The term ‘responsible sourcing’ has rapidly become a widely discussed issue within the construction industry, and even when it comes to sourcing tube, fittings and system in the scaffolding sector. Having confidence in the supply chain is a critical component to ensure performance and quality, as Adrian JG Marsh reports.
Specialist contractors are increasingly more aware of sourcing and origins of their building products, and while market pressures call for competitive pricing, clients are specifying rigid quality standards within their procurement policies.
Access and scaffolding products demand the highest integrity. Having trust in component quality gives contractors the confidence to use those components that they know are fully tested and manufactured to a safe standard.
Mark Burgess at Springfield Properties said: “With millions of individual components in use across the sector, it is critical that steps have been taken to ensure that tube, fittings or system are fit for purpose.
“Companies spend many thousands of pounds on auditing and testing to demonstrate that what they are manufacturing and erecting meets the standards required. A substandard component, or a poorly fitted one, can lead to catastrophic results.”
Demonstrating that suppliers’ products have been manufactured to the correct standard demands rigid quality control procedures and constant checking and verification.
Jeff Wood, the quality manager at VR Access Solutions, is responsible for monitoring production standards for the company’s Turnlok brand. He said: “Every month, we take delivery of thousands of system components from our production plant in China. It’s essential we can prove to our customers that what they are buying meets the appropriate standard.
“We’ve established a rigid quality control procedure that means we can trace every component from when it was manufactured through to who it was sold to. Critical features are inspected and tested on a random selection of products at our UK and Chinese testing facilities.
“During manufacture, we mould into each product the product code, EN standard number it covers and a batch production code. This gives onsite personnel extra assurance that they are using a real product and not a fake.
“We also commission independent test engineers to analyse a selection of products. Each test lists every aspect that is tested and the results are available to our customers if they want to review them.”
Mr Wood went on to explain how products are tested to beyond a safe working load, commenting: “Although the design load for, say, a drop forge double is 9kn, we test it to 15kn, well above the recommended load shown in our user guide.
“If a slip is reported, there’s a fair chance the product has been overloaded. If we do have to investigate, we ask for the product and batch number of each component. The failed product is then inspected and tested independently, which means we can find out if a product was overloaded at installation or during operations.”
Mr Wood feels that traceability and testing are at the centre of what VR Access Solutions does to make sure that its fittings and systems are manufactured to the correct British Standard. As Mr Wood concluded: “We know our product is tested fully and we can demonstrate quality control throughout the whole production process.”
Actavo is one of the largest suppliers of scaffolding equipment into the sector with 27 branches across the UK. It has been using VR’s Turnlok products for more than two years.
Roger Hastie, chief executive of Actavo’s Structural Division in the UK, said: “Quality of products is an absolute top priority to us. When we look at products we stock, we want to know that they are manufactured to the highest standard. Clearly being able to rely on independent test data gives us confidence and is something we can trust and also our customers can trust. Having the necessary guidance for scaffolders and technical support also helps us to speak with confidence about any of the products we use.
“We’ve successfully introduced the Turnlok system to our fleet where it has been well received; it’s a quality product and it’s proved extremely popular. We like the ability to trace any product back to its origin should we need to”
In today’s litigious world, having access to such a high level of traceability and testing enables wholesalers and contractors can provide additional assurance in the quality of the tube, fittings and system they’re using.