Improve On-Site Productivity by Utilizing Prefabricated Steel Reinforcement

Anyone who has had experience of working in the UK construction industry recently can see that times are changing and there is no longer a glut of skilled construction workers for construction companies to employ.

As a nation, our productivity compared to other countries has diminished over the last 10 years, with only the most recent period seeing a small increase in output. For the sake of our own economy, we must look at ways to combat this, especially in the highly probable event of an exit from the EU causing further disruptions on UK exports.

With one of the lowest unemployment rates in Europe,  and a clear skills shortage, one answer is to outsource certain types of labour, where commercially viable, in order to free up resources for other work that is not so vulnerable to outsourcing.  Effective management of our personnel in this manner would not only make us more productive, but it would also enable us to offer training to our employees, helping to skill up our workforce.

There is already an option that can help directly with ground workers in the industry – purchasing concrete steel reinforcements which are already pre-welded into sections for easy installation on site. This solution is called prefabricated steel reinforcement, and is an extremely popular solution within the industry as it helps keep costs under control and ensures that time is used effectively.

One area in which prefabricated solutions are already well utilised is in house building. Steel reinforcement required for the more common house plots are generally ground beams. These are simple cages constructed using straight rebar and square or rectangular ‘links’. Unlike fabrication on-site, which can be time-consuming and often inaccurate, prefabricated steel suppliers can make up tonnes of ground beams accurately within hours. They can even be delivered directly to site at the exact time that you need them.

Prefab Steel Vs. Loose Cut & Bent

Purchasing loose cut and bent steel for tying ground beams on site may save a small percentage of your costs in the short term, but the long term implications far outweigh these minimal initial wins. Not only is sourcing steel from a reputable supplier extremely time-consuming, but it also uses up a lot of skilled manpower.

It’s also an inefficient way to utilise the resources available to you. For instance:

  • You’re losing time off-loading loose cut and bent steel rebar from a truck as it takes a lot longer than off-loading preformed welded cages
  • You’re wasting space on-site as a loose bar can take up space before it’s sorted and tied into cages
  • You’re ineffectively using the man-hours of your more highly skilled workers as there are then many hours of work involved in reading drawings, organising schedules, and tying all the cages together.

Prefab cages can be delivered to site and dropped into place within a tenth of the time it takes to manage loose cut and bent steel.

This decision normally comes down to whether a company is truly aware of how many working hours on average it takes to place and then tie up steel reinforcement for ground beams on top of factoring in all the other associated time dealing with schematics. Experienced site managers are able to visualise this situation before problems or potential delays arise.

Ensuring optimised and effective productivity on-site requires a good flow of management and production without any bottlenecks. Using loose cut and bent steel on-site could be a potentially huge bottleneck for some companies and they may not even be aware of the complexities of managing and fabricating groundwork.

The Cost of Prefabricated Steel Reinforcement

Prefabricated steel reinforcement will almost invariably come at a higher price. Because of this, many contractors believe that they can potentially cut costs by purchasing loose steel and managing it all themselves.

But are they really saving money?

In a small number of cases, yes, you can save money. But it all depends on the size and scope of the project, as well as the skill of the site manager and the size and experience levels of his or her team of ground workers. It may be cheaper to fully manage loose steel for reinforcement in small domestic or highly bespoke projects. Although, the quantity of steel required may be low, and the required skill to tie beams could be reduced, so managing teams to carry out this task on a small scale is generally easier. However, for most projects requiring standard pile cages, ground beams, and/or pile caps, it’s typically a false economy tying steel on site.

One of the reasons reinforcement companies can offer competitive rates for prefabricating steel is because it is possible to place, assemble, and weld (or tie) cages in suitable premises with good access and taking advantage of mechanical assistance (such as using A-frames, cranes, or winches). Prefab engineers do not have to weld or tie steel on a muddy site, in adverse weather conditions, or with limited equipment. A spacious, flat concrete floor with a forklift on-hand will enable much faster production of cages, which ultimately leads to higher production rate, greater accuracy, better quality fixings, and lower output costs.

What Are The Disadvantages of Using Prefab Steel Reinforcement?

One of the primary disadvantages of purchasing prefab can be the lead time from some reinforcement companies. A long lead time often means project delays, which almost always leads to increased project costs. In these cases, depending on the lead time, it may be more cost-effective in the long term to order loose steel and tie on-site. Holding up the production flow on-site can be very expensive, so all decisions should be considered commercially.

Reinforcement Products Online

Though options for sourcing prefab steel are currently limited, the way steel reinforcement can be purchased is changing fast. Reinforcement Products Online offers real solutions and removes many potential headaches for contractors.

We specialise in the fast supply of prefabricated steel reinforcement across the UK.  We can work to your schedules/drawings and we also have numerous standardised configurations of stock cages that will suit most ground beam requirements.  These cages as well as loose bar, mesh and accessories can be purchased online within a few clicks.  This functionality also helps contractors price up jobs, rather than waiting for companies to return phone calls and emails.  A job can be priced up at any time of the night or day, even at weekends if necessary.

For more information, or to discuss your project, call us today on 01283 480717.

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