MIDFIX podcast

In this podcast, we welcome Nigel Thompson from Sikla as our guest speaker.

  • We reflect on the evolution of steel within construction and how it has evolved from the strut-based systems used in the 1920s.
  • We look at reasons why off-site manufacturing has become the go-to option on construction projects.
  • We address the common misconceptions in the industry about modular steel.

 

Episode Notes:

00:06 Right, thank you all for joining us today. This is a first
00:11 podcast for MIDFIX. It should be interesting. So yeah, just a
00:16 thought, Lets do an intro on MIDFIX, Nigel is obviously
00:21 aware of what we do but it’s mainly for the audience. So MIDFIX
00:26 are wholesalers to the M&E industry supplying to building services
00:30 predominantly stocking around 15,000 product lines. And
00:33 yet it started to evolve into more offsite manufacturing.
00:37 And predominately here, using a modular system such as Sikla,
00:41 which is a great product for us.
00:45 And yes, I welcome here today, Nigel Thompson. He’s a
00:49 director at Sikla, UK.
00:51 Thank you Jake. Sikla are a manufacturer of modular
00:56 steel pipe clips and I suppose it has its own evolution story as
01:01 well. Uh. So yeah, so on that note I guess will crack on with
01:08 it. So I think today’s podcast is to discuss
01:12 The evolution of Steel.
01:16 It’s happened in all types of products. I suppose then it’s
01:21 certainly happened within modular steel.
01:24 So we move onto the first question Mr T,
01:26 So the first question is the evolution was not really
01:33 a question, is more of a statement the evolution of steel
01:37 within the construction industry from the beginnings, which I
01:40 suppose happened pre-war. It was in 1920s when the first
01:44 lightweight steel framing systems came to market which
01:47 technically have revolutionized the way pipework in electrical
01:50 containment systems have been installed. You’re going back to
01:54 the days of anger line.
01:56 Drills, welded frames and things like that strut based systems now
02:02 take it for granted. Although Sikla have our own strut
02:07 based channel systems, in 2006, we introduced something that we
02:13 believe would substitute PFC’s box sections and beams to a
02:19 degree as well.
02:21 A lot that can be done with welded steel work. Don’t get me
02:25 wrong, we’re not dismissing it in its entirety, but there’s a
02:28 way. I think now that we need or contractors need to look at cost
02:33 savings. COVID-19 obviously taught us that
02:36 there needs to be better ways of doing things quicker. Ways of
02:40 doing things, more efficient ways of doing things, and
02:42 offsite manufacturing is driving this. It’s at the forefront of
02:46 this, the same way that MIDFIX are. So before any modular
02:50 systems, it was all.
02:51 It was pretty. Everything was well, it wasn’t it. That’s
02:54 pretty much even for the smallest supports. I’m guessing.
02:57 Yeah, absolutely. He said that
02:58 happened with. Yeah, your strut based systems, so suppose it’s I
03:02 think it’s inevitable with modular systems that it’s going
03:05 to go from. You know not everything is going to be
03:09 replaced with modular. We know that there’s always going to be,
03:12 especially for primary structures and things, but
03:15 certainly you know smaller your pipe supports you know,
03:17 especially if you’ve got 1000 and they’re all the same for
03:21 example, or even all different. But I agree with you, I think
03:24 we’re talking about mechanical services and electrical
03:26 containment. I think these days, there’s an off the shelf solution
03:30 is going to play a part in the evolution of steel work anyway,
03:34 but BIM plays a massive part in
03:36 it as well. There’s a lot more detailing going on in design
03:40 work predesign tender stage. There’s a lot more requirement
03:43 these days for does it work? How does it work? Does it deflect?
03:48 Who’s going to be responsible for doing stress calculations and things
03:51 like that? And these become far more important than
03:55 ultimately become the responsibility of the contractor.
03:57 Usually there is a cost or higher cost for structural
04:01 engineers and things like that. There’s always going to be a
04:04 need for structural engineers, but if it can be demonstrated
04:08 with a proprietary or modular
04:09 system. Then why not consult the specialists,
04:14 MIDFIX are specialists in off site construction and modular steel work
04:19 and Sikla I believe are at the forefront of this. Also, yeah,
04:24 absolutely. OK, so yeah, let’s just say that we can see it’s
04:29 all about looks at things. People want things quicker,
04:32 safer. That moves on to.
04:34 The second question
04:37 So why is offsite manufacturing becoming the go
04:42 to option for for most construction projects, the
04:45 opposite. We’ve seen a bit of a trend, you know there’s all this
04:51 buzz, the acronym DFMA, all this you know people are talking
04:54 about. This is more and more important, but why do you think
04:57 that you know why is it now the let’s say the go to well? I
05:02 think you’ve got to look at it from the DFMA or design for
05:06 manufacture and Assembly is something that’s been going on
05:09 for almost as long as I’ve been doing this and I’m into my
05:13 17th year. I think it stems from automotive
05:17 average I think. Do you think I’m sure before it’s so that DF
05:21 now think? A typical recess. I think they applied it to.
05:24 Mainly automotive OK. It’s only in the last 10 to 15 years
05:28 It’s now in construction.
05:37 This is something you’ve got look at. The rate of knots. Take
05:41 something like your fast food restaurants and things like
05:44 that. They’ve been off site for years. They don’t build any of
05:48 these quick yellow Ms on site.
05:50 It is exactly they build it all off site. They bought it
05:53 together and then just do the finishing and snagging on site at
05:57 the same way is going with construction projects even when
06:00 you look at the way that civils is done. If it can be cast off
06:05 site and delivered in a modular fashion, the central
06:07 reservations on the new Smart Motorways. As an example, the
06:10 majority of those are built off site and installed, although I
06:14 do see machines from time to time pouring concrete but
06:17 ultimately the biggest benefit with offsite manufacture is.
06:20 The cost saving on site and you’re taking away that
06:24 responsibility in health and
06:26 safety issue. Offsite manufacturing is the future
06:30 we’ve been doing this quite a long time. Anyway, I think my
06:34 First off site project with modules in particular was
06:38 probably as far back as 2007 and that was the first like fan coil
06:43 unit module and stuff like that. And then we look at the modules
06:48 that we’re doing now. We’re doing large plant skids were
06:52 doing multi service modules, mechanical modules, and we’re
06:55 doing full arrays of supports for large farmer and energy from
06:59 waste projects. There is a reason why we’re having the degree of success with off-site
07:07 and that’s because the design process demands that.
07:11 There is a need for
07:13 Full design compliance.
07:17 It’s just natural. I think it’s far easier to do that up front,
07:22 isn’t it? rather than reto fit it after on site. Of course
07:26 You know you’ve got a reduction of Health and safety
07:29 issues. You’ve got reduced labor and rates. We’ve got a reduced
07:33 number of deliveries you’ve got on time, deliveries. We’ve got,
07:37 sustainability, we’ve got carbon
07:38 footprint. Exactly, the biggest problem that I see as well is
07:43 that when you get booms in the construction industry, there
07:47 becomes a limited number of skilled workers, now obviously
07:52 welding in particular, is a very highly skilled profession and
07:57 if you can do it with a semi-skilled labor then why not? If
08:03 With a welder for
08:05 example.
08:09 You get diferent quality welders you know you get better welders
08:13 than others I supposed.
08:15 Is a good thing about the module system. It doesn’t matter who
08:18 built it, and as long as they follow the drawing and then
08:22 we’re going to get the same result. Well, you’ve got
08:25 compliance and even things as far EN1090 and CE compliance
08:28 and things like that. You know it makes it more viable.
08:31 technically, I think I suppose the biggest problem with offsite
08:34 manufacturing is to make it beneficial for anyone that you
08:37 know you’ve got to be engaged early enough in the project to
08:41 get it detailed and planned. I think from my perspective I see
08:45 still see a lot of last minute decisions
08:49 For example, I see a lot of
08:54 Takeoffs generated with strut based Systems rather than steel
08:57 based systems, and then you get into this commercial discussion.
09:00 Why is a proprietary steel framing system more expensive?
09:11 what we have to do really is educate. You know there is a
09:16 better way of doing it. There is a more efficient way of doing
09:20 it, whether or not the
09:22 contractor knows that. That is available. You know that is available, that is
09:26 the job of MIDFIX and Sikla to put it out there. this is what we
09:31 do. No, actually I said off site for us said.
09:35 We are very much if we can engineer as much as we come
09:38 before it so much it’s far easier because if we just send
09:42 loose material to site is normally an issue and there’s
09:44 something we have to go back
09:46 and. That cut it to the wrong length. You know when it’s
09:50 definitely, it was far more control, isn’t it? Yeah, of
09:52 course, yeah. OK, right? So we kind of touch on it then really
09:57 so I think in the industry there is a bit of a.
10:01 A bit of a preconception of
10:04 modular steel. Particularly that
10:07 it’s expensive and you know, let’s look at it. You can look
10:10 at that system. It looks more expensive than a piece of angle
10:14 iron ore and I-beam. You know it looks like it’s engineered, so
10:18 yes, it is going to be more expensive,
10:21 How can we put it across that? You know, it’s not just
10:25 the product is at the end of the day, it’s not, and I think
10:28 you’ve got to break it down Jake and the simple way of
10:31 looking at it is that if you are a buyer and you look at, let’s
10:35 take a 100mm box section for
10:36 example. So the first thing that we’re going to look at is the
10:44 the Mail delivered to your door.
10:47 Yes, cheaper far far cheaper.
10:50 And then you’ve got the cost of.
10:52 The welding, the jigging it and the material handling of it
10:57 you bearing in mind proprietary systems like see from OR.
11:01 Lightweight you know the 50% lighter in some cases so.
11:06 raw material. We’ve got the jigging we’ve got the welding
11:20 gotta finish it now. Where is it being installed? Is it in? Is it
11:24 in a riser is in a plant room? Is it outdoors? If it’s
11:28 outdoors, there’s a high likelihood that it needs to be
11:30 hot dip galvanized, so then you’ve got the transit from
11:33 where it’s fabricated to the galvanizer and back, then you’ve
11:36 got. The cost of broaching tools and Mac drills and and all these
11:40 things, and when you think about the time and effort that it
11:45 would cost to calculate this beying matrix
11:46 If you Add all of that, you add it all up. Then
11:51 it’s either going to be equal to or greater than something that
11:54 can be done. Now we know you and I that a length of section with
11:59 holes already in it that can be connected with. You know, nuts,
12:03 bolts and washers. Is far more
12:05 efficient. It can be done very,
12:08 very quickly. And the biggest benefit that we’re off again
12:11 here is there’s no hot works. You know we’re doing this with
12:15 semi skilled labor. You know it doesn’t take a great deal of
12:19 knowledge and science to be able to build these cumbersome
12:22 complex frames. The same skill set that someone assembly new strut
12:26 based product would need. Yeah yeah yeah now. But I
12:30 think that is definitely.
12:31 That’s the only preconception I think. I don’t think there’s a
12:34 doubt that people say it doesn’t work, but I think it’s more the
12:38 cost and I well I always says
12:40 I think. Yes, if you’re
12:42 building. One little frame. OK, probably wouldn’t build out of
12:46 modular steel. Probably have something found that because
12:48 when you always if you’ve got a whole project and they’re all
12:52 different size frames, there’s no way I don’t think especially
12:54 so. Basically, I think the more modular still using a job then
12:58 more cost saving. You get just so I mean so if you have if you
13:02 save more over 1000 rockets than 10 brackets, but you’re going to
13:05 see this and This is why. This is why it’s important not only
13:09 for earlier engagement, but if you look at the big jobs we’re
13:12 talking big modules, riser carcasses we’re talking
13:15 energy projects, farmer projects.
13:16 And you look at these large projects that have a high volume
13:20 of steel, right? There’s 20 tonnes of steel involved in this job.
13:24 For pipe supports, yeah great. We know we got a kilo rate. It
13:28 can be proprietary systems can be calculated in the same way.
13:32 So Yeah Alright so it’s £4.00 to kilogram for galvanized steel
13:35 frames. Yeah maybe a little bit more expensive but we have to
13:39 remember that proprietary systems are having a half the
13:42 weight of traditional steel sections. So even if we double
13:45 the cost per kilogram it doesn’t matter. Doesn’t matter ’cause
13:49 you half the weight. So when you look at it that way rather than
13:53 looking at it. This is an end bracket. This is a piece of
13:56 section. This is a screw. This is an end plate. If you think of
14:00 it like a strut based system.
14:03 Which you can compare it to the philosophy of it. Yes, what you
14:08 need to do is break it down into. Actually this frame looks
14:13 like this. It weighs this and it costs this because when you
14:18 compare them in the same format cost per kilogram, it will never
14:23 be more expensive ever. And we’ve got case studies to
14:27 demonstrate that. Obviously from our history together we know
14:30 that and that’s something that we’ve pitched very, very
14:34 effectively. The other thing is, well, you know with the system
14:37 you know it’s always going to be perceived to be expensive.
14:41 Because of the way that it looks, yeah, I was going to say.
14:45 People will see as a will compare it to strut because
14:48 they’re looking. Or you can Bolt it together. Let’s compare
14:51 notes. They should actually. So that’s the preconception. But
14:54 they actually it’s replacing welded states, whereas strut
14:56 system won’t work. And everything I’ve gotta go to get
14:59 it fabricated or hey, look at, but it’s a lot shinier off the
14:54 they actually it’s replacing welded states, whereas strut
14:56 system won’t work. And everything I’ve gotta go to get
14:59 it fabricated or hey, look at, but it’s a lot shinier off the
15:03 shelf. Fresh out the galvanizing, you know it looks
15:06 it boxfresh. It looks brand new and you know, yeah, brand-new.
15:10 Does come at a cost? You know, it looks great, and it’s
15:14 engineered. It’s already pre engineered, of course. And
15:17 again, when you’re talking about pre engineered configurations
15:20 and frames to be able to say that I’ve got a goal post frame
15:25 of these dimensions and it’ll do XYZ load and you haven’t got a
15:30 consult. Structural engineers and stuff like that. And these
15:33 are often perceived to be
15:35 expensive. But you’re missing out on certain things you don’t
15:38 have to consult structural engineers. Is there some paper
15:41 in black-and-white? Yeah, I’m sure you could, but you could
15:45 probably buy the components of a Bentley car individually
15:48 cheaper, but you ain’t going to build into some kind of
15:52 concept. You’re basically there. there is that, I don’t have the time to
15:57 build a Bentley, one day mate. That’s next steps. Small steps.
16:00 OK, moving on then.
16:03 So what are the Key advantages of modular Steel work? So we’ve touched on the
16:07 benefits of off site, but I now suppose it kind of is a bit of
16:13 blends in in this area space, but what are the main advantages
16:17 of modular steel themselves? There’s no, there’s no single
16:20 answer. Jake and it’s, you know, there’s quite a long list,
16:24 starting with the fact that it’s off the shelf.
16:28 We need to build a frame. I need that frame built tomorrow.
16:33 Yeah, getting a welder to jig it or make it, to Weld it, to finish
16:37 it can’t be done. You know what? That’s a good point. ’cause
16:41 quite often when we are speaking with contractors design stages,
16:44 they always say, you know I’m worried that the design is slipping
16:47 and we’re going to get this made him like that’s the easy bit
16:50 because what they’re thinking is it with traditional methods.
16:53 Safe design takes 3 set. They’ve got six week program.
16:56 Still we could take five weeks with design and
17:00 still meet their six week, yeah?
17:02 Traditionally, if that design goes out, that’s when they start
17:05 to worry. Nothing. That’s when it’s perception. So don’t worry
17:08 bout we can. We can build that in a day. I mean the frame we
17:12 doing right now. I think we’ve
17:14 literally built. 20 metres riser in a day, it’s that quick. You know it’s that quick.
17:19 And I think that this is something that you can’t be
17:22 taken for granted, you know the fact that we’ve got something
17:25 here that’s off the shelf. You can come to MIDFIX you come
17:29 Sikla and you can have what you need to build a frame very,
17:33 very quickly. You know, from instigation of have you got it.
17:36 Of course we’ve got it. We got about 180 tonnes sitting there
17:40 in a warehouse, ready to be called off. And a very, very high
17:44 number of the end supports that connect all together. You know
17:47 it’s a compact range, you only
17:49 need feet. Angles and section, and most importantly the screw.
17:52 The other thing that you have got to bear in mind as well as there’s
17:55 absolutely no hot works really needed. There are options for
17:58 heat works. Don’t get me wrong, we can integrate it into plant
18:02 room skid. So if you’ve got a welded base and you want to
18:05 build everything above that base as a proprietary system then
18:08 that works. Same with risers, the riser modules. These days
18:11 they’re large structures. You know you’re talking 15 metre in
18:14 height and some of these mega rises or you don’t build the
18:18 whole thing out of the
18:19 proprietary system. We build it out of a system or a steel
18:23 profile that works and you integrate the smaller parts
18:26 within it. Again, the Assembly can be done with semi skilled
18:30 labor. We’ve got a reduction in weight, up to 50%.
18:34 One of the things that we do seem to see now if you go to
18:38 visit a customer. In the city, as an example, they might ask
18:42 you how far you’ve come and how did you get here. You know
18:46 carbon is becoming really important, so obviously because
18:49 of the weight. The fact that it’s in stock in the UK we are reducing
18:52 carbon where reducing the time that’s needed and supposedly
18:55 cases rather than if it’s not going to be entirely built off
18:59 site with modular rather than shipping fresh air around the
19:09 then just finish off the rest of it on site. But we see this in
19:13 MIDFIX in particular had a great success with AHUs and chiller
19:17 support frames. With flat packing it, made to measure.
19:20 It’s really, really simple. We can connect. We haven’t touched
19:23 on the fact that you can connect to almost any surface. We’ve got
19:29 concrete. We’ve got steel. We’ve got non-penetrative roof
19:32 supports, you know, and everything is finished outdoors
19:35 anyway. It’s already hot dip galvanized to C4, it’s corrosion
19:39 resistant. Next one, if there is a potential client that you know
19:43 they didn’t. For example, they didn’t want bolted and they
19:46 wanted to know it’s gotta be to the primary structure. They only
19:49 went welded. What can we do there?
19:53 We’ve got loads of means of integrating much. Like I said,
19:56 You know, you can use.
19:58 The proprietor systems get involved with welding
20:02 adapters. Welding connectors, MIDFIX are able to develop and
20:05 have developed their own custom connections to the section. You
20:09 know, we’ve seen this with Qmexx and that’s something that we
20:13 haven’t really touched on as that is a good thing about it.
20:17 You can. You can add interfaces, you can add adapters to the
20:21 system. With it from a system, she’s the elongated hole in it.
20:24 you can
20:27 create interfaces. I suppose your thing as well, but a
20:30 modular system. All the components are individually
20:33 tested. We’ve got component data. You know what you’re
20:36 working with exactly. You could
20:38 get in. Where’s that steel from you see what I mean? You’ve got
20:42 you’ve got a Peace of Mind with
20:44 a modular system. Everything’s 10:90.That’s a fancy marked as well.
20:50 In terms of the
20:54 standard. Their factory production control to execution
20:57 cluster as well. So in theory you know you’re making a support
21:02 from a proprietary system that meets all the accreditations and
21:07 compliance.
21:08 Our supply chain works perfectly in that way.
21:13 That’s good. OK, so another question we haven’t. I
21:16 suppose it’s another preconception really are.
21:20 What generally in the industry, especially for the large
21:23 applications and especially your bigger pipework, high pressure
21:26 pipe work steam work? The reason welded systems are
21:31 Always needed is because they know they got a solid connection
21:35 with hot pipework. You’ve got a lot of forces, you can’t
21:38 necessarily just have a through Bolt, nut and washer. In most
21:42 cases that won’t work. So obviously we know with the
21:45 framo system we’ve got the self
21:47 forming Screw, But. Why is that so? Why is that so important?
21:52 You know, the connection itself because we know there are other
21:56 modular systems, but I suppose it is the connection. Would you
21:59 say is the most important part? the beauty of sikla’s
22:03 proprietary steel system is the screw. It
22:08 is that simple. The system is
22:10 great. But the reason it works
22:13 so well, Is the screw and there are many benefits with the
22:17 screw, number one. Let’s have a little bit of history about the
22:20 screw, where it comes from and if you look at the technology
22:24 that holds gearboxes and engines in cars, it’s this technology.
22:26 It’s a self forming Bolt. If you look at our
22:30 section as it stands there are no there are perforations, but
22:33 there’s no threads so it forms its own thread is totally
22:36 airtight, it is totally shakeproof. Suppose the proof is no-one’s
22:39 Gearboxes has fallen out whilst they’re driving along. There’s not
22:42 much driving anymore at the
22:44 motorway, but there’s going to be. There’s
22:47 going to be less likelihood that you will crash into someone because their
22:50 gearbox dropped out. The fact because the screws came out, it
22:54 will never happen. And you know, it’s one of these. One of these
22:58 questions, why is the screw so good? It’s a really, really high
23:01 quality, high tensile screw that has come from something like
23:04 Automotive. It’s finish. If you look at the bolts in your
23:09 engines in the car, this matte kind of Grey looking thing. You
23:13 know it’s that.
23:15 You don’t galvanise a bolt like that. Stop the threads clogging
23:20 up and stuff like that self forming technology
23:22 forming technologies. When you look at the connections you were
23:26 talking about, simple, very quick connections. You can
23:28 connect a normal end support on our system for bolts in less
23:32 than 30 seconds with the right tool you know the other thing is
23:36 we gotta look at is when you apply these things we have talk
23:40 settings and things like we can do that automatically now with
23:43 the right power tool. Now nobody wants to be doing systems like
23:47 this up with a normal calibrated torque wrench. You know you got
23:50 first hand experience with this. Use the right tool. You do it
23:54 quickly. And that first demonstration I remember the
23:57 first time that I was shown a text screw going into a piece of
24:01 sheet steel on a power tool demonstration thing. You know,
24:04 it’s great, but it’s the same technology, but you were talking
24:08 about something going into 3mm steel rather than 10mm
24:11 steel. I suppose as well with the with the framo system it’s
24:15 it’s the internal plugs in it. You know we making when we make
24:19 a connection. I’m guessing the internal plug. The reason it
24:22 goes inside the steel as opposed to outside. If you imagine
24:22 goes into a sheet steel in a power tool demo. If you imagine
24:25 clamping around yet, I’m guessing that gives it a lot
24:28 more. It gives it a great rigidity, but one of the things
24:32 that you miss him with that is that if you have a connection on
24:36 the outside of the steel, you’re not able to use the false
24:40 exterior surface of the section.
24:42 The beauty could you look up one side exactly? The beauty of the
24:45 Framo system is that you can use every side of the face
24:49 all the way up, flush.
24:51 So they ended the support. So for example, if you want to
24:55 maximize space for, say, a series of pipe shoes as an example
25:01 be the likelihood, we can use the full surface area to connect the
25:05 supports, and we’ve got the full adjustability on it as well.
25:09 Yeah, OK, so is there a way you know in regards to the
25:12 connections, can it? Can we prove it? Can we prove that you
25:17 know if the contractors comes to us and we do a design you know,
25:21 let’s say it’s a module. OK, so we structurally we’ve checked
25:25 the dead load. It’s pretty simple. We know that the
25:28 expansion forces are fine, but if that’s being lifted up by a
25:32 crane, how do we prove the connections work there? Of course you can,
25:36 you engineer a structure made from proprietary system in
25:39 the same way that you would do with structural steel? The same
25:50 principles. You gotta look at the for example the lift, How do you get it from the
25:55 bed of the truck vertically into the shaft? You know you look at
25:59 horizontal gantry modules or pipe racks on farmer and energy
26:03 projects and things like that. These things are often 6 metres
26:06 long, have heavy pipework in them. You know they’re lifted.
26:10 We’ve even developed lifting points that can be very, very
26:13 easily connected to the frame.
26:15 Exterior on a module.
26:18 These are tried and tested pieces of equipment and they’ve
26:21 become a standard product that we have off the shelf, so we’re
26:24 talking about a riser module.
26:26 You build it offsite. You populate it with your pipework
26:29 or electrical containment. Lifting points go on, it gets
26:32 lifted up to where it needs to go, but the benefit with a
26:36 proprietary system, you can recycle these lifting points.
26:38 You know you don’t have to use a different lifting point
26:41 every time you are set up four or a set of six, and we’ve seen
26:45 this with large plant skids I think the largest we’ve done.
26:48 Plant skids wise, we are talking 12 tonnes without the weight of the
26:51 frame, so that’s a lot.
27:01 That largely covers today, thank you for listening, we are doing a few with key suppliers
27:35 You can find more details on our website www.midfix.co.uk

Need help finding the right product?

Call the sales team on 0115 922 1585 for specialist advice

Talk to an expert

Midfix expert

Talk to an expert