International Steelwork Contractors Group 2017

The International Steelwork Contractors Group is a collection of associations which have a passion for steel construction. (BCSA UK, AISC USA, ASI Australia, CISA Canada, SCNZ New Zealand and the SAISC). The meeting provides the forum to meet with other associations, discuss common problems and different approaches to solving them, visit best in practice fabricators and an opportunity to meet really interesting people with a passion for all things steel.

This article is intended to give some feedback and highlights of the visit without getting into too much detail. Follow up articles on specific topics will be included in Steel Construction particularly where we can collaborate with our international colleagues in advancing the industry.

What makes a visit such as this so rewarding is the ability to visit fabricators, spend time with them and walk through their facilities while discussing pressing industry challenges and opportunities.

The first two fabricator visits were to SH Structures in Thirsk followed by Severfield in Dalton.

S H Structures is a specialist structural steelwork contractor who designs, manufactures and installs complex structures.

The company showed us their extensive portfolio with award winning projects in most sectors including education, health, sport, museums, public buildings, infrastructure and artworks. What was unique and interesting was the interfacing with other materials which included glazing, ETFE, Tensile Fabrics and Timber. Here was a company which prided itself on providing services that most fabricators would contract out. South African fabricators would do well to consider their approach as it means to ensure that they are no longer considered as merely sub-contractors. The factory looks like a typical South African fabricator but the engine room consists of highly skilled managers, technical staff including detailers and highly skilled artisans with a passion for difficult steelwork. For those of you who are interested please visit their website and spend a little time on the Kelpies, Falkirk Project. (http://www.shstructures.com/projects/the-kelpies-falkirk/ )Truly awe inspiring tubular steelwork and cladding at its best.

Most large fabricators over the years have visited Severfield in Dalton. I had not been to the facility since 2005 and was excited to see improvements to the facility. The London High –Rise multi storey steel frame market is healthy judging by the tonnages of steel moving thorough the factory.

Serverfield is widely recognized for their iconic structures and engineering excellence. They operate on an international scale and the site we visited covered 55 acres. Dalton forms the hub for much of Severfields activity. The site boasts 10 state of the art production lines where modern manufacturing and painting are undertaken in a controlled environment. They have a capacity of 1500 tons of steel per week. The streamlined, high volume and efficient nature of the facility is geared for strong repeat business in the structures market particularly high rise. This is a fabricator who has moved from jobbing to manufacturing and made a success of it. Again it is the engine room that deserves a more thorough investigation as many of the products manufactured have been the result of innovation and collaboration of associations such as the SCI and BCSA, steel mills and their own technical and management teams.

They have a large in-house design department and drawing office with state of the art 3D and BIM capabilities which sadly many of our larger fabricators have lost over the years. Partnering with their clients is considered key to delivering large projects.

Please go to their website for more information. ( http://www.severfield.com )

William Hare, the last of our fabricator visits, is one of the UK’s leading steelwork contractors. It has a significant international presence and capability with facilities in the UAE, India and the Philippines. The company is Family owned and traces its origins back to 1888. Those in the steel industry will appreciate what a challenge it is to keep a firm in the family and a going concern over more than three generations.

The Scarborough site is the largest in the group and it has benefited from significant investment upgrades to become the UK’s first robotic fabrication, assembly, and welding line. The most impressive aspect is the owners and management’s approach to pushing the envelope forward and recognizing that sometimes it is better to be in early in order to learn and improve than to wait on the sidelines for others to eat your lunch. It again became clear that the engine room combined with the well thought out layout of the factory and modern equipment contributes to the success of this business. (www.hare.com)

In summary, there are many areas where our fabricators have similar equipment but what is lacking in some of our facilities is the engine room. It’s not enough to have drilling lines and to subcontract out your engineering and detailing. It’s key to look at the whole package.

The remainder of the week was spent on Structural Steelwork Country Briefings, Market Updates, Steel Market Development, Competitive pressures from other industries, Building Information Modelling, Steel in Fire, Skills Development and Collaboration between the various institutes and associations.

In order to do these topics justice, it would be better to spend a little more time on each in follow-up articles.

A heads up for our steel contractor members is that the next meeting will be held in Australia in 2019.