Keller’s monitoring business Getec was conceived to deliver its Crossrail work, but as the new rail link gets set to open, the division has broader horizons.
Ground engineering work on Crossrail was the saviour of many companies during the financial downturn, but for one instrumentation and monitoring business, it was just the start.
Launched at the height of the recession in 2010, Keller’s UK Getec business was set up to deliver vital services to its compensation grouting work on the new rail route.
Getec is still working on one Crossrail contract but, while the scheme may have fast-tracked its development, it is far from winding down with the project. Only 20% of its work is now for Keller and the business has gained an international reputation for delivering innovative monitoring solutions that it is looking to build on.
The business is now led by general manager Justin Roffey, who has had links to the division since the early days,and has a team of 13 full time staff that are targeting a £3M turnover this year.
“The origins of Getec can be traced back to Germany where Keller started the business in 1990 on the back of a PhD study of hydrostratic levelling cells,” explains Roffey. “Keller was interested in commercialising the concept to support its compensation grouting work and acquired the rights.
“The UK arm of the business came about as the result of Crossrail, where Keller was undertaking compensation grouting work at a number of locations.”
The Crossrail origins of the UK business are why Getec is headquartered in London and is separate from Keller’s own base near Coventry. In addition to working on Keller’s Crossrail contracts, Getec also undertook a monitoring contract valued at £20M for the C300 Western Running Tunnels in joint venture with ITM Monitoring. Roffey describes it as a sizable contract.
“On C300 we provided high precision real time monitoring and software through ITM’s hydrostatic levelling system, which was used as the primary control during grouting and tunnelling works through the highly sensitive areas of Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road and FisherStreet,” he says.
It was through this joint venture that Roffey moved from ITM to join Getec in 2012.
Getec was also closely involved with work on the Moorgate shaft , C310 in Plumstead, and Whitechapel for Crossrail.
Crossrail created a boom at the start of Getec’s UK operation and the company has just completed work at Moorgate but is still involved in contract C300 on the Western Running Tunnels.
As work on Crossrail started to decline, Getec focused on other markets. The business was originally set up to serve Keller but the majority of the work – around 80% – now comes from external clients and Roffey is focused on growing that further still.
This external focus has also involved working overseas, particularly in North America where Keller bought out US-based Geo Instruments in 2017. This is now part of Keller’s Hayward Baker business.
Paul Thurlow, who headed up Getec when it started in the UK, moved to take up the role of vice president at Geo Instruments last year and Roffey became general manager’s post at Getec.
“The move into North America started with the development of software,” says Roffey. “Initially we used a German developed package called GTC, which was ideal for long infrastructure schemes, such as Crossrail, but smaller schemes needed a more bespoke approach.
“Getec took on its own software developer, and Quickview was launched in 2013. Having the in-house resources means that we can change it and tailor it to suit each client.”
Roffey believes that one of Getec’s strengths is its links with a number of manufacturers in the instrumentation business. This allows it to mix and match the best solutions and be a true one stop shop for its clients. “We can install, maintain and report,” he says.
One of the business’ most recent projects was on Southbank Place where Getec was working with Canary Wharf Contractors, Expanded Geotechnical and Arup
“We carried out monitoring of the London Underground tunnels for the Bakerloo and Northern lines, using wireless tilt monitors, prisms and tape extensometers for the relative position and shape of the tunnels and environmental monitoring on site,” says Roffey.
“There were real concerns about heave as a result of the demolition work of a concrete block that was – ironically– put in place during the 1960s development of the site to prevent heave on the tunnels at that time.”
The scope of the scheme was large but was also challenging as a result of delays from the planning side of the development.
Nonetheless, Roffey says that was advantageous for the monitoring as it gave good background information, which is missing from many other schemes of its size.
Getec also carried out fibre optic monitoring for the pile testing and reconditioned some extensometers from previous ground investigations, to add more detailed information.
Roffey says that this probably saved around £20,000.
Developing solutions – such as the reuse of equipment at Southbank Place –for clients both large and small is clearly something that Roffey thrives on.
“It is rewarding to develop a solution for a client that fits within their budget,” he says. “We frequently brainstorm ideas when we’re looking at a solution for a new scheme.
“Instrumentation can create a lot of data but timely interpretation is essential to make it meaningful and to ensure that there is a reaction in real time.”
Roffey says that there is always a short lead in on monitoring work, which makes it hard to have visibility on workloads.
“It is always better if we are involved at an early stage, but for many clients the instrumentation and monitoring is a significantly smaller part of the large picture and can be overlooked, meaning that specifications may not always deliver what is needed and cana dd to client risk,” says Roffey.
“The knowledge is lacking in mainstream contractors so they don’t always know what to ask for,” he adds.
“On Crossrail, the specification was the same across the whole project, and once it was written, the contractors were able to use that for procurement but smaller schemes don’t have that benefi t.”
Roffey believes that some clients are missing out on innovation and the potential cost savings as a result.
It is clear that he has a passion to change that and, with his remit to expand the influence of Getec worldwide, it is not just UK clients that will benefit from this drive.
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