Dubai Precast plans ahead
On a warm summer evening in June, the Production Manager at Dubai Precast, Ove Pedersen, arrived in Finland to participate in Elematic's Precast Academy, where he had been invited to speak on investing in a hollow-core factory. Concrete Issues met with the relaxed Pedersen to ask him a few questions on his company's success story. "Quality, that is what Dubai Precast is working towards, as well as reliability in deliveries," he says. "I have worked in this area for a long time and the reputation of many precast suppliers is that they are not living up to these criteria, which is hampering the reputation of the precast concrete industry. We definitely want to make our customers feel secure that they will receive what they have ordered and according to the agreed schedule. To ensure both quality and reliability, you need a facility that can make products at the right time; the machines must be up and running without fail. It is surely proven that it is actually cheaper in the long run to make top quality precast concrete products," explains Pedersen. No breakdowns accepted According to Pedersen, the key to reliability and success includes preventive maintenance. Murphy's Law tells us that machines often break down just when you are most busy. "In our factories, no breakdowns are accepted, and therefore we have invested considerable amounts of money in preventive maintenance. In our area, I can understand this is not so common." But why do so few companies in the Middle East have preventive maintenance? Pedersen replies: "Precast concrete factories have changed a lot over the years; plants today are far more mechanized than earlier. More machines means more possibilities for breakdowns, therefore the organization has to change along with the investments. To make a precast concrete plant run optimally, you have to invest in qualified maintenance staff and make sure the right spare parts are used. This is certain to minimize your plant's downtime and optimize your possibility to save on waste and rejections. And again, it is possible to produce and deliver just on time. Many companies do not see the whole picture and do not spend the required money on original parts. For us, minimizing waste is essential and this applies to time as well as raw materials. It is a complete waste of time to have a plant and personnel standing idle, waiting for the machines to be fixed if a breakdown occurs. We plan ahead and we want to know the price of the end product beforehand; if you have frequent breakdowns, you will not know what the final price of the product will be. Our philosophy is that in the long run, we save money by producing top quality precast concrete elements," explains Pedersen The smartest way to operate Service Director at Elematic, Petteri Laitinen, admires Dubai Precast's way of thinking. "All their machines are constantly in top shape and ready to take on any project. We deliver the wear parts and have trained their maintenance personnel, who know exactly what to do to keep the machinery running smoothly without unplanned breaks. In addition, our companies work closely together to further develop the operations of Elematic's warehouse in Dubai. We go through what parts they need and try to always keep these in storage. Dubai Precast is a customer who understands the importance of correct and rightly timed maintenance. In this business, companies usually fix things only when they break down; Dubai Precast anticipates and plans in advance, which is definitely the smartest way to operate," says Laitinen. To produce quality products you need quality parts and trained personnel "The people working in precast factories today are more and more skilled, also in mechanics, and they understand about processes," says Pedersen. "In maintenance it is equally important to have people who understand the settings of the machines. We have invested in extremely good in-house instructors, both mechanical and electrical, to educate our maintenance personnel. There is no school that trains precasters, you have to do it yourself at the factory. In addition, we have come to realize that spare parts are not only spare parts. We have tried working with parts from other suppliers, but to produce top quality precast concrete you need top quality parts, and you need them on time. We are very satisfied that Elematic has a store in Dubai from where we can get our parts quickly." Working towards market leadership Dubai Precast CEO, Matti Mikkola, has been in the business for decades. "Dubai Precast was founded in 2005, and production started up in Dubai in April 2006," says Mikkola. "At the end of 2008, we opened our large factory in Abu Dhabi, and today, altogether 600 people work at our two factories. However, the roots of the company go back to the 1990s through their shareholder Eastern Pretech Pte Ltd of Singapore." The precast concrete company has a product range that consists of hollow-core, frame products, wall and staircase elements, among others. In addition, they transfer their know-how from the Far East market to the infrastructure business in the Middle East and offer products for bridges, tunnels, and railway tracks. As is often the case in the Middle East, Dubai Precast's factories are also large, as the market is of considerable size. The total production capacity is around 300,000 m3 of elements yearly, and an impressive 1.2 million m2 of hollow-core products per year is possible. "When we established operations here in Dubai in 2005, we wanted to learn about the local markets and working methods with the running of a small factory," says Mikkola. "Having done that, we expanded to the very promising market of Abu Dhabi in 2008. It proved to be the right decision and we still believe strongly in the potential of that market. In the medium term, our goal is to be the market leader in the Middle East, like Eastern Pretech is in the Far East. For now, it is impossible to say where we will expand next, as the development of the market is extremely difficult to predict." In cooperation towards a promising future Elematic has supplied Dubai Precast with all the machinery needed for hollow-core production at both factories, as well as the concrete transportation systems. "At our new factory in Abu Dhabi, we have an Elematic batching and mixing station with two mixers as well as a full hollow-core production line and concrete transportation systems," says Mikkola. "All in all, our cooperation with Elematic has been very satisfying. With time we have learned to work together in a way that benefits us both. From a global perspective, Elematic has unique know-how in its own niche area of expertise, although they face the same growing challenges as other European companies." Mikkola points out that in their local market the reliability of the supplier is of the utmost importance. "In addition, we have to ask for almost unlimited flexibility and understanding, despite the delays and problems with liquidity. It is very difficult to operate here otherwise, as we are in this kind of situation because of the problems our own customers have. Someday, the situation here will ease up and at that point we are going to value and respect the suppliers that have supported our local industry during the difficult times," concludes Mikkola.