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Europeans learn secret of growing UK steel market

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European steel industry firms have visited London to learn how they can raise their market shares in multi-storey steel construction to the heights enjoyed by the UK industry. At a workshop in May delegates from several European countries heard from Corus and the BCSA how 20 years ago the UK steel construction industry combined forces to overcome key weaknesses in the sector, leading to its dramatic capture of market share in the multi-storey building frame market.

European steel counterparts have some way to go to match the success of the UK industry. The European Convention for Constructional Steelwork workshop was intended to help them learn from the UK’s experience. Corus Construction and Industrial’s Roger Steeper told the workshop that 20 years ago steel had a number of key weaknesses which meant it had a very low share of the market for high-rise construction. “These weaknesses were each addressed and the information relayed to those people that could use it. Fire and its protection was a major issue for steel back then, but the problem was mainly based on a lack of understanding. Some major research provided the missing knowledge and so the market began to expand, facilitating innovation and advancement of better products and techniques, which in turn accelerated the growth.”

Caunton Engineering Marketing Director and BCSA Marketing and Membership Services Committee Chairman Geoffrey Taylor described how the steelwork contracting industry added value by development of just-in-time manufacture, encouragement of integration of following trades, constant attention to health and safety and a readiness to accept new ideas have led to improvements in speed, development of a ‘one-stop shop’, integration of fire and corrosion protection, more flexibility and increased competitiveness. Mr Taylor said “The campaign was market focussed and involved steelwork contractors, the associate members who make steel decking and edge protection, stud welders, and companies such as Fabsec and Westok who make bespoke beams.”

As a result steel accounted for 71.7% of the high-rise office market and 43.5% multi-storey residential market in 2004.

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