Markus Böhm, Senior Manager, leads the precast connection team in Peikko and he’s responsible for handling national and European technical approvals. We asked him to tell us more about the process and how he likes working at Peikko.
I’m originally a mechanical engineer and, before I joined Peikko in 2016, I was working with suppliers in the automotive industry. Eventually, though, I wanted to try something different on the civil engineering side. Change is good for you, it’s like fresh air for the mind.
One thing that I was sure I wanted was an international aspect. I had always been working in international companies and leading multi-cultural teams, and I wanted to have this in the future, too. Peikko turned out to be the perfect choice because they have well engineered products and they are very international. I’m based in Germany but I work with colleagues in Brazil, Slovakia, Finland, Germany and elsewhere around the world. We work together very well and it gives me a lot of energy. You can really feel the Peikko spirit at every corner.
Of course, Peikko is a Finnish company and I know that people sometimes say that Finns are reserved. Yes, that is maybe true, but at the same time it makes things somehow watertight. When someone Finnish tells you something, you can trust it, you know it’s been double checked. And still, it’s a really open minded culture with no barriers.
Room for growth in Germany
Here in Germany, we still have a lot of potential to grow our business. There is a huge market in the construction industry but it is really old fashioned. Bolted column connections are standard in areas like Scandinavia and Finland, but that’s not the case in Germany yet. Many companies here are happy to use bolted column connections but the percentage is a bit low. In Germany, we often talk about being environmentally friendly and saving energy but the industry still transports large cast structures all across the country. At Peikko, we need to convince more customers that our bolted column connections would save them energy, as well as enabling more efficient erection and installation. After all, our bolted column connections are really good solutions.
I could say it like this: in Germany, we have nice cars that are modern and well-engineered. We should do the same with our construction techniques.
“In Germany, we have nice cars that are modern and well-engineered. We should do the same with our construction techniques.”
Let’s improve the approvals process
At Peikko, we work hard to develop reliable, high quality products which meet the required international standards. Before we introduce a new product to market, we get it assessed by the relevant approval bodies – all our bolted column connections are ETA assessed. This means that in addition to the engineering, R&D and product testing, we also have to prepare documentation and submit it to the approval bodies. Unfortunately, here in Europe, they are much too slow and it takes a really long time to get new products approved.
Another thing is that different approval bodies work better than others. Some work quite well and others don’t, so you have to choose an approval body that can get things done smoothly. If you don’t have an approval body who takes responsibility, it takes years to get things approved – for business it’s a nightmare.
It’s uncomfortable to say but needs to be said out loud that the European Commission is a big bottleneck. There are only a tiny number of people who are taking care of everything that is approved in Europe. And, at the moment, they don’t market or promote the approvals because there’s so much bureaucracy. The only people who can solve this are our politicians.
Customers need approved products, business needs transparency
In Europe, in our industry, approvals are essential. They let customers choose products that meet European standards. For example, you can get a CE marking after ETA approval. The big players in the business need this to sell their products.
However, in addition to being slow, the approvals process is not at all transparent. After we have submitted our documents to the approval body, we don’t know why things get decided the way they do. As a manufacturer, we pay, we are customers. So when one approval body gets feedback from another, it would be good to sit together and find out why something has been decided. Now, it’s so secret. We can’t find anybody to contact or ask. There’s no discussion. The transparency is lacking.
If the situation doesn’t improve and it continues to take too long to get new products approved, we will end up with less commitment and confidence from customers. In future, people will just have to buy products somewhere, at the cheapest price and best quality.
So the transparency needs to be improved, too. However, the approval bodies have no power themselves, so there must be pressure from politicians or nothing will change.
A great team
Here at Peikko, I lead a team of nine people and it really works like a proper team. People get inspired and give each other energy. As a leader, it makes me proud. Everybody works autonomously, and they “play” and work and come together as a team for success. I can say it’s really working, it’s going like clockwork.
“I lead a team of nine people and it really works like a proper team. People get inspired and give each other energy. As a leader, it makes me proud.”
This positive attitude runs right through Peikko. A good example is the launch of our new BOLDA® column shoes. It was really nice to see how well the whole company worked together. The ETA project for this was really big with a huge supply chain with a long list of departments involved. And everyone came together and worked together. It is a great sign for the future and how to deal with future projects, and I mean any type of project, not just approvals. Working together so smoothly is a must for us to be competitive and successful in the future. This was an outstanding positive example. It gives a good feeling for the future.
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