RMD Kwikform is drawing on nearly 70 years of engineering expertise and product innovation to enter the ground shoring market in January 2015.
RMD Kwikform was founded in 1948 and has grown to become the UK’s most successful formwork, falsework and shoring supplier. Following international expansion, it now has annual global revenues of more than £170M.
In January 2015, the company will make its first foray into the geotechnical sector, with the launch of a completely new range of ground shoring systems.
“These are very exciting times,” says John Breen, RMD Kwikform commercial director, who is heading up the company’s ground shoring activity. “RMD Kwikform is a globally-recognised brand and no one is better placed to deliver innovation into the sector.”
“Many of our above-ground shoring customers have said they would welcome our entry into the market”
Mike Follett, RMD Kwikform
Shoring business growth
RMD Kwikform managing director Mike Follett explains that the traditional shoring business has grown over the past six years, despite the recession, with a strategy of international expansion.
“This strategy has been very successful [the company now has operations in 25 countries] and is continuing, but we felt we also needed to broaden our revenue streams.
“Below-ground shoring was the logical market to choose. More than 1,000 businesses use our traditional shoring products on about 2,000 projects each year in the UK and many of our customers also need below-ground shoring solutions.
“We considered going down the acquisition route about four years ago but realised we would be buying into 30-year-old technology that would not give us a competitive edge. Contractors are telling us that they want a new approach to improve health and safety, plus they are looking for innovative products that would increase productivity. It was clear we needed to develop our own systems.”
Along with about 70 years’ experience in shoring and formwork, an established branch network and one of the largest temporary works engineering teams in the UK, RMD Kwikform is part of FTSE 250 company Interserve, which meant money was available to develop new products and build a specialist team.
“Many companies have tried to enter the ground shoring market over the years, but they have not had the combination of technical expertise and capital investment available,” Breen confirms.
Plans stepped up about a year ago, with the recruitment of Breen, who returned to RMD Kwikform after 17 years with ground shoring supplier MGF. The ground shoring team he leads is an integral part of the RMD Kwikform business and includes temporary works designers based at the company’s headquarters in Aldridge in the West Midlands and sales engineers across the UK.
“Our aim was to take the best aspects of the ground shoring industry and, at the same time, address common issues customers faced,” Breen says. “We were lucky to be able to start from a blank sheet of paper, which allowed us to listen to what contractors wanted.
“They demand detailed risk assessments, excellent health and safety, high levels of service and of course, improved productivity. Over the last year or so, we have worked with customers to ensure we develop ‘best in class’ products and systems that meet their aims and ultimately help them deliver profitable projects.
“A key aspect of our product development is to embrace new materials and manufacturing techniques. All of our developments have the end user in mind. For example, having trench boxes made out of high grade steel allows the position of the bottom struts to be raised, giving greater clearance. Considerations and details such as this will provide our product range with a competitive edge.
“The synergy between above and below-ground shoring should also help us deliver better products and systems across the entire business. For example, we are looking at developing systems that can be used for both vertical [above-ground] shoring and horizontal [below-ground] shoring applications.”
Breen adds: “We are developing a complete range of ground shoring products for any situation. Our solutions for lighter applications will be available in January and we expect to introduce systems for larger excavations in the second half of the year.”
RMD Kwikform will also supply trench sheets and sheet piles. All products and systems will have CE marking and meet the latest Eurocodes, Breen says.
The company is also investing heavily in IT to develop new ways of working – using virtual reality headsets and augmented reality, for example. “This is opening up the way we work with our customers to plan, specify and develop safe methods of work, before we get to site,” Follett says. “We like to think of it as ‘BIM Plus’.”
Initially, the launch of the ground shoring range will be restricted to the UK but the rest of the world will follow on “quite rapidly” Follett says. “A number of our overseas businesses have already expressed interest in introducing ground shoring products and we envisage that this will happen sooner, rather than later.”
Key to success will be to deliver not just products but a complete service, Breen believes. “That means delivering engineering solutions on time, involving customers early on the temporary works design process and continuing to develop lighter and stronger equipment, with fewer components, that can be installed quickly and safely.”
The ultimate aim is to be the market leader in ground shoring systems in three to five years, Follett says. “Many of our above-ground shoring customers have said they would welcome our entry into the market. This is a fantastic opportunity for us, with knock-on benefits for the rest of RMD Kwikform and the potential to double the size of the UK business in the next five years.”