Definitely a partnership

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Definitely a partnership

Molin Concrete Products Co in Lino Lakes, Minnesota, is one of the precast industry's oldest operators. Having manufactured prestressed Flexicore hollow-core products since the 1950s, the company started looking around for more advanced production technology as the 20th century drew to a close. This is how they found Elematic and the hollow-core extrusion technology, which would make them the first producer of 16-in. hollow-core elements in the U.S.

Today, with the increasing demand for economical, prefabricated products spurring on investments in hollow-core production, Elematic supplies Molin with all they need. Back in 1897, the John G. Molin Construction Services Company started off by specializing in masonry construction. Already in 1905, however, the company began manufacturing early precast concrete products such as sidewalk tiles for the city neighborhoods. By the end of World War II, they had reorganized under the name of Molin Concrete Products Company. Not long thereafter, in 1952, the firm turned a new leaf in history by acquiring the rights to the Flexicore manufacturing process, becoming the first producer of hollow-core products in the Midwest region. The post-war baby boom had created a great need for multi-family housing, and prestressed hollow-core plank supported by precast column and beams systems, was a widely favored choice for construction.

Increasing capacity with the Elematic extrusion technology

By the end of the 1900s, the management and ownership team of this purely family business comprised four cousins, all great grandsons of the founder, John. G. Molin. In accordance with tradition, they had all started out in lower level positions to learn first-hand about the company operations. Now, with the new millennium ahead, they realized a growing need for precast flooring elements, and began to search for more advanced production technology with which to respond to the demands of the market, preferably far into the future. This brought them in contact with Elematic and their proven extrusion technology. In pioneering spirit, Molin decided to go ahead with this new system, which would enable them to produce 4 ft. wide elements as an option to the current 2 ft. wide Flexicore products. As is often wise with new investments, it was decided to proceed with the project in stages. The first steps were to train the workers to use the new technology and to test the market. Positive results encouraged the company to plunge ahead, and a shopping list was sent to Elematic. This first delivery included the Extruder EL 900E, a 1300A saw, and other miscellaneous equipment. The cost of the machines only amounted to around half a million USD, which shows that you can start up hollow-core production with a very reasonable investment indeed! "We saw Elematic as a strong, stabile company that isn't likely to vanish in the near future. With a technological advantage over its competitors, they also have extensive experience on different production environments, thanks to Consolis, and they have excellent support possibilities. Perhaps most valuable for us is that they can handle any part of the process, being a one-stop shop", says Mr. Tom Molin, President and General Manager of the company. "When it comes to solving problems, I would say that more than just a 24-hour support service, we have a flexible personnel, who can always find a solution in either the U.S. or in Finland", notes Mr. Petteri Laitinen, Project Coordinator at Elematic Inc. in the U.S. After the opening of the first outdoor plant with two casting beds, demand shortly outgrew capacity. In the summer of 2002, a new, highly automated plant was inaugurated, including a second extruder, a batching and mixing plant, a concrete delivery system, and four new 400-ft. prestressed hollow core casting beds. Molin became the first producer in the U.S. to manufacture 16-in. hollow-core elements. Architects are offered more flexibility in designing when the span of the floor can be as much as 62-ft. In some projects, these elements can also compete against TT-slabs, providing a nice, smooth ceiling. Later in the same year, they adopted Elematic's ELiPLAN Enterprise Resource Planning System to further increase the quality of work in every stage of a project. For example, production scheduling is a key component. With traditional methods, scheduling required two people, but with ELiPLAN this vital work can be handled by one person.

Staying on the edge of technology

Today, the cooperation between Molin and Elematic is on solid ground. Mr. Tom Molin even visited Finland some years back, where he was given a tour of both cultural attractions as well as Consolis' production facilities. "This is a very positive business relationship and language poses no problem, as all Elematic people speak good English! Luckily for us, I might add, as I doubt our ability to learn Finnish in any reasonable time", smiles Mr. Molin. The past year has been one of continued investment. Automating the gantry with a double extruder run has increased the efficiency of the plant radically. It now shines as one of the most impressive hollow-core factories in the U.S., with an output per man hour of nearly 100 sq.ft. "We are proud of our Elematic production equipment, and will do our best to take good care of them. This will always be the neatest factory in the U.S.", maintains Mr. Gary Sarner, Plant Operations Manager at Molin. The climbing price of raw materials is currently doing its share to increase the demand for structural concrete components. Precast extrusion technology is a substantial alternative to more conventional methods of making concrete floors, as it requires significantly less steel and concrete and is therefore economical. "With the technical support of Elematic and the R&D knowledge they communicate to us, we can stay on the edge of technology and develop our production as well as new product lines", says Mr. Tom Molin. "We believe that the trend here in the U.S. will follow that of Europe and favor the use of prefabricated products. The public is also learning to request such things as better sound insulation to their apartments, which leads to the replacing of the still rather common wooden structures with concrete solutions". On the list of future projects are adding more automation to production and developing storage area effectiveness and organization. In these, as in all other matters, Molin and Elematic continue to explore the prospects together. In the words of Mr. Tom Molin: "Work with Elematic is definitely a partnership".

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