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Taking a new track

Geobear

With a greater focus on competence and sharing knowledge, Uretek’s change of branding to Geobear marks a step change in the business.

Cost, time and environmental benefits are the key messages behind ground remediation and subsidence specialist Uretek’s new branding as Geobear. However, it is more than just a pretty new logo – the company also has a fresh approach to marketing its capabilities too.

It has established a new management team, headed by former Keller managing director Richard Holmes as Geobear managing director in the UK. He is leading a new focus on competence and transparency.

Through this change of approach, Geobear aims to become a trusted partner to deliver remediation solutions for major infrastructure schemes and has some ambitious growth plans as a result. “Our aim in the UK is to expand at least three-fold over the next five years, and outside UK we are aiming to grow the business five-fold,” says Holmes.

According to Holmes, this growth will come from a step change in the way the company markets itself with a stronger focus on the “extra value offered to our customers and, ultimately, to society”.

Geobear chief executive Otso Lahtinen adds: “Essentially we are capitalising on what we already do well. We understand subsidence problems well, but we have been too internally focused on our products in the past.

“It had become apparent that there are parts of the infrastructure sector, such as major highways, rail lines, ports and airports, that we are not properly accessing right now but that could benefit from our solutions.”

Holmes points to Geobear’s recent win of major contract on the M3 to infill voids around services as an example of the type of work the business is aiming to focus on.

Geobear

Geobear

Geobear is looking to major infrastructure projects to grow its business

“We offered a non-disruptive method that avoided significant excavation in the hard shoulder,” he says. “We were about to drill and inject geopolymer into the void and avoid excavating 170m of the hard shoulder to a depth of up to 4m.

“Our approach was much quicker, taking two weeks – with work taking place in five hour possessions overnight – compared to months with a conventional backfilling method.”

Holmes says that this presented the client with a seven figure saving.

Lahtinen says: “Our focus on competence has changed, and we are placing greater emphasis on ensuring our clients understand what we do.

“We have done similar projects before and we can successfully challenge the conventional approach and now we’re are putting more effort into communicating that.”

According to Lahtinen, the benefits of Geobear’s techniques are far-reaching.

“In the G7 countries, we estimate that use of Geobear’s methods in place of conventional repairs could have a savings potential in billions,” he says. After delivering over 200,000 projects globally in the last 30 years, that message has already gained some evidence.

To add weight to this claim Geobear has reviewed the overall impact of some of its recent projects, to underline the savings potential.

Indirect savings

Holmes says: “We recently undertook some Highways England work through Tarmac to remediate some rocking concrete slabs on the M42.

“The conventional approach would have been to break out the 5m by 5m slabs and repave the area, with one slab worked on each night and days of lane closures to allow the concrete to cure.

“Our alternative approach involved drilling 12mm diameter injection tubes through the slab and injecting expansive geopolymer material to fill the void and relevel the existing slab. Using this technique, we were able to treat up to five slabs a night and traffic could pass over the slabs 15 minutes  after treatment.”

The work was undertaken in winter but the technique is not weather dependent and requires no additional deliveries, requiring vehicles such as concrete wagons, during the work.

“All the equipment is on site in one18t truck,” says Holmes.

“The dig and replace methods would have cost £900,000 but the cost for our work was £260,000. However, when youadd in the indirect costs to society –such as time and traffic delays – thebenefit is even greater.“

The UK government has estimated that the cost to the economy from delays on our roads is £3bn with 75% of that figure coming from planned roadworks. With that in mind, the indirect cost savings from our approach on the M42 was £3.3M.

”The benefits are not just limited to roads, and Holmes has a similar case study that demonstrates the benefits for the rail sector.

“We undertook track slab levelling on the Midland Main Line in Kentish Town, north London recently, which also shows the savings for society,” he says. “The rail line is in a deep cutting with retaining walls either side but 280m of the track bed was rocking and pumping water as trains pass, so there was a speed limit in place. Jet grouting using self-drilled hollow bars was considered, but would have called for 16 weekend-long blockades on the line, whereas our approach was completed over several four hour overnight possessions during the week.”

Geobear says its work cost £230,000 and it believes that the indirect cost savings were in the region of millions of pounds per saved blockade.

Presenting such businesses cases to clients is part of the new strategy.Lahtinen says: “The traditional approach does the job, but our alternative also has possibilities.”

Geobear admits that its solutions are not a panacea for all ground engineering issues.

“There are limitations to what we cando and we wouldn’t offer our solutionsfor high loaded structures, for example.In such situations, piling is still the right approach,” says Holmes.

“It also does not work in extremely weak organic soils or for bulk infill schemes,” he adds.

Geobear can treat at depths of up to 30m but the bulk of its work is in shallow soils, usually to 10m below ground.

Holmes says that the technique can be used to treat stiff clays with a plasticity index of more than 40%.“We estimate that Geobear’s approach could, with a conservative estimate, benefit up to 60 road schemes and five rail projects each year, representing multi-million poundsavings,” says Lahtinen.

Business challenges

Lahtinen says the UK market requires a well-planned approach to penetrate, particularly when introducing new solutions to professional customers. “The customers need to be understood and business managed according their requirements,” he adds.

Targeting larger transport sector contracts means that Geobear is now more open about how its technique works, and Lahtinen admits this has also been a barrier for the business in the UK in the past.

“The polymers are pumped from a mobile unit and mixed at the end of the injection gun where an exothermic reaction starts,” he explains.

“We have 27 different types of polymer and have a clear understanding of the reaction times of each and the best for different ground conditions.“

”We can numerically predict the behaviour.”

To strengthen this new approach to the UK market, Geobear has made other key appointments to support Holmes. These include Kevin Doyle as infrastructure manager for ports and  rail, Barry Routledge focusing on utilities and power, Alex Finch as residential commercial director and Darren Scott on highways in the North. Other appointments are planned soon.

According to Lahtinen, Holmes’ appointment and other new recruits to the UK business add credibility to this alternative approach.While the new management team and change of approach are the main focus of the rebranding process, Geobear is also working on bringing new solutions to the market. Lahtinen says that there are other patented approaches under development and he hopes these innovations will be available soon.

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