In your capacity as head of research and development, could you tell us a little more about Doka’s R&D facility, and it’s role within the group?
Since its establishment in 1990, Doka’s research and development facility has been based at our company’s headquarters in Amstetten and includes both offices and a practical environment used for testing and developing our latest products and systems.
As a facility we work closely with BAS Concrete Research facility in Venlo, The Netherlands, a recent acquisition of the Doka Group, whose primary focus is concrete mixture development. Certainly our combined efforts have allowed us to share a lot of useful information that has in turn benefitted our clients.
Acknowledged as a sector that is ‘ripe for and capable of transformation’ [WEF], what areas of the formwork sector do you see the most room for innovation and improvement?
The transformation of our industry will most likely be driven by digitalisation. This is the area with the highest potential for new products within the construction market and will have significant influence on our ongoing work and procedures. It will be an interesting journey for companies that work with concrete, as much of the innovation will likely be led through a combination of economics and ergonomics. You also have to consider the difference between the job site and the pre cast environments. The job site can always be an unpredictable place, meaning the application of technology can be more challenging. We’ve been working on a number of site-based products and systems, most recently the self-climbing formworks. While they are currently hydraulic, we’re looking to convert to new driving technologies in the next few years.
“Clients do not want to be guinea pigs.” This is a quote from the Fluor Corporations’ executive director, Roger Smith. Is this something you bear in mind when creating new products or systems?
This is a difficult question. The markets in which Doka operate are not universal, and therefore each market reacts differently to our latest technology. Our clients vary from embracing disruptive solutions and technologies, to being more reluctant. By comparison, the Middle East and UAE in particular are generally keen to implement new technology.
Which of Doka’s innovations has been the most popular in recent years?
Certainly from the point of innovation, Concremote has been one of the most well received products. I believe it is still highly underestimated in the global market, although it is becoming more widely circulated since the beginning of 2017. As a device, it can help our clients optimise their concrete mixtures, meaning a faster, safer build with significant cost savings.
Which of the global markets do you believe is most receptive to new technology, and why?
To date, the United States has remained a consistently receptive nation, with areas such as the Middle East not far behind. As a high-quality company, our products and systems are towards the higher end of the market, meaning that cost has been a major factor in how quickly our systems are adopted into certain markets.
Which of Doka’s innovations would you say has made the most impact in terms of environmental sustainability?
At Doka, we aim to stretch out the lifespan of our products without sacrificing safety, meaning a reduction in our environmental impact, in particular where our use of timber is concerned. As an example, our H20 top beam was originally designed in the 1980’s. By applying some basic upgrades in combination with top end protection, we managed to extend the product’s lifespan by an extra three years, giving the product a total of seven years if treated correctly. Other products include our Xlife plywood system that uses a combination of a wooden core and a plastic overlay. Not only does this combination reduce our consumption of raw material, its design allows it to be reused three times more than the original product design. When compared to some of our peers in the far east, our product has a lifespan up to five times greater, leading to a considerable reduction in environmental impact, while helping our clients to gain the most use from our products.
Looking to the future, how many new products and systems do you have in the pipeline, and is there one that you’re particularly excited about launching? If so, could you explain its general functionality?
We are working on a variety of products and systems including more self-climbing technology, in-wall/ in-slab products and a greater line of light weight formwork solutions, designed to make work on site easier to manage.
There are two areas that have added a lot of value to our process when it comes to our future products and systems. The first would be our in-house team of product management, effectively the voice of our clients. By listening to the feedback from our clients on site, and by visiting various client sites around the world, the product management department give us direct feedback from around the world, allowing us to evaluate how our products can be improved, and therefore made more useful for the client.
Our second and most recent development has been the launch of Doka Ventures, a subsidiary of the Doka Group created to focus on disruptive technology. To date we’ve worked on a variety of ideas that will be coming to the market in the next couple of years, and certainly ideas we believe can make a significant impact to our industry and the wider construction market.