Where functionality and form meet
Every detail matters
The precast industry, despite its long tradition in the western world, is still taking its first steps in industrial design. Elematic, however, has been combining engineering and industrial design for 20 years.
“In the early 1990s, our new extruder was to be introduced at an exhibition. We realized it should somehow stand out from the level of machinery that people were used to,” says Lassi Järvinen, the Technical Director of Elematic. At that time, they ended up developing the extruder in cooperation with a design company.
“It really made a difference. Introducing an appropriate and functional yet smooth and stylish extruder disarmed our critical audience of precast professionals. No doubts were raised about the functionality of the machine.”
A couple of years later, the need for a reliable, long-term partnership became apparent. The company began searching for a diversified design team with international experience.
A local Finnish design agency, Muodonmuutos (Transformation), was chosen because of its convincing experience with other international high-quality machine builders such as John Deere, Sandvik, and Fiskars. Over the years, this has proved to be a good choice. The close co-operation between Elematic and Muodonmuutos has been fruitful.
“Tapani Holma and his designers have given our engineers a lot of new perspectives during the past decades. Major steps have been taken since the days when precast machinery components were roughly welded together,” Järvinen says.
The tools for industrial design have naturally evolved through the years. 20 years ago it was all about pen-drawn sketches and models made from various materials. Today most of the work is done in 3D with computers.
“The new laser-cutting technology has made it possible to utilize various shapes in machine design. It has also decreased the production costs. The production material, steel, is still the best choice in precast machinery. In this industry, the weight and solidity of the material are a benefit,” explains Tapani Holma, designer and partner in Muodonmuutos.
Design is a result, not the goal
In precast, the quality of the end product and production effectiveness count. But it often takes more to convince customers. “Precasters need reliable machinery that can produce just the right quantities of high-quality products. However, the physical appearance counts too.
“A properly designed product is easy and safe to use, and works as intended. The design takes into account the space where the machinery is placed, the people working with it, the maintenance operations, and the production of the machine. Functionality in precast machinery means that monitoring and control devices and tools are placed optimally from the users’ and maintenance personnel’s point of view. Also, safety is the sum of several factors. Guardrails and a well-considered place for the safety switch are obvious examples of factors that increase safety. However, the beautiful, plain surface of the machine is for safety, too. It prevents users from getting their clothes caught on the machine,” Järvinen explains.
“It is essential for a designer to understand the precast production process and the end use of the product. The design of a product is always a result, not a goal,” underlines Holma.
In order to build a strong relationship with their customers, precasters often invite them to visit the factory. Good-looking, high-quality machinery in a well-organized factory builds an image of professional production and know-how.
“We want Elematic to be easily recognized, streamlined, and convincing. However, the design always starts with usability and production requirements,” says Holma.
Both Järvinen and Holma have noticed that design affects the way people handle the machine.
“A well-designed machine encourages people to take better care of it. Maintenance is taken more seriously, and training is invested in. The machinery is considered a valuable investment, not just a necessary tool.”
The precast industry needs visions
Technical Director Lassi Järvinen knows almost everything there is to know about precast. Over 30 years in the industry have taught him what it is like to be a forerunner. “I started as an engineer. Since starting at Elematic in 1992, I have been involved in project management, sales, product design, and business development. Technologies have changed over the years, as has the way of working and even the attitudes towards precast. Brand and image play a much more significant role than before.”
Developing the precast industry is not the easiest task. But what would be the point in staying in the industry without any ideas on how to make things better? “Precast is not the fashion industry. Changes take time, and investments are often quite large. Nevertheless, I believe in development, and getting things done better and earlier than the competitors. We must be one step ahead all the time.”
Järvinen is well aware of the various building traditions around the world.
“For some it is crucial to get the latest technology shown to customers. Some want easy-to-use machinery and, for some, safety is the main thing. All precasters want reliable, functional machines that are suitable for their needs, acquired from a reliable and professional supplier. That is where Elematic is at its strongest.”Extra web material
Extra web material
The FaMe Push-Button Magnet is designed for fixing side forms onto steel beds and tables. The Push-Button Magnet is an essential part of the FaMe System, which consists of the push-button magnet, a releasing tool, and a storage system. The unique, patented jaw-type connection mechanism is suitable for all mold systems, as well as any steel table and bed surface.
The lightness, simplicity, and safety make the Push-Button Magnet a very useful tool.
“It’s easy to say that the product development and design process for the Magnet has been very successful. It is light to use and lift, weighing two kilos less than the previous model,” explains Lassi Järvinen.
“The closed structure of the Magnet makes it easy to maintain and very safe to use. There is virtually no risk of hand injuries.”
Best in its series
The idea of Extruder S5 originated when Elematic wanted to make a small,low-cost solution for hollow-core slab production. “Our SEMI line needed suitable machinery to complete the entity. The previous extruders were ranged to higher production capacity and automation level than the SEMI line. We made a very strict definition for this new extruder; enough but not too much capacity, superior quality of hollow-core slabs, and reasonable production costs. Easy and safe to use. Looking like the rest of the product family. I am more than satisfied with the result”, Järvinen admits.
The customers have welcomed the newcomer warmly. “Extruder S5 is already one of our best selling products. It has found a place on a production line in factories all over the world. And no wonder – it truly is best in its series of similar products.”