Peter Vogel, director of Doka Middle East, speaks with Lorraine Bangera about innovation as an art of problem-solving and making construction processes more efficient, sustainable and safe
With over 150 years of experience, formwork-provider Doka prides itself in finding solutions for the most complex construction projects in the world. Founded and still owned today by the Umdasch family, Doka has proven to be a globally recognised brand in construction. Its projects have spread across continents with the most eminent ones to be found here in the GCC. Some of those projects include Dubai’s Burj Khalifa and the soon-to-be world’s largest hotel Abraj Kudai Hotel in Mecca.
“Innovation is the key to our success,” says Peter Vogel, regional director of Doka. “Our core aim is to constantly adjust our services in line with customer needs, while also guaranteeing the highest safety requirements.”
“Innovation is simply creating solution,” he urges. “Solutions which are highly efficient, sustainable and safe.”
He adds: “It is one thing to make working with formwork easier and save more time as a result. It is quite another to make working with formwork even more safe and therefore more cost-efficient.
“As a market leader, we are obliged to constantly develop new concepts and systems to support our customers’ aim of improving speed and safety of the construction process. With our innovations, we keep ourselves always one step ahead of the competition.”
A good example for such solutions is the Xsafe plus, a pre-assembled working platform that can be folded and equipped with side railings for wall and column formwork.
Vogel states that his company is consistently thinking outside of the box. “We are currently working on the Strategic Tunnel Enhancement Programme (STEP) for Odebrecht in Abu Dhabi which required a special-purpose formwork solution, which we created and delivered. I think cases such as this make us add to our strength as formwork professionals.”
Another recent innovation has been the Concremote system to measure concrete strength development. The system and all its results are based on the temperature of the concrete which is measured continuously. Concremote reduces striking times, optimise formwork solutions and of course visualises a lot of information about the concrete for the contractor.
It is now used on various projects around the world, reaching from bridges and tunnels to high-rise towers and shopping malls. Vogel says that after its launch last year, consultants and contractors have provided positive feedback, particularly given Concremote’s cost and time saving attributes.
Innovation is a philosophy that has to be cultivated by people, something Vogel believes is only possible when every employee is encouraged to communicate ideas as part of a team.
Where does innovation come from? While Vogel is busy managing the regional business from his office, he says that most of the ideas needed for innovation is developed on site.
“Our development department monitors the progress along with the client, which helps begin the innovation process.” He points out that clients are the first ones to expose the company to a problem, after which his team hunts for solutions. “This is how we innovate and develop, through coming face-to-face with a problem.”
The constant process of problem solving doesn’t just exist among employees; it has been integrated through training and hiring who Doka considers to be the best professionals in the market.
“Our employees are the reason for the company’s success. While the Doka Group is a family-owned business, intrapreneurship is highly encouraged and supported. We invest in employees and put in efforts to invest in their development.”
Innovation and the GCC
Vogel has worked in several countries over the last two decades, though he admits that he has been lucky to choose where he wanted to work. In the GCC, he has been active in Oman, Qatar and the UAE.
He observes that the region’s construction sector has seen consistent growth over the past decade, with a spike in activity from 2005 till the economic downturn and in spite of this, the GCC has continued to grow, citing economic diversification as a key driver.
For him working in the GCC is challenging and exhilarating at the same time. “This region gives you the freedom to be creative and innovative.”
Innovation has always been welcomed with open arms in the GCC, in particular in the UAE. Some of the shifts in the regional market especially towards sustainability have predominantly affected the construction market and we welcome such developments. As a company Doka has always prioritised sustainability as one of its core values, something that enables it to offer practical support to the UAE’s federal and municipal policies on sustainable construction.
Success and pragmatism
After 22 years of management roles in the construction industry, Peter Vogel joined Doka in 2008. He says that he is more than happy to be a part of the busy and challenging GCC market where construction activities are bountiful.
Before joining Doka, he worked as a technical manager in a contracting firm and has extensive experience in the construction industry.
While Vogel’s practicality and drive has helped him to successfully represent a global brand in the region, it’s his insight that sets him apart from most directors. When asked for pearls of wisdom, he shrewdly says; “When it comes to success it depends on how the individual looks at success.”
He argues that success is often seen in two ways: long-term and short-term. Long-term success could be challenging but we prefer to be challenged.
“Typically, our projects are amongst the most complex developments in the GCC.”
If you haven’t heard of Doka, a drive down Dubai’s Sheikh Zayed Road is all it takes to see the numerous projects the firm is a part of.
He explains that Doka has a sincere willingness to face challenges and provide solutions. “We often invent new concepts of doing it.”
In DOKA everybody is passionate about what we are doing. I’ve been in the company for eight years, and I can’t imagine finding a better company.”
Vogel’s philosophy is simple. “The construction industry is pragmatic, therefore so are we.”