Citizens of modern societies are constantly in the presence of hundreds of thousands of products, often times the manifestations of the immensely complex global value chains that dominate the world economy today. The internationally dispersed production of our everyday things may surprise the average consumer. Do you know how and where your phone was made? Or the clothes you’re wearing?
Sheet metal is one of the most present yet invisible products around us. Guess what the Chrysler Building’s iconic dome is covered with? In fact, the next time you go out to the grocery shop, take a closer look at the shelves. If you live in Finland, there’s a good possibility that the metal shelf was cut, punched, pressed and bent into shape by a machine made by Pivatic – a Hyvinkää-based machinery manufacturer.
“A 90 per cent possibility to be exact,” specifies Mika Virtanen, the general manager of the 44-year old company, which today is part of Finland’s Ursviken Group.
Much has happened since the founding of the company, named Toolsystem back in 1975, when the punching, cutting and pressing was mostly done by humans. Today, automation is king and Pivatic has its sights on the crown.
Punching above one’s weight
What may sound like a company providing hitman services is in fact a thought-leader in its industry. The ‘Cadillac of sheet metal fabrication machines’ punches various precise shapes into sheets of thin metal, cuts them to length, bends them into shape and gives the finishing touch by welding or clinching the components into ready parts.
“The machines we provide manufacture sheet metal parts for heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, metal fittings, shelves, and elevator doors,” elaborates Virtanen. “Basically, a lot of stuff that the construction industry needs.”
Pivatic’s strengths lie firstly in its high-technology component. The clients are able to transfer data and parameters straight from their enterprise resource planning system (ERP) to Pivatic’s machines. With quite literally the push of a button, the machines will begin the production, fully automated and streamlined.
“The competing options are often labour-intensive and fragmented solutions that are more expensive and less efficient. What we’re offering is productivity growth and a hook-up to automation that will keep paying dividends as technology progresses,” explains Virtanen.
According to Virtanen, automation and software are set to be the driving forces of the industry in the coming years and decades.
“Mechanical development won’t yield that much innovation in a decade or two, but developing new automation software has significant effects on the output of the machines.”
The company’s second competitive edge is the quality and reliability of its machines. The mechanical engineering must be of top-notch quality to handle decades of bulk production.
“A very marginal percentage of our CNC machines made since the ‘80s have been scrapped. We strive to grow with our customers in decades-long partnerships.”
The reliability extends to the software domain as well. In large-scale industrial production, high technology and automation quickly become obsolete if they can’t be trusted.
“Today a big market for us is updating our machines from the 1990s. Customers might not want to replace the machine because we’re able to increase their productivity with updates in automation software,” explains Virtanen.
Software-led machines that can be tailored according to customer needs and last for decades come with certain long-term responsibilities for Pivatic.
“Our customers are billion-dollar businesses, which have very meticulous legal conditions that may scare off some service providers. We’re happy to work with them and they’ve been happy to trust us.”
Pivatic has not been immune to the effects of servitisation, another key trend in business. But rather than adapting to it, the company has always cherished its services and considers them a core feature of the business.
“The key driving force for us has always been customer satisfaction, it is our starting point and end-goal. Services are ingrained in the process delivering our products due to its modularity, and our aftermarket services account for an important part of our sales.”
Pivatic’s first international customers were in Sweden and the German-speaking markets in the mid-80s. Since then, the company has expanded its operations globally, with the US market as its primary destination.
Lucrative markets have also opened up in Asia, where the volumes of sheet metal fabrication are other-worldly and the end products wrap themselves around a construction industry that is trying to accommodate the growing needs of 4.5 billion people and in serious need for a hook-up to automation and productivity growth.
In other words, tailor-made for Pivatic.