Has automation been praised for its own sake without profitability demands?
When the Finnish precast industry began investing in different automation systems some twenty years ago, partly as a joint venture, Elematic was in right from the start. At first, development work focused on the automation of hollow-core production. This was quite natural, as hollow-core was and most often still is, the only truly prefabricated concrete element. In many cases, however, the real breakthrough of automation has been hindered by flawed communication between different applications, that is to say the transfer of data in an understandable format between the softwares. Of course, there were other bottlenecks as well, such as slow data transfer, high software and hardware prices, inadequate user education, and other such issues. At Elematic, we have always thought an investment in automation is just like any other investment: it should pay for itself within a relatively short period. Especially considering, how quickly the ITT technologies of today become outdated. It most probably is not justified to invest half a million euros in automation just to get by with one or two less workers that earn 1.5 euros an hour. In fact, not even if they earned 15 euros an hour! And just think if you needed to hire an engineer to maintain the system, on top of all other expenses. But certainly, when assessing investments today, the monetary value of improved production accuracy and the elimination of human errors must be estimated, too. During the ‘80s and ‘90s, profitability was being ignored in some countries when building dozens of automated production lines for the manufacturing of concrete in-situ casting moulds, often called Filigran slabs. Some of these factories are still running, but profitability is nevertheless missing. It is not only the closed automation lacking the ability to communicate with other systems that is to blame, but also the unprofitable end product. Nowadays, we can engineer a long and continuous data transmission chain all the way from the architect's desk to the precast factory and further on to the construction site. The design drawings of the architect are converted into element drawings, which are used already in the bidding phase and later on during the actual work. Construction site workers can monitor factory deliveries in real-time and influence the delivery schedules. Elematic can provide also your factory with the above. In this issue, we discuss our co-operation with Tekla in an article I think you will definitely find worth reading. Tekla Corporation has distinguished itself as the leading supplier of 3D applications for the steel industry. Today, the precast concrete industry can utilize the same advanced knowledge in its own production chain. Leo Sandqvist Managing Director