Getting to grips with Gripple
Frazer Belafonte, UK industrial sales manager of Gripple, is worried that many contractors do not yet understand BIM, when they need to be on board with it by 2016.
In today's market contractors are facing reduced workloads and are under a lot of pressure to cut their prices with shorter schedules - they have to save on both price and the installation time.
There is no doubt that it's tough for everybody at the moment, but that's where Gripple can help, by enabling contractors to be more efficient working on site.
There's an emphasis on increasing off-site manufacturing solutions these days, which means that companies that may once have been more traditional in their approach are now knocking on our door.
This was a definite shift that occurred at the beginning of the recession in 2008 through to 2009.
In the past we've been very contractor focussed, but now interest comes from all levels, from managing directors, sustainability and health and safety managers, through to the end-users.
They have all become much more interested because they can see the bigger picture - that Gripple systems help them win jobs by reducing installation times, by cutting the potential risks associated with materials handling on site and by reducing material usage and waste, which all contribute towards keeping them competitive in a challenging marketplace.
Government policy will inevitably have a huge influence on the construction sector.
There is a lot of talk about housing starts, capital projects and civil engineering, but whether the Government's focus will be on those kinds of projects rather than on schools and hospitals remains to be seen.
It may well be that as an election draws closer, money will appear from somewhere.
It might not be be 'building schools for the future', but it could be something like 'education 2020' - and it might not be 700 schools, but it might be 300 schools.
What we'd like to see is investment in public buildings and loans more readily available to the private sector for investment in construction.
The industry needs to change. I have come into construction from a completely different sector and it seems to me that, in general, it operates very inefficiently.
Can you imagine building an aircraft in the same way that we put a building together? The installation drawings wouldn't arrive until the day before the fit-out started, then would change several times during the installation process. The wiring system would clash with the ventilation system and the pipework systems, and so on.
There are people and organisations who are trying to change the construction sector and make it more like the manufacturing industry, but they face a challenge.
Building Information Modelling (BIM) may help. However, I've attended several conferences on BIM and everyone comes out scratching their heads and asking themselves 'what is it, who 'owns' it and what exactly do we need to do?'
Gripple is getting involved in BIM because we want to be at the forefront of developments.
We've taken advice from a number of experts in the field and assigned resources, and now we feel that we're in a position where we'll have all the relevant BIM information required for contractors' packages within six to 12 months.
BIM offers us the opportunity, through the COBie system (Construction Operations Building information exchange), to include the embodied carbon for our product.
This means that when analysing a project for embodied carbon using BIM, it will be possible to see the carbon reduction of a Gripple system over traditional methods.
This is a benefit both to whoever is putting the building together and, more importantly, to the client.
But we are still discovering contractors who don't know about BIM at all, so there is more to be done prior to 2016, when there will be a requirement for government-related projects to be level 2 BIM compliant, which will affect everybody working on these types of projects.
The other challenging issue is the Construction Products Regulation that has been introduced this month. This is a legal requirement for manufacturers to test and CE mark products used in the construction industry.
Importantly, this only applies if the product in question has a hEN (harmonised European Norm) or an ETA (European Technical Approval) associated with it. I believe that over the next few months specifications will be changed and will likely state that 'all products must be CE marked', but won't include the caveat 'where applicable'.
We will need to inform the industry that, because there are no hENs or ETAs for our systems, mandatory CE marking is not required.
In addition, as all of our products have been independently tested and because we test internally to well above any requirement for CE marking, we can provide a declaration guaranteeing quality and performance.
Gripple is in the fortunate position of being able to respond when market conditions start to improve. We're a worldwide business, which eases fluctuations in the UK market, exporting around 85% of what we manufacture here in the UK.
We produce around 240,000 wire rope suspensions every week, or around 12 million each year, for building services installation, but carry minimum stock because we employ an advanced, high speed manufacturing process. We are efficient at manufacturing, so that when an order comes in, products usually go out on the same day. This helps make us more responsive to the needs of the contactor and reduces on-site storage.
Innovation is a key driver for us. We work hard to develop new products and have set ourselves a target to ensure that 25% of our turnover is generated from products that are less than four years old.
We consult with people from across the industry and are constantly looking at ways of improving on-site working.
We are always keen to hear from anyone looking for a solution to a particular problem, or anyone with an idea that they would like to develop with us.
The most recent products that we have introduced to our portfolio are the pre-fabricated pipe bracket, complete with universal pipe clamps, which are compatible with 11 different pipe sizes, the duct trapeze and a derivation of that which is the butterfly trapeze.
We planning to launch more products later this year, so watch this space!
Innovation is the key to success
Established in 1988, innovation continues to drive multi award-winning, enterprising, employee-owned Gripple Limited.
The Sheffield-based company is a global manufacturer of Gripple wire joiners and tensioners used in hanger systems for suspending and bracing building services and agricultural fencing and vineyard trellising, with a core product range of 2,000 items and 300 patents.
Gripple spends up to 5% of sales on research and development and invests heavily in machinery and buildings.
A team of engineers in its Ideas and Innovations centre aims to ensure that at least a quarter of a year's turnover comes from products less than four years old.
Gripple is proud to be synonymous with Sheffield but also has bases in Chicago, Strasbourg and New Delhi and maintains strong relationships with worldwide partners.
A fundamental principle at Gripple is the ability to speak to customers in their native language, wherever they are in the world. Numerous major languages are covered by members of the 350-strong workforce, 100 of them overseas.
In 2012, the company won its fourth Queen's Award - its second for innovation - and was one of 39 UK companies showcasing the country's best manufacturing in London's 'Make it in Great Britain' exhibition held that summer.
Gripple has been voted the Best SME in the UK by the Institute of Mechanical Engineers; the Best Engineering Plant by Cranfield School of Management; has won a Green Apple Environment Award and a Ruban d'Honneur in the European Business Awards.
National research showed that Gripple was one of 1,000 SMEs in Britain to beat the 2010 recession.
8 July 2013