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Ground shoring: Skilling up for growth

RMD Kwikform’s ground shoring business may have only launched 18 months ago but the team behind the name already has more than 200 years of experience to bring to bear

Most new entrants to the ground shoring market in the last decade – and more – have taken existing products and operated a rental business with them before moving into developing bespoke systems. RMD Kwikform (RMDK) has taken a different approach to the sector, which may have led to a longer launch period, but one the business believes will deliver significant benefits for its customers.

“RMDK is very well established in the above ground market but there is an ambition to grow turnover by 100% in the next five years,” says RMDK commercial director John Breen. “The company is looking to grow its existing above ground business, as well as move into new areas and the obvious next step was to establish a similar business serving the below ground market.”

Breen, who previously worked for RMDK in the 1990s, was recruited from MGF to help set up and lead the new business. He has worked closely with engineering director Ian Fryer to review how other players in the market work and aimed to develop a strategy that doesn’t just match what others did, but goes beyond that.

Team building

GS Team

RMDK’s ground shoring team has amassed more than 200 years of experience in the sector between them

It was in January 2015 that RMDK announced its plans to move into the ground shoring market and Breen and Fryer have spent the time since building the team and the products to meet the challenges the business set for itself.

According to Breen, building the skills side of the new division was about ensuring there were experienced staff both on the sales and engineering sides of the business.

Supporting Fryer and heading up the ground shoring engineering team is principal engineer Simon Wilkinson who was previously engineering manager for Mabey Hire and joined RMDK with 17 years of sector experience. Wilkinson, who undertook his PhD on finite element analysis of thin-walled cold steel structures, has been heavily involved in the research and development of RMDK’s new product range.

The engineering team also includes engineering manager for the Midlands and southern England Steven Dewse, northern England engineering manager Lesley Dean, Scotland engineering team leader Craig Reid and temporary works designer Steve Downs.

Supporting the commercial operation headed up by Breen is business development manager Chris Alldred who has played a pivotal role is developing the supply chain to manufacture the new products and pricing for the new venture. The other members of the sales team include sales manager Mark O’Grady, technical sales representatives Michael Leach and Ian Murdoch and sales representatives Ian Tattersall and Alan Best.

The curriculum vitae of the team reads like a who’s who of the ground shoring business with experience drawn from across the UK market and, between them, they have amassed 204 years of experience in the ground shoring industry. “The experience of the team is evident when you look at the quality of the products we have worked together to develop,” adds Breen.

Proven products

Breen and Fryer are still working to establish the name of RMDK as a leader below ground in the same way it is accepted for above ground formwork with a heritage that stretches back over almost 70 years. Nonetheless, Fryer says that he has yet to hear any negative feedback from contractors who have already put the new products through their paces on site.

“We’ve aimed to incorporate new features wherever possible and to take advantage in the latest modern manufacturing techniques to build the products,” he explains. “Use of higher yield materials means that we can reduce weight or add strength compared to other ground shoring products currently available.”

IMG 0659

RMDK has taken time to develop bespoke products rather than offering standard solutions

As an example, Fryer points to RMDK’s ‘backhoe’ trench box that is stronger and has a higher capacity than some of the ‘standard’ trench boxes available on the market. “There is a trend towards lighter construction equipment in the drive for fuel economy and ground shoring equipment needs to change with this trend,” he explains.

The new product developments have also undergone rigorous analysis by RMDK’s academic and industrial partners that Breen believes is more detailed than ever previously undertaken.

According to Fryer, all the products developed are Eurocode compliant. “It was challenging to meet the codes and remain within cost constraints to create an affordable product,” he says. “It is not mandatory for ground shoring products to be Eurocode compliant yet but there is growing pressure from publicly-funded clients to meet such standards.

“We have spent time developing these products to ensure that they don’t just fit the standards but also fit RMDK’s approach to business”

Ian Fryer, engineering director, RMDK

“We have spent time developing these products to ensure that they don’t just fit the standards but also fit RMDK’s approach to business. We have been calculated about what we offer rather than rushing into the market as these are products that we will have in our fleet for the next 20 to 30 years.”

The company is already supplying equipment nationally and has also received a number of international enquiries. RMDK operates globally and Breen expects the ground shoring business to grow in the UK and internationally at the same time with the ground shoring business using the company’s existing network for formwork to build the business.

In anticipation of UK growth, the company is already expanding its depots in Manchester and London to ensure it has sufficient capacity.

While the team is pleased with the products already developed, there remain gaps in the range that it will now start to focus on filling. According to Fryer, the main gaps are in the medium to heavy capacity product ranges and Breen says that the business will bring new products to the market which he believes are “game-changers”.

RMDK’s high capacity prop range will be launched this summer and, although Breen and Fryer would not be drawn on the specifics, they claim that they offer unique selling points over the current offerings in the market. Also new this summer will be a 254 tank brace with a full moment capacity joint.

“We have looked at the problems engineers face on larger excavations and identified innovative ways to address these old issues while looking ahead to the new challenges planned infrastructure investment presents for the market,” says Breen.

Valued investment

Breen, Fryer and the team are clearly proud of the results of the last 18 months of work but so is RMDK’s parent company, Interserve, which announced in February that it was conducting a strategic review of the RMDK business. At that point the ground shoring operation had only been running for just over a year, yet the new venture already presents huge growth potential.

The strategic review, which could result in a sell off of the RMDK business, does not appear to be a distraction for the ground shoring team with plans for further product launches in the pipeline and further expansion of the engineering team with the aim to add multiple graduates and apprentices to the staff this summer.

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