We know this story all to well. First came credit crunch; banks soon experienced cash flow problems; this in turn rebounded on the building industry. And yet there are construction businesses in Poland that have survived the crisis intact. Among these Format is to be found, the Warsaw-based company with more than 500 investment projects under its belt, completed all around Europe. This business never grows tired of success. They are now developing a nuclear power plant in Finland. Soon after that they are setting out to conquer Sweden.
Format’s track record is like Polish reality in a nutshell. It has enough room for economic transformation and upheaval; it has room for ownership restructuring, international recognition and multimillion business deals, too. Let’s begin at the beginning, however. The turn of the 80s and 90s sparked off a dramatic change in Poland. The state liberalised economic laws, thus setting up free-market economy and creating multiple opportunities to do business overseas. Among those who jumped at the chance was Mr Wojciech Mikulecki, the founder of the company and its President. Format Urządzenia i Montaże Przemysłowe Sp. z o.o. (LLC) came into being in February 1990. “We launched our Technical Office in Wiesbaden the same year. The office was responsible for suitable site control and marketing in Germany, where the majority of our Clients came from,” adds Format’s Managing Director, Mr Filip Górski. The contracts performed at the time included thermal insulation (cold and heat protection), soundproofing and fire protection. Format also specialised in interior building construction (drywall and suspended ceiling systems), building facade assembly and rust and corrosion protection. Last but not least, the business completed deals in the reinforcement and concrete formwork sector. Dedication and hard work gave rise to further expansion. In three years’ time Format set up Format-Lambda corporate group, which embraced Polish and German capital, including Format Baustahl- und Konstruktionsverarbeitungs- GmbH and Lambda S.A. The real breakthrough came along when Poland acceded to the EU.
“We have achieved lasting recognition in Germany and France. We have also made our mark in the UK, Ireland, Italy, Switzerland and Benelux; and are now setting about to complete our first deals in Sweden. What we pride most, however, is the contract we won in Finland. This flagship project of ours comprises reinforcement and concrete formwork carried out for the nuclear power plant in Olkiluoto 3 (Ol3), the first plant worldwide to make use of a 3rd generation nuclear reactor. At their busiest, more than 300 of our staff worked on the site,” emphasises Format’s Managing Director. There are at least two factors that give a cutting edge to this project. Top of the list comes its multinational character. Whereas the plant in Olkiluoto is being built by businesses and staff from 61 countries, its site documentation, materials and information signs are prepared in 6 different languages. Equally important are rigorous safety standards, however. Each and every contractor has to take proper care of the staff, environment and the plant itself. And each and every contractor has some achievements to his credit in this matter. The facts speak for themselves. The average occupational accident rate in Finland is 73.1 accidents per million working hours. The contractors in Olkiluoto have managed to slash it by four. Anxious not to affect the environment, these contractors are obliged to implement sustainable policy, including innovative guidelines for safe waste disposal. Arguably, it is in the field of plant safety that Format has a chance to strut its stuff. Responsible for this are two coats of protective concrete, 2 metres thick each, which were designed to alleviate the negative impact of uncontrolled chain reaction and reduce external hazards, e.g. the plant being crashed by a large plane.
They Carried it Off
Top priority? „We focus on Customer trust. We know how to win over the Customer and how to keep him satisfied. Our chief assets include timely and professional completion and proactive attitude. We are well sought after in the industry: where other contractors fail, we are able to carry it off. We acted as a troubleshooter, too,” replies Mr Górski. “Take this for example. The main contractor of Boberg power plant, Germany, asked us to rescue its project. With 26 different subcontractors on the site, they experienced difficulties completing the investment. Over 70 per cent of the scheduled time only 20 per cent of insulation works were executed. The situation being critical, we came up with a new schedule of works and carried it out on our own. Despite the fact that we were running against the clock, 300 of our staff made up for the lost time and finished the project within the original time frame.” No wonder, then, that Format has so far catered for such industry tycoons as: Ruhl GmbH, BAG, Wendt, Bouygues TP, Vinci Construction, Farrans, Gilbert Ash, Elliot, Lang O’Rourke.
Seasoned and Professional
Second top priority and Format’s biggest asset is its staff. Depending on the season the company employs between 500 and 1000 people. “We are keen to select workers properly. Every candidate is subject to theoretical and practical examination. As a result, our employees are hand picked and matched to meet the requirements of each local market and construction project. They also undergo regular performance appraisals,” elaborates Format’s Managing Director. Hence, a team of diverse and versatile professionals has come into being, the one that gathers experienced workers home and overseas, and young people, too. The key to manage such a huge team is motivation. The business combines competitive rates of pay with professional training and prospective career opportunities. It also maintains rigorous health and safety standards (Format’s workers in Finland attend between ten and twenty H&S sessions every year); secures suitable accommodation and transportation services; makes it possible for the workers to fly home over Christmas and Easter holidays; and provides them with additional personal accident insurance and necessary language assistance when abroad.
Quality under Control
Format offers a wide variety of construction services, including both detailed orders and comprehensive construction projects: concrete formwork with geodetic staff, reinforced steel assembly (steel fixing) and concreting. “Thanks to our versatility and many years of experience we have been able to offer prompt and top quality services and functional logistic system in all European countries. We have been awarded ISO 9001 and AFCAB (recognised in France) quality certificates in reinforcement assembly,” remarks Mr Górski. The company’s sites are subject to both internal and external quality control. This includes identification of construction plans and delivery of steel reinforcement, where all attests on steel type, malleability (workability), diameter and length of the steel bars are carefully checked. Steel itself is then assembled in utmost precision according to construction plans. “Every construction phase undergoes a two point quality control prior to concreting. Yet, we are able to launch a new project within several days, with all the necessary equipment, health and safety and social facilities,” adds Format’s Managing Director.
Focus on Steel Assembly
Prospective goals? “We stay focused on reinforced steel assembly (concrete formwork and concreting are available on demand). Thanks to recent investments we can also supply prefabricated steel structures,” replies Mr Górski. Reinforced steel assembly is executed in several stages. The process begins with steel fixing performed either on site or in a prefabrication area. Next welding is carried out, by certified welders that hold all the necessary certificates. Finally, the prefabricated reinforcement can be placed in the shuttering, which is followed by prepared steel elements being assembled on completed formwork.
In Pole Position
“The fact that we focus on reinforced steel assembly does not mean that we gave up on insulation and drywall systems constructions. We are waiting for these markets to improve, however. Once we notice that things are looking up, we will be there ready to generate income,” summarises Format’s Managing Director. “Our competitors waste no opportunity to catch up with us at the moment. The construction industry has already got to grips with the credit crunch. There are new promising players from the newly admitted EU members. Multinational employment agencies of European range can stir up some trouble, too. We do not look to our rivals, though. Over the last few years we have managed to gain a considerable advantage over our competitors and we are not going to squander it now.”