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Steel supply chain sets a lead to follow

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Construction seems to have been on the edge of one of its periodic crises of confidence this summer, perhaps not entirely without good reason. Pundits point to this being one of the most prolonged periods of political uncertainty that they can remember, mostly due to the referendum vote to withdraw from EC membership. Not the ideal background against which to make major investment decisions.

Official statistics are providing some justification for caution.  After five relatively good years some commentators think the construction sector is due a cyclical downturn. With luck what we are seeing now could be nothing more than ‘the pause that refreshes’ and a cyclical upturn might be under way before too long.  Other hopes are that the Brexit negotiations will soon show the shape of a post-EC world, giving investors in commercial property more confidence to bring forward their plans again.

Investment decisions are always likely to be delayed against a background like this, but a lot still goes ahead. Retail investment seems to have been hit recently by the continuing growth of online shopping, but there are some significant projects still going ahead and we have also been seeing significant rises in construction of very large distribution facilities for the major online retailers like Amazon, which have been well reported in NSC.

Discount retailers Aldi and Lidl have announced major store developments which we expect to report on over the next few years. It is interesting to see steel playing a key role in the ongoing development of the world-famous landmark Selfridges store on London’s Oxford Street, which we report on in News. The store is thought to be the second oldest steel framed building in London, first erected in 1909. Steel was used for additions in the 1930s and in the 1950s, and again today. Old Ironwork and new steel construction are also being merged successfully in the restoration of the Grade II listed covered Market Hall in Preston.

This month’s NSC shows a busy industry in the news section alone, with Cleveland Bridge investing in some of the latest fabricating equipment to support future structures and infrastructure projects. A growing number of projects demand profiled steel, a market demand that Cleveland Bridge and other steelwork contractors are responding to.

Projects in locations as far flung as Orkney, County Down, Liverpool, Preston and the City of London can be seen taking advantage of the innovative and high quality service that can be provided as standard thanks to these kinds of investments.

To some people the steel manufacturing process is shrouded in mystery, but we have an article this month explaining the key details of the major steelmaking processes. The basic processes are well established but leading steel manufacturers like ArcelorMittal and British Steel continually invest heavily in developing new processes to provide new grades of steel with enhanced properties.

Investments like this in steel manufacturing and by steelwork contractors in leading edge fabricating equipment show a high degree of confidence in the future along the steel construction supply chain. Let’s hope others soon feel able to follow their lead.

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