Influencing the American precast market since 1998: Elematic US turns 20
“I was working with Elematic technology as early as the 90’s, before the North American unit was established. I knew from the start that I wanted to be onboard with Elematic one day. Quite soon that’s what happened: in February 1998 the board of directors approved the creation of PCE-Elematic Inc.,” Cherba thinks back to the events two decades ago when the US operations kicked off. The people and the transatlantic team work were at the very core.
“One of the main things in business is getting to know the people, knowing the culture. That’s one thing I tried to do, so I visited Finland and learned to understand the people and the business.”
And vice versa. The Finnish team had to learn about the American culture as well.
“Many colleagues didn’t know so much about the US in the beginning. But once we got to know each other, that’s when it all really started. It took some time to get the operations off the ground, but already in the first years, we managed to serve and deliver four semi turn-key hollow-core factories. Competition existed, but the level of technology we offered made us stand out,” says Cherba.
“We were in a really good business. I have to say we were instrumental in getting things done, and support from Finland was crucial.”
Orders started flowing in. Elematic had good references from the early sales in the US. Cherba believes the level of commitment was what mattered the most.
“We came in to the business fully committed and made a big investment. We had our own premises and our own people. The growth started, and we invested more, which set us apart from other European companies who came to the US market with very limited investments.”
How many engineers does it take to fit an extruder into a trade fair?
PCI (Prestressed Precast Concrete Institute) membership was a step forward as well. Cherba had a personal mission to introduce PCI members to precast technologies outside the US.
“We took a trip to Europe once a year. In May 2001 we hosted the PC-21 program to visit a new Elematic precast factory with the latest technology in the Canary Islands in Spain, and members liked what they saw.”
Another event speeding up business in the US was a PCI trade fair in Atlanta, Georgia in 1998. Thinking big, Elematic shipped nothing less than an extruder EL 900 E to the event.
“The hall wasn’t the best place to have the extruder – but we managed! Many people saw it and they were impressed,” Cherba laughs.
PCI trade fair in Atlanta, Georgia in 1998.
Growing demand for automation
The precast market is still quite small in the US compared to many other regions. Because of neighboring Canada and its vast forests, timber is dominant. But Cherba has confidence in precast market growth. It is a durable option and suitable for all weather conditions across the US.
“The market situation is changing. Young people are no longer learning how to build wooden buildings. They are interested in IT and automation, that’s a growing trend. Speed of construction has changed as well, building times are shorter.” This speaks for precast, since once a project has been designed well, it takes less time in the construction phase compared to many other construction methods.
Never overlook technical support
How to stay ahead in the precast business? Matt Cherba emphasizes the importance of technical support.
“We are in a technical support-oriented business. If you can’t support the technology you offer, you are going to sink fast.”
The past decades have not been just a party. The economic downturn of 2008 was hard on Elematic US. Matt Cherba says the company survived because it had an agile structure and was able to react fast. Better times followed, and the forecast is looking good.
“During my time, I have seen a lot of changes. It has been a good ride. We are a well-respected company, and we appreciate the trust our customers have in us. Elematic is here to stay, to constantly improve, and we are committed to that statement. I am proud of that.”
“We are in a technical support-oriented business. If you can’t support the technology you oﬀer, you are going to sink fast.”