Pekabex and the art of precast construction

Participants in this year’s “Concrete Study Visit” organized by the Southern German Vocational Training Organization for the Concrete and Precast Industry (Berufsförderungswerk für die Beton- und Fertigteilhersteller, bbf) and the Association of Alumni of the Ferdinand von Steinbeis School in Ulm (Verein ehemaliger Ulmer Meisterschüler) traveled to the Polish city of Poznań to visit Pekabex, a precast producer presented in detail in this article.

The company’s figures speak for themselves: Pekabex considers itself to be the leading Polish precast producer and has been listed at the Warsaw stock exchange for the last three years. The business operates four production sites in strategically important locations across the country, requires only five to six months of planning and preparation for its construction projects, and has 45 years of industry experience. The entire Pekabex Capital Group currently employs 1,940 people and generated a net profit of about PLN 25,8m in 2017 (equivalent to almost 6m euros or 7m US-dollars). For instance, 2,500 cargo loads were shipped to Sweden alone, generating sales of PLN 192m just from residential market sales (equivalent to 44m euros or 51m US-dollars).

Broken down to individual sites, annual production capacities both at the Poznań headquarters and the Warsaw plant amount to approximately 50,000 m³ of wall and structural units and about 200,000 m² of floor slabs, whereas the corresponding figures for the Gdańsk facility amount to 35,000 m³ and 120,000 m², respectively.  The Bielsko-Biała factory provides capacity for 18,000 m³ of wall and structural units and 35,000 m² of floor slabs.

Christophe Carion, President of Pekabex’s Centrum Nowoczesnej Prefabrykacji Sp. z o.o. and responsible for production and investment, is particularly proud of the trend the company has been able to set in the past few years: “Whereas, in 2011, we produced just 41,000 m³ of concrete and generated sales of PLN 158m, these figures significantly rose to 174,000 m³ and PLN 623,3m in 2017.”

Established in 1972, strong performance ever since

Pekabex was founded in Poznań back in 1972. From 2008, the company’s facilities were gradually upgraded and modernized. The three other sites were taken over and integrated in 2012 in Bielsko-Biała, 2015 in Gdańsk, and 2016 in Warszawa (Warsaw).

Drawing from more than 45 years of industry experience and a sufficiently large number of highly skilled employees, Pekabex has attained a market-leading position and has been listed at the Warsaw stock exchange for the last two years. For instance, 140 engineers are working both at five in-house and external design offices to develop new projects and products that conform to latest European standards. Moreover, to attract young people, Pekabex established its own vocational training academy at which 60 apprentices are currently being trained. Pekabex employs both production staff at its precast plants and 15 site assembly teams, each comprising five workers, one site supervisor and one foreman. Seven of these teams operate in Sweden alone to erect buildings on a continuous basis. On average, each of the teams installs 16 columns or 25 hollow-core floor slabs per day directly from the truck. This performance is also maintained throughout the winter season.

“Pekabex is determined to cultivate the art of precast construction,” says CEO Przemysław Borek. “Projects not yet completed for the benefit of our people and society inspire us to make a big effort because we are part of this society as well. This is why we are fully aware of the expectations, safety and comfort requirements of the end-users of our products and projects – again, the people – at every step of the way. And the outcome is definitely worth the effort.”

State-of-the-art production equipment

Pekabex supplies a diverse range of products, including precast reinforced and prestressed concrete components for industrial, office and commercial buildings, precast elements for the construction of bridges, tunnels, and sports facilities, and wall panels and floor slabs for the residential sector. In so doing, the company serves not only its home market but also focuses on the Nordic countries and Germany. The company’s offering is complemented by services such as project planning, transport, and installation. Just recently, Pekabex added the option of turnkey construction to its portfolio.

State-of-the-art production equipment is used for the manufacture of precast elements. No fewer than six production lines are in operation only for the HC slab production at the company’s headquarters in Poznań, and the site provides enough space to integrate up to eight lines. Slip formers are used to produce prestressed hollow-core slabs in thicknesses from 150 to 500 mm. “If the weather is good, we can complete up to three concreting runs per day,” Carion explains. “Almost all of our production is contract-based, which is why products are largely delivered directly to the construction site instead of our storage facility. For instance, all our wall panels are transported to Sweden using combined truck and ship logistics.”

Pekabex uses state-of-the-art equipment and supplier products, including a Construx battery mold, a Schnell MobiPocket cutting machine, a Progress stirrup machine, a Paul tensioner, and Separol N, a Sika release agent.

Wide range of offerings for diverse applications

Yet the range of applications and completed projects in which Pekabex products were installed are equally diverse. One of the most outstanding projects is the Olivia Business Center in Gdańsk, the highest skyscraper in northern Poland reaching a height of 180 m. Worthy of mention are also the Warsaw National Stadium and the Poznań City Stadium. Olivia Six is the largest office building comprising three underground and 15 above-ground stories. Prefabrication made it possible to complete each of these stories (consisting of concrete wall panels and floor slabs, but excluding interior fit-out and finish) within just eight days.

For the Poznań Main Station project, Pekabex also produced the precast concrete structure, which was installed per night mounting. Furthermore, the highly earthquake and corrosion-resistant LNG terminal built at Świnoujście Port is the largest of its kind in Eastern Central Europe. The company also completed a large number of office and residential projects, most notably the Badstugan and Branddorren residential developments in Stockholm, the Swedish capital, and Kvarnerbyen in Oslo, Norway. Other outstanding Pekabex projects include the Volkswagen factory at Wrzesnia and the tunnel underneath the Martwą Wisła River in Gdańsk. Just finished is a 7,800 m² factory building to accommodate the new production facility of the Po-lish Mint located in the Warsaw district of Białołęka. Currently under construction are two factory buildings for LG Chem near Wrocław, the biggest contract in the history of the company.

German and Swiss participants in the bbf study visit were clearly impressed with this strong performance. Besides the Pekabex production site in Poznań, they also visited the Techmatik factory at Radom, the Jadar concrete products facility in Grójec, the Fabet plant in Kielce, and the new Rekers factory building in Olszowa (see also BFT 07/2018, pp. 10-11).

“It has become abundantly clear during the entire visit that construction has always played a major role in Poland. It thus comes as no surprise that prefabrication is taking the lead as a state-of-the-art construction method,” concludes bbf President Uwe Sommer. “We very much appreciated the openness and kind hospitality that our Polish colleagues extended to us,” adds bbf Managing Director, Gramatiki Satslidis.

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