Construction sector set to benefit from the arrival of RMD Kwikform

With the construction sector booming and the 2010 world cup getting ever closer, the industry has had a welcome boost, thanks to the opening of a South African division by global formwork and falsework specialist RMD Kwikform. Having previously supported the market through its business development team, RMD Kwikform has heavily invested in new premises, staff and equipment to bring its world leading product range to South Africa.

To find out more about the business, its ambitious plans for the future and how it is setting up its services to tackle some of the key issues in the construction sector, leadership caught up with RMD Kwikform South Africa’s new MD, Theunis Visser, an individual with an impressive background in the construction sector.

Having qualified as an Architectural Technologist, in 1993, Theunis spent seven years working for Henry Snyman Partnership Architects in Klerksdorp on a range of concept and detailed design projects, in addition to managing a project team. He then joined Johannesburg based Formscaff, as a trainee, rising through the ranks to regional manager of Limpopo and Mpumalanga, before becoming RMD Kwikform South Africa, managing director on 1 March 2007, where the greatest challenge of his career is only just beginning.

Theunis: “For the South African construction market these are exciting times, you only have to visit any of our major cities to see the sheer scale of construction work that is prevalent throughout the country. The levels of investment are at an all time high and resources are being poured into the sector.

“However, as with any rapidly maturing market of this kind, there are real issues to be tackled within the construction sector, particularly when it comes to safe working practices, skills and build quality. Only if the industry as a whole addresses these issues, will the country be able to protect its citizens and reap the long-term sustainable benefits of the building boom.

“Having spent more than 16 years working within the South African construction sector, I have witnessed the countries dramatic transition and development, that has changed the skyline of our major cities and seen an extensive development of the infrastructure needed to support the growth in the economy.

“Throughout this time I have also seen how the industry has tackled the challenges it faces and gained an understanding of how to exploit the advances made in modern construction techniques. This is why it was so important for me to be involved in the launch of RMD Kwikform’s new South African division, hand picking a team of 19 professionals that will bring a whole new approach to formwork and falsework in the region.

“Customers that are new to RMD Kwikform will see a welcome change to the service offering they are used to. Unlike other businesses in the sector, our service is based on a combination of engineering expertise, market leading equipment, local knowledge and global experience. What this ultimately means for customers is that they have access to a business that delivers a total formwork and falsework solution, packaged to the individual needs of their project.

“Dealing with a business that is part of RMD Kwikform’s global operations, also means our customers have the benefit of the experience gained by our highly skilled team on the ground and hundreds of colleagues across the world. This is significant as our customers know that our operations in South Africa are not isolated and that they are able to draw on the knowledge gained through RMD Kwikform’s 60 years in formwork and falsework. For example, our colleagues in the Middle East, Spain and the UK are all currently working on projects that use our formwork and falsework systems to construct essential infrastructure projects, from bridges and tunnels used by cars and trains, to support structures for metro links.

These larger structural projects benefit from the use of our Megashor shoring system, which can cope with unrivalled axial loads of up to 1,000kN and our Superslim Soldier steel beam range, both of which combine to create systems capable of withstanding even the harshest of conditions. Our Megashor and Superslim Soldier products are also supported by our specialist GTX structural timber beams, which are designed to integrate with our range of formwork and shoring products. Together this equipment range offers customers a totally new approach to building with concrete, allowing engineers to really explore larger and more complex structures, something which is a total change from the current projects being considered in the country.

“In a similar fashion, for time specific projects like stadium construction, where the looming deadline of 2010 is upon us, RMD Kwikform’s experience of delivering solutions used to build the likes of the Sydney Olympic stadium and numerous other similar venues, is invaluable. I am particularly excited about this area of expertise, as I know developers are facing increasing pressure to deliver for 2010. Thanks to our investment they will now be able to turn to a business that has the skills and knowledge to support the country as it strives to complete essential works on time.

“In addition to stadia, when it comes to developing our cities for the future, it is important to know that you have the support of a business that can turn an architect’s vision of an eye catching landmark development into a reality. It is in these circumstances where RMD Kwikform comes into its own and where product development and innovation plays an important role. Here, having access to RMD Kwikform’s product development team, allows us to continually enhance our product offering, as they are constantly designing new components and product ranges to cope with the challenges of modern architecture.

“Alshor Plus, our innovative aluminium shoring system is one such product that is set to make its mark in South Africa, as it overcomes some of the key safety issues relating to shoring as well as cutting down erection times. Recently used on a large scale to construct the Bahrain World Trade Centre, the Dubai Mall,(the largest shopping mall in the world) and Hamad Medical City in Qatar (the worlds largest hospital), Alshor Plus has already made a significant impact in the global formwork market and is now here in South Africa.

Theunis: “From a purely practical business perspective, it is worth outlining just what RMD Kwikform South Africa can do to help customers in the construction sector. Firstly, we start from a very strong position, having access to innovative, world-class products. Secondly but equally vital is turning these products into solutions and is the reason why we have and will continue to invest so heavily in the professional skills of our team. It is this experience and the knowledge of our engineers that gives us the ability to offer our customers a more involved service, developing solutions that are both relevant to their needs and fulfil their technical specifications.

One key benefit that we address at the very start of every project comes from our ‘safety first’ global process management approach. As a business we value the life of every individual that comes into contact with our products. Our ongoing ‘Don’t Walk By’ campaign is very much the visual aspect of this ‘safety first’ approach, as through the use of our specially designed logo and safety training literature, we promote the philosophy and benefits of taking a proactive approach to safety. By encouraging everyone who sees a health and safety related issue to report it and take action to make safe the potential hazard, we have worked with our customers to reduce work place incidents and in particularly promote safe working at height.

This approach also allows us to focus on the design of our equipment range. By developing products that de-skill the erection process, eliminate hazards and reduce accidents, we are able to practice what we preach and address the serious issue of safety and wellbeing within the South African market.

So by having world-class equipment, highly skilled engineers and the local knowledge needed to understand the challenges of the market, we are able to deliver an unrivaled service to our new and existing customers. However without the resources on the ground, this cycle is not complete. This is why we have invested in a new branch network, already opening up facilities in Johannesburg and KwaZulu Natal, with other locations in the pipeline that will give us an impressive coverage.

We are also working closely with customers to offer specialist advice and equipment stocking services, including site specific yards for larger projects. This allows us to have a complete coverage of the region, with a supply chain operation that is linked to a world-wide stock management system, giving us access to equipment on a global scale to service the high levels of demand we expect from our new and existing customers.

Finally when it comes to introducing new equipment and techniques to a market, it is important to provide the relevant training and on-site support you would expect from a global leader. So with this in mind, at our Midrand site we are opening up a state of the art training facility and display centre, which we will use to train staff, customers and the industry at large on erection techniques health and safety issues and best practice. We will also provide on-site support and training to make sure that all of our customers benefit from our cost saving, safety focused solutions.

In keeping with the drive to employ more women in construction, an issue that is raised in this edition of Leadership, we are also playing a key role in promoting women in the industry within our own business, investing in the skills of women and promoting the opportunities for women in the formwork sector as a whole.
In conclusion, these are exciting times for the construction industry, particularly in the formwork and falsework sector, as proven solutions that are used to cut costs and deliver high build quality across the globe, are now available in South Africa and set to challenge the status quo.