes. That is why we spend a lot of money on R&D – I modified the PKM® column shoe and PPM® anchor bolts, and I developed BOLDA®, our newest product – so I know how much work we do to improve and develop things. And all this work has paid off with good results and better, safer products.
As part of our product development, we do a lot of testing, for example, fire testing. This means we can improve designs based on actual results, not just assumptions. Compared to the very first column shoes and anchor bolts, our products now have much better safety and performance, with improved stiffness and load bearing resistance, as well as better safety in case of fire.
It’s a beautiful system
Customers like our standardized system a lot. Nowadays, this is taken for granted, but back then designers could not always be sure exactly how their designs would line up. Our bolted column connections introduced tighter tolerances and clear standards to the market, which changed all that.
For designers, this makes designing column connections quick and easy, and guarantees installations with small tolerances. While for precasters and building sites, it makes it easy to execute load bearing connections, and they get good quality, fast deliveries, and safe solutions.
With Peikko’s bolted column connections, the whole thing is a complete system, like a kit. We provide the column shoes and anchor bolts, the frames, and templates for installing them, the standards, and specifications, as well as the design software that lets you plan everything. Our Peikko Design software even includes the ETA performance specifications, so designers have all the information they need.
I have heard that architects think the whole thing is quite beautiful and aesthetically pleasing, with Peikko’s ‘invisible’ solutions!
Read the earlier story about Raimo Lehtinen here.
Want to know more about our 30th anniversary of Bolted Column Connections?
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