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Bringing Ideas to Life: from Concept to Concrete
04 January, 2024

Bringing Ideas to Life: from Concept to Concrete

04 January, 2024

Suvic is committed to the development of quality and safety through its management system. We continually strive to create sustainable solutions that reflect our dedication to responsible business practices. One example of such in-house innovation is the combination of casting mold railings with a walkway encircling the mold. Walkable railings significantly ease movement on the foundation during the casting process. Below, explore in more detail the story of what led to the conception of this concept and how it materialized into an integral part of on-site operations. 

The idea originated from one troublesome knee 

The driving force behind the idea and its rapid implementation at Suvic is Sami Sainio, who works as a site manager and possesses extensive experience in both concrete production and wind turbine construction. He cast his first wind turbine foundation back in 2013. "The idea for the railings came about in August 2022 when I was standing in for the casting supervisor at a wind turbine construction site. At that time, I had had enough of standing on rebar with my already sore knee and watching casters jump on top of the reinforcement bars. I thought there must be a different way to approach this," recalls Sami, expressing his frustration. 

To further develop the idea, Sami involved his trusted man, Pekka Salmela, who manufactures high-quality steel molds at his workshop in Sievi. Pekka has been producing molds for Suvic for a long time. Collaborating with the industry veteran went smoothly, as Pekka immediately grasped the issue and the possibilities of modifying the existing mold and got to work. The product development phase swiftly moved from the design table; Sami remembers, "Initially, there was a corner support in the design images under the walkway, but we realized that it wasn't actually needed." Eventually, the railings and walkways were handcrafted onto an existing mold, and they were put into use during the next summer's castings. 

Sami emphasizes that the idea for mold development felt feasible primarily because Suvic has actively invested in safety matters: "We've emphasized that innovation is positive, and we want to develop processes, especially those related to occupational safety." The approval process for manufacturing a new type of mold was also indicative of a flat hierarchy: "When I said that I have this idea, the manager straightforwardly responded, 'Go ahead and make it happen!'" 

The model offers significant improvements in the safety of several work stages 

In a typical railing model for rock anchor foundations the railing is attached directly to the mold, and workers move on top of the reinforcement by walking on the mold. Challenges related to moving on the reinforcement affect many, as Suvic's own site personnel, steel fixers, as well as professionals such as laboratory technicians, reinforcement inspectors, and supervisors, navigate the casting site. The new and improved walkway, therefore, facilitates the work of various professionals at the construction site. 

For the first time, the new mold designs were in use at the Isokangas and Palokangas wind farm sites in Ii, Finland, in the summer of 2023, where the innovation was found to be effective. "The casting team embraced the change very well when they quickly realized how much the circulating walkway eases the work," Sami explains. 

Additionally, the new model provides significant improvements to the operational procedures of several work stages. Sami mentions that besides preventing his own knee pain, the new railing model with an integrated walkway also solves many other issues. In the new design, the necessary electrification, cabling, etc., during concrete pouring, travel on the railing outside the mold, eliminating the need for hanging cables freely over the casting. The site's experience is that concrete surfaces were kept in better condition, and the casting performance became much easier and more professional. "In addition to safety and work comfort, probably the most significant aspect is the ease of finishing work and protection - no one has to jump on the unfinished or finished cast anymore. With this model, finishing, possible post-compaction, the application of post-treatment agents, and weather-appropriate protection can be done neatly and safely from the walking platform." 

Improving safety is an investment that pays off 

Although the mold itself lasts for more than a single construction site and approximately 20 casting sessions, transportation subjects the mold to impacts, causing wear on the casting surface, and the mold requires periodic maintenance. However, the railings and walkways can be transferred to new molds, extending their utilization and lifespan as the molds cycle through maintenance. The cost of manufacturing railings and walkways in relation to their expected lifespan and the benefits they offer is therefore marginal. 

Sami mentions that, to his knowledge, no other companies have implemented or used similar molds yet: "Of course, one hopes that clients and customers appreciate such work and investments when comparing companies offers." 

According to statistics from the construction industry, rebar and concrete workers in Finland experience the third-highest number of work-related accidents, approximately 60 accidents per year. Half of these accidents result from sharp objects, falls, or slips, and, for example, about 31% of all injuries that occurred in 2021 were related to movement classified according to the nature of the work. The numbers have not significantly improved in recent years, making any improvements related to safety devices, work methods, and tools important as part of preventive measures. "It's somewhat primitive to think of occupational safety merely as an expense because occupational safety specifically leads to better efficiency through better tools, advanced work methods, and fewer absences," emphasizes Suvic's HSEQ Manager Eetu Pajala

"As a person responsible for casting, I pondered whether this mold-making and transportation would slow down the process," Sami reflects. Moving, assembling, and the dings incurred during logistics also raised concerns. "Based on our experiences so far, we have been able to further improve the walkway plans for the next production batch, especially regarding railing openings, lifting points, and overlap stacking," Sami describes the inspiring development process. 

"A central value of our company is that employees have the freedom to develop better practices in an interesting field with conventions in constant flux. We support all our employees, both in offices and on construction sites, in actively considering both their own work and collective efforts, challenging how practices could be changed to be safer and more efficient," says Ville Vesanen, CEO of Suvic. 

PS: Improvements also for gravity-based foundations castings 

Gravity-based foundations have been practically the only way to build turbine foundations for a long time. Suvic has been a pioneer in the extensive use and development of rock anchor foundations, and they are sought to be used whenever possible. While Suvic’s rock anchor foundations design and building methods reduce the amount of concrete and steel needed for wind turbines, thereby reducing the carbon footprint of the entire park, in certain situations, gravity foundation is still a valid alternative for implementation. Therefore, Suvic has not overlooked the improvement of site conditions and safety for gravities. On-site, standard-compliant, long walkways with railings lead to gravity castings, facilitating movement and the easy transfer of goods and equipment. These railings and walkways can also be assembled and disassembled repeatedly, encouraging investment in high-quality and proven practical solutions. 

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