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May 2006 – Investment the key ingredient

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Overseas constructional steelwork sectors frequently visit the UK to try and grasp what it is that gives our industry such a commanding share of the market. Some of the reasons why a particular project opts for steel in the UK may not apply in all of these markets of course; such as the near impossibility of using concrete in congested inner city sites where formwork and multiple trades would be, sometimes dangerously, working almost on top of one another. Wide open spaces in ‘new world’ countries can mean that these constraints often do not arise, but on many of these countries’ own landmark projects steel is increasingly chosen for the familiar reasons like sustainability, cost and adaptability.

Increases in the productivity and technical excellence of the product of fabrication facilities is something overseas visitors like to keep abreast of, and a favourite stop on their tours are places where they can inspect new state of the art, fully integrated design and manufacture facilities such as you can read about in this issue of NSC.

There are varying sizes of facilities in operation in the UK market, some able to handle the very large volumes associated with large scale Terminal 5 type jobs, and others designed for more specialised or smaller scale projects. There is a key message for overseas visitors to take home – that UK steelwork contractors are prepared to invest in the latest machinery, which brings competitive advantage to themselves and delivers improved quality and service to customers.

Glossy brochures don’t do it, neither do all singing and dancing presentations at seminars and exhibitions. What wins is an integrated focus across the steel sector on productivity gains that can be shared up the supply chain, along with investment in extensive research and development as well as provision of full technical support. That is the winning formula. Plus of course the willingness of steelwork contractors to stick their chins out and make the investments that clients will benefit from.

Harmonised standard makes marking possible 

CE Marking of fabricated steelwork could be possible from late next year, assuming the standard – EN 1090-1 – is accepted at Formal Vote later this year (see News).

This is a potentially tricky area for steelwork contractors, but be assured that all the necessary steps are being taken to ensure that CE Marking can be introduced seamlessly. The CE Marking approach allows the legal requirements of the Construction Products Regulations (CPR) to be satisfied in a fairly straightforward way, while the alternative approach depends on Trading Standards Officers inspecting a heavy load of documentation relating to structures or products. This means, among other things, keeping even more detailed records for a long time.

BCSA has developed a two strand strategy to help members with the introduction of CE Marking and alternative means of satisfying the requirements of the CPR. A step by step procedure will be developed for those who want to CE Mark their products, while for those who decide to adopt the alternative approach BCSA will develop principles for meeting the minimum requirements given in the CPR.

The Steel Construction Certification Scheme (SCCS) is submitting an application to become a fully Notified Body for EN 1090-1 that will allow it to carry out the necessary third party certification of the manufacturers Factory Production Control systems for producing components to EN 1090-1.

SCCS will develop two approaches: a CE Marking system for steelwork contractors with ISO 9001 certification (by SCCS); and a stand alone CE Marking system based solely on the requirements of EN 1090-1.

Whichever route a steelwork supplier decides to take, clients could then be confident that the SCCS certified organisations would comply with the regulations.

Nick Barrett

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