Topi Laiho, Business Manager, Infrastructure, has been working at Peikko almost exactly 20 years. For much of this time he’s been working to introduce bolted column connections to new markets around the world. We asked him to tell us more.
Taking bolted connections to the world
Over the years at Peikko, I have worked on the development of many of our products, including developing bolted connections. In fact, I was a product manager for bolted connections for four years, so they are kind of my speciality. I have also worked in various technical and sales positions around the world, trying opening up business in new markets and introducing the benefits of our bolted connections.
Currently, I am in charge of creating new business in our infrastructure segment, here in Finland. In practice, this means that I’m working together with developers, structural designers and contractors who are working on infrastructure construction projects like roads, bridges, railways, water supply and electrical grids. My role is to identify customer needs and develop suitable solutions for this business area. Although our bolted connections have been mainly used in buildings, they can also bring benefits to other applications, including infrastructure projects.
Changing minds takes time
Twenty years ago, the market for Peikko’s bolted column connections was mostly confined to Finland, Sweden and Germany. Since then, we have opened more offices around the world and become successful in many new markets. In each market the story is quite similar: the industry is conservative and getting customers to accept our products always takes time. However, I will say that customers are usually interested in our products. They are curious about our solutions and want to hear more about them. But although getting the initial meeting is quite easy, getting them to change their minds and start using our products takes much more time. When you are a pioneering company in a new market, you need a lot of patience.
The length of time to break into a new market varies by country. For example, in countries that are heavily regulated, like Germany and Singapore, we have to convince the authorities as well as the customers. So even if the customers are interested, we have another level of acceptance and approval to pass through. Meanwhile, in other places, like Dubai, where the regulation is a bit lighter, change happens a bit faster because the decisions can be made by the designers and contractors.
"When you are a pioneering company in a new market, you need a lot of patience."
Once we have convinced customers to start using our products, they can see the benefits really clearly, with faster and safer connections, higher productivity and better quality. The speed of construction is often a big factor that works in our favour. For example, one of my biggest successes is Facebook’s first data centre in Asia. It’s one of the most advanced and energy efficient data centres in the world and it’s also 10 stories high. This is because it is located in Singapore, where there is very little land available to build on. In Europe, this kind of data centre would be built on one level and spread out, but in Singapore, they had to build upwards. Another factor in the project was that when you’re building in an area with limited space, you have to get the construction completed quickly rather than having a huge, sprawling construction site there for ages. And this why the customer chose Peikko’s bolted column connections – they made construction much faster and more efficient.
New markets and new applications
New markets can also be a good place to find new uses for our products. I have another good example from Singapore. One of our customers there had been successfully using our columns shoes to construct buildings when they won a contract to build a bridge. Well, the customer contacted us and asked if column shoes would also work in the construction of a highway bridge. It turned out to be an excellent solution and, again, bolted connections reduced their construction time in the middle of the busy city. Thanks to this success, they have since won other bridge projects and the authorities have approved the method as well. It’s a good example of customer creativity. The product is the same but, together, we invented a new application for it.
"One of the aspects of working at Peikko that I really like is that we are very eager to try something new whenever there’s a chance to do it."
Always looking for new opportunities
Since we introduced our bolted column connections 30 years ago, we have gone from success to success. However, although we operate in many countries around the world, there are still many opportunities. For example, we have just scratched the surface of the market in China. We have done a few projects there so there is still huge potential for growth. In fact, we still have great potential throughout the whole of Asia.
In our existing markets, I also see many opportunities for Peikko’s solutions, especially in bridge construction and infrastructure. We already have proven that bolted connections work well, so we can offer them for new applications too. As I mentioned, our column shoes have been successfully used in for road bridge construction in Singapore, and they have been used for pedestrian bridges in Switzerland, Denmark and Bahrain, as well.
Making it work for the customer
Talking about new things, one of the aspects of working at Peikko that I really like – and which our customers like too – is that we are very eager to try something new whenever there’s a chance to do it. For example, a customer might ask us, “Hey, we have a problem, do you have something that could help us?” And here at Peikko, if we don’t already have a suitable product, we’ll say, “Not yet, let’s try to develop something new together.” It’s a really nice way to work. Developing things is fun and it’s good for our customers, too.
My latest idea is that we could use Peikko’s FATBAR® post-tensioned anchor bolts for demanding engineering applications. We developed these to anchor wind turbine towers, so they are very strong and can handle high fatigue loads, and therefore they have potential for all kinds of other projects. We might be able to use them in infrastructure projects like bridges, roads and railways, for example.
If you’re interested, get in touch. It sounds like a fun project.
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