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Formwork R&D can support competition-hit contractors

Market pressures have impacted the formwork sector, but tighter margins and an imperative for safety are driving innovation

Jack Ball is senior reporter of Construction Week.
© ITP Media Group / Efraim Evidor
Jack Ball is senior reporter of Construction Week.

As a segment that runs through the core of the global construction market, the formwork sector reflects the dynamics that can be found in the Middle East’s built environment.

The region's formwork professionals have had a hand in a host of projects, from residential villas to bridges and malls – yet, their work is largely hidden from view.

As is the case throughout the Gulf’s construction sector, competition for work is increasing, while smaller margins are pushing formwork suppliers to offer more innovative products and services in light of the rigorous scrutiny of all costs borne by contractors and sub-contractors.

While it may not be the most high-profile sector, many formwork specialists have been quick to embrace cutting-edge techniques such as 3D digital modelling, which promises to deliver more intricate and accurate formwork designs.

Success in the formwork sector will be defined by an ability to adapt to an environment of ever-tightening margins and a continuous shift towards innovation.

RMD Kwikform, for instance, is focused on investing in new digital software such as Locus Eye. This 3D modelling and computer-aided design (Cad) software can transform Cad drawings into 3D visuals, so that RMD Kwikform's clients can visualise what the engineering design will look like on site.

Such advances in technology have the power to add value to the entire supply chain, offering an opportunity for on-site workers to define a project's specific requirements in detail, thereby saving time and money.

With growing pressure on cost and productivity playing a key role in shaping the development of the formwork sector, a flexible approach to smaller margins and tighter deadlines is also critical.

In addition, as SGB by BrandSafway points out, customers are within their rights to change their minds when it comes to a project's specifications, so with some projects having to undergo total redesigns at the request of clients, commercial and technical flexibility are also crucial considerations.

Safety, however, will always be a top priority for the global formwork sector and, given its appetite for high-rise buildings, the GCC has some particular formwork requirements. RMD Kwikform’s latest iteration of its Ascent safety screen systems, the Ascent 200, is designed to provide protection for both workers and the public when high-rise construction projects are being carried out. With the product expected to be launched in the GCC in January 2020, RMD Kwikform has already incorporated the Ascent system into several projects globally.

With its pivotal role in the construction industry guaranteed, success in the formwork sector will be defined by an ability to adapt to an environment of ever-tightening margins and a continuous shift towards increasingly innovative technologies.

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Construction Week - Issue 751
Oct 13, 2019