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Continued success at Jamestown

Jamestown’s expansion allows for a number of large bridges to be fabricated simultaneously

Architects and engineers are having greater input through the constructional steelwork fabrication process on ‘higher-end’ projects says structural components specialist Jamestown. The visual quality of steelwork is also increasingly important.

Jamestown has increased output and broadened its range of services to the structural steel and heavy engineering sectors following its move some three years ago to a state-of-the-art, 17-acre facility in Portarlington, 40 miles south of Dublin. Company Director Fiacre Creegan said: “The scale of the task in moving an entire fabrication plant, relocating staff, moving IT systems etcetera, is one that not all companies could cope with. With the input from managers, great staff input, and the support of our key customers this has been a very long journey, but a great success.”

Jamestown’s new General Manager Niall Fortune says that the company’s workload is gradually shifting away from basic steel fabrication towards higher-end projects where the project architects and engineers have much more input throughout the manufacturing stages. “This is especially true regarding aesthetic features and visual quality of steelwork,” he says. “It’s much more common now to hear terms like semi-automotive paint finish in relation to a heavy structural column, where even the slightest surface imperfection is not allowed.”

He adds that it is not unusual for an architect to demand a particular level of finish on a welded structure or member, which is above any of the common NSSS requirements. “Jamestown has embraced a number of projects of this type and met and exceeded client expectations,” said Mr Fortune.

Jamestown’s Compliance Manager Mark Morris added:“Focus on the clients’ requirements and a thorough understanding of the relevant quality standards is vital in our sector now, and without a strong drive in this department a service company will not thrive.”

Jamestown stresses the importance of continued support of Steel for Life, the BCSA and New Steel Construction. “This comes from the underlying belief that development of the steel market is good for the industry and good for the economies of both Ireland and the UK,” says Mr Creegan. “With continued support from shareholders, with focus on innovation and process improvement and with ongoing investment Jamestown will continue to develop and grow.

“As well as our structural steel output for the construction sector, we produce steel for the maritime industry, power generation, crane handling, shipping, and engineering applications. With continued effort and with a renewed focus Jamestown is set to expand further and continue on the success path.”

An 80t, 40m long weathering steel bridge beam being fully fabricated

Continued investment in plant and people

Since moving to its new premises Jamestown has continued to invest heavily in plant and equipment. Last year saw the arrival of another new long-bed Voortman plasma cutter, for the manufacture of webs and flanges. This allows Jamestown to respond to even tighter quality controls and shorter lead times in the manufacture of plate girder and box girder sections. CNC drilling & milling equipment has been purchased and this too will help to keep Jamestown at the leading edge of the industry, says Jamestown’s Production Manager Mr Aidan Clear.

“We are currently trialling a number of pieces of equipment which will aid in the fast inspection of finished beams, either in the final inspection stage or actually in the pre-welding stage to ensure correct fabrication set-out,” he said.

Mr Morris said:”There are advances now which Jamestown is investigating which, if employed, will speed-up and possibly automate the assessment of finished welds vs. NSSS weld acceptance criteria. Some of this technology has been around for years and used in other sectors of industry, but it’s not so common or so well developed in the structural steel sector. At Jamestown we are continually pushing for new techniques and new methods to improve on old accepted methods of operation.”

Jamestown are specialists in the fabrication of cellular beams and plate girders

Repeat business from valued clients

Jamestown is continually reviewing its corporate structure to ensure the best service to clients, architects, engineers and fabricators. The company sees its success as based on completing projects to client and engineers specification, underpinned by the continual review of capability and process. Jamestown says the amount of repeat business secured from clients is testament to this fact.

Other than very localised one-off projects, Jamestown has carried out repeat business for all its clients. “We are at present fabricating almost 3000 tonnes of plate girders for an extremely high-end project in central London, whilst concurrently working on 1500 tonnes of heavy complex asymmetric plate girders for a significant UK fabricator working in Canary Wharf in London,” says Mr Creegan.

“At the same time we are building a 400 tonne bridge for installation in a tidal flood plain in the west of Scotland for a customer who we’ve worked with for the past ten years. We have been very selective about the clients for whom we work, and indeed selective about the projects in which we get involved.”

Jamestown’s Financial Controller Mr Kevin Maher said: “We have been lucky to escape any of the major collapses which have happened in the UK recently. Strong focus on business systems and insuring trade debt are key elements of our approach to business, and we have found that a prudent approach has served us well.”

The facility allows the company to trial assemble large bridge structures in the workshop

Internal changes and process improvement

Jamestown regards machine processes and equipment as important and necessary, but only one part of the recipe for success. “The overriding factor determining long-term success in any company is the selection, positioning, and managing of the people therein,” said Mr Creegan. “All the best equipment in the world and the best order book etcetera will not make a success unless the right people are in the right places and are given the support, instruction, and freedom to fulfil their roles.”

A significant recent move has been the appointment of Niall Fortune as General Manager who is intended to usher in a new wave of development and positive change at Jamestown. “We seek to improve continuously and get leaner in terms of all our processes and workflow,” says Mr Fortune. “We are currently on a drive to restructure internally so that we can offer our clients the best possible service, and meet the demands of the future.”

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