GCC formwork sector 'ripe for disruption' with new technology

Fierce competetion and an imperative for innovation is redefining formwork in the GCC's trillion-dollar construction sector

Formwork companies are operating in an increasingly competitive market [representational image].
© Pixabay / Iwanoff
Formwork companies are operating in an increasingly competitive market [representational image].

Data from construction intelligence platform ProTenders released at the end of 2018 revealed the GCC's infrastructure sector is valued at 1.14tn.

This figure represents 43% of the GCC’s $2.72tn total project value. Saudi Arabia alone, in part thanks to its Vision 2030 economic diversification strategy, leads the GCC’s infrastructure segment. The kingdom has $585.3bn worth of projects across the planning, design, tender, and construction stages.

With such figures in mind, the region’s formwork sector will have a pivotal role to play in ensuring that projects across the spectrum – from infrastructure to urban and oil and gas – are delivered safely and effectively. However, while opportunity seemingly abounds, fierce competition have quickly come to define this critical aspect of the construction market.

“In recent years there has been a greater emphasis on formwork companies to maximise efficiency in their products and systems by ensuring ease-of-use, durability and sustainability,” Wolfgang Berger, head of engineering and product management, Doka Middle East and Africa, tells Construction Week.

“I think for the formwork market in general the primary challenge has been to remain competitive in terms of products while closely aligning support services with the goals of the client,” Berger adds.

Khaled Amin, executive manager of Acrow UAE believes the formwork sector in the GCC is “fast becoming a saturated formwork market”. Firms are, in his view, focusing on the reusability of products, while cutting their overheads so “they can price-win projects".

“The sales focus has changed from quality and speed to reusability and long-term returns on investment,” he adds.

“That seems to be where market requirements have migrated over the last couple of years.”

However, shifting market requirements and costs pressures invite innovation, and technological advancements are disrupting an industry that Berger says, has been “ripe for disruption for many years".

“Up until about two or three years ago, much of the industry had remained stagnant, but now there is movement towards seeking new ways to improve, fine-tune, and update almost all aspects of the sector,” the Doka professional explains.

“As an industry with fine margins, utilising technology to create greater efficiencies has become a key ingredient in the region – not only to make the pace of construction faster, but also to provide greater protection for those on site."

The need for construction companies to evolve in order to meet changing market conditions and win new contracts has translated into similar action in the GCC’s formwork industry. While it may not be seen as the most glamourous industry, with high-profile stakeholders and projects taking up much of the limelight, the formwork sector will continue to play an essential role in furthering the development of the GCC’s built environment.

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