60 years of pioneering precast technology

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60 years of pioneering precast technology

The need for durable, efficient and safe construction across the globe provides a strong foundation for Elematic’s business. From its origins in the small Finnish town of Toijala, Elematic has grown over six decades into the global leader in precast production technology providing its solutions and services in more than 100 countries in six continents.

Finnish building boom

In 1959, two brothers, Pentti and Pauli Virtanen, founded Toijalan Teräsvalmiste (TTV), which would later become Elematic. Initially continuing their father’s business in the metal industry, the brothers soon decided to seize a business opportunity they saw in the growing demand for precast production technology.

Back then, Finland was going through a period of rapid urbanisation that required the speedy and efficient building of homes, and precast construction emerged as a solution.  

Having first manufactured table moulds for facades and wall elements, TTV’s first substantial project came in 1964, when HAKA, a big Finnish construction firm, ordered a complete precast element factory. The delivered plant was the first of its kind in the world, with production lines equipped with moving moulds and conveyor belt technology, marking a major step forward in the industrialisation of precast construction. 

Thanks to the unprecedented building boom, Finnish companies quickly developed technologies and know-how that was internationally com

petitive. Helped by the introduction of nationwide standards for concrete elements and their connections, design and construction became even more easier and faster.

A focal point in the system was the hollow-core slab, a new design that allowed the manufacture of longer and lighter elements typically used in floors. TTV developed and delivered its first hollow-core slabline named Variax in 1971.

Milestones

1959 – Toijalan Teräsvalmiste (TTV) founded by Pentti and Pauli Virtanen

1965 – First precast factory delivered to Finnish HAKA corporation

1966 – Elematic logo introduced

1976 – First complete precast plant delivered to Kuwait

2006 – Elematic becomes independent Ltd

2014 – World’s largest precast factory delivered to Bismayah, Iraq

Father and son Fauci, Tarmo Sahala

First breakthroughs abroad

Knowing that domestic demand would not suffice in the long run, the company early on began looking for markets elsewhere. The Elematic logo was introduced in 1966 and the first battery moulds were delivered to Sweden in the following year. In 1969, a subsidiary was established in Germany, where the battery moulds became a success thanks to their high quality and competitive pricing. 

The first breakthroughs internationally, however, took place in the mid-1970s in Eastern Europe and especially the Middle East. The company, which had by then been acquired by Finland’s Paraisten Kalkki (later Partek), delivered moulds and hollow-core machinery to East Germany, Poland, and Saudi-Arabia, among others.

The largest projects at the time included complete factories delivered to East Berlin and Karl Marx Stadt (now Chemnitz) in East Germany as well as Saudi Arabia’s capital city of Riyadh. Each of these plants provided concrete elements for local housing construction. There was a shift to the international market as the oil crisis dampened demand in Europe but led to an accumulation of capital and a construction boom in the Middle East.

 

Worldwide leader

Having become the global market leader in battery moulds in the 1970s, TTV achieved the same in hollow-core production technology in the 1980s. The company developed the technology further to enable more variation in precast elements and introduced shear compaction, a new technique that allowed hollow-core slabs to be made more efficiently and with less noise.

The business was divided into two companies, Elematic Engineering and Konepaja Toijala, in 1981 and expanded to North America with the acquisition of Dy-Core in Canada a couple of years later. However, projects in the Soviet Union emerged as the biggest source of business towards the end of the decade, accounting for 40 percent of the company’s revenue at its peak.

Although the Soviet market declined quickly in the early 1990s, leaving some big deals unfinished, a construction boom in South Korea and elsewhere in Asia created sustained demand for the company’s precast machinery.

The ownership of the company went through another round of change as Partek in 1993 joined forces with Lohja, a Finnish cement maker, to form Partek Concrete Engineering (PCE), before selling the business to Addtek (later Consolis) in 1997. The company grew bigger through acquisitions in Germany and Finland and, for the first time, set up a subsidiary in the United States in 1998.

The 1990s was significant as PCE adopted industrial design in its product development, an important move that helped to set its first extruder EL900E and the whole Elematic brand apart from the competition.

 

 

Independent again

Recognising that the company should carry the same name as its strongest product, PCE became Elematic in 2003. After having been part of groups of companies since the 1970s, Elematic then became independent again in 2006, being acquired by a group of Finnish investors and, in the following year, by London-based Pamplona Capitals Management.

Since then Elematic has increased its business around the world, with production plants in Finland and India and offices in the US, Germany, China, Russia, India, and the United Arab Emirates. In 2012, it won the contract to deliver the world’s largest precast factory producing elements for the Bishmayah New City housing project in Iraq.

Elematic’s growth over the last 60 years has been characterised by ambitious product development and the constant search for new markets. Today continued urbanisation worldwide and a shift towards more sustainable, durable and safer construction are creating new opportunities for precast concrete producers. Elematic remains determined to lead innovation in the precast industry and to provide its customers with unique, smart and efficient solutions that help them succeed.

 


Down memory lane

Esa Enqvist, negotiations in Russia.

“When I started, we had just made big deliveries to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. I had never visited these countries before and it was exciting to do business there,” says Esa Enqvist, who joined the company in 1978 as sales engineer and later became CEO of Elematic Engineering before retiring in 2010. “Demand was huge, and deliveries had to be made fast. Once we were negotiating a deal in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and our customer threw the papers right back at us, saying that the delivery should be in November and not in May as we had proposed. But in the end, we still managed to reach an agreement and finalise the deal,” Enqvist recalls.

“In the 1980s we developed shear compaction, which made extruders a lot less noisy. The technology was revolutionary at the time and its development involved a lot of hard work. But we succeeded and sold many extruders in Europe first. Now this technology is used everywhere in the world – even some of the oldest extruders are still in use,” says Tarmo Sahala, who joined Elematic in 1982 as mechanical engineer and now works as Area Sales Director.

“Elematic delivered many large factories to South Korea in the early 1990s and customers often visited the company’s headquarters in Finland to finalise project negotiations. It was very close cooperation: when we were writing down details, the customers often sat behind us, telling what needed to be changed and so on. Once our salesperson told the Koreans that my husband and I owned horses. They got excited about the horse-riding opportunity and came to spend the weekend at our place,” says Susanna Luoma, who joined Elematic in 1982, and is currently a receptionist.

“My best memories are from Russia where I have worked on many projects from Kaliningrad to Siberia, from the late 1980s and early 1990 and then again since early 2000s”, says Timo Ahlfors, who also joined Elematic in 1982 and is now Logistics Manager. “Once I was in a car with a customer who was telling me a story in Russian. Since I had learned some Russian and understood what he said, I just nodded. When we reached the destination, the customer told my interpreter that Timo is like a Russian dog: he understands everything but says nothing. For the same reason I’ve also been suspected of being a KGB agent,” Ahlfors tells smiling.

“Many of Elematic’s customers – even big ones – are family businesses and their relationship with us often lasts from one generation to the next. This is especially the case in Southern Europe where the customer will invite you to family dinners once you have become friends. I remember one such dinner where the owner’s son was 5 years old and had learnt some English. Now he runs the family business and they are still our customer,” Tarmo Sahala tells with satisfaction.

      

Concrete station in Russia before delivery of Elematic and after that. 

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