Since the 1970s, Nepean Building & Infrastructure has offered a comprehensive range of galvanised grating systems through its WELDLOK brand. It has supplied the Australian industry with civil grating and drainage products, covering all classes of products from A to D and above, for everything from major arterial, regional and council roads to earthmover yards and airport aprons.
At the beginning of 2017, the company made the decision to add a ductile range to its suite of products. This includes ductile trench, weave, iron and concrete infill grates.
WELDLOK National Sales Manager Brent Frampton says the move has helped complete the company’s product offerings to the Australian civil sector.
“The civil side of the business actually began when we had a number of offcuts from other products at our manufacturing facility. As time went by, we found we could make drainage grates from them. However, ductile covers weren’t a part of the range at that time as we didn’t see it as a big market,” explains Mr. Frampton. “But, as we’ve grown, we now see it as a necessity because we realised we were only offering half a range without ductile products.
“Now, anyone looking for a civil drainage product, can get it all in one go,” he says.
Anthony Sive, Nepean Building & Infrastructure Managing Director, says the addition of the range has opened a lot of opportunities for the business and industry too.
“Building and infrastructure – it’s in our name. Now that we’ve moved into ductile iron products we cover the whole portfolio of civil drainage, and that will be hugely important going forward,” says Dr. Sive.
Mining was the last industry to see a significant boom in Australia, and Dr. Sive asserts the country is heading into a similar phase with infrastructure.
“We’re beginning to hit the sweet spot in Australia. The question is: what can we do supply into the building and infrastructure boom?” he says. “We have a long heritage in galvanised and forge-welded products and now we have ductile drainage that completes the range we need to supply the industry. That’s why the ductile range was so important, because we see a significant need for civil products in the next 10 years.”
Dr. Sive explains that a crucial part of that boom, and the recent addition to WELDLOK’s product portfolio, is ensuring products are compliant with industry Australian Standards – something that Nepean Building & Infrastructure prides itself on.
The company’s WELDLOK range is tested at the company’s NATA accredited (12043) facilities to ensure compliance with Australian Standard AS3996-2006.
“In the market there are a lot of items sold that aren’t compliant, and it’s wrong. People need compliant products. It doesn’t matter if it’s imported or not, it’s whether it’s compliant or not. How do we make sure products are compliant?” asks Dr. Sive.
He says other than manufacturing in Australia to Australian Standards, the only other way to really ensure compliance is by insisting that all product is certified across all Australian projects, “which isn’t happening”, adds. Dr. Sive.
“We have to manufacture ourselves rather than bring in cheap imports, and we’re all about showing people that you can manufacture in Australia. But, we have to make decisions all the time if we are to manufacture locally or import so we get the best outcomes for customers.”
He agrees that unfortunately it can take a disaster to realise things need to change, the Grenfell Tower Fire this past June being a prime example.
At least 80 people died in the fire in London’s west, which is the subject of a Public Inquiry. While this process is ongoing, research from the University of Leeds soon after the incident suggested the plastic core of the cladding recently installed on the tower could have burned as quickly as petrol.
Dr Roth Phylaktou – an expert in fire investigations from the university – was quoted in The Telegraph saying that the cladding in combination with insulation was “optimum for vertical fire spread”.
Many relevant parties have begun investigating the quality and state of their building cladding standards since, including the Queensland Government, which appointed a taskforce charged with assessing non-conforming cladding.
“The problem now is that there may be all of these buildings that have the wrong cladding – how do we fix it? It’s the same with grating – fixing it is horrendously expensive,” says Dr. Sive.
“Failure of grating might not look as dangerous, but it’s pretty important in new infrastructure projects.”
Dr. Sive says all Australian civil drainage products must be compliant with AS3996-2006, which needs to be physically identifiable on the product. Other indicators of a compliant product include the manufacturing company’s name and its load class.
“It’s surprising how few actually carry these identifiers. It’s a big issue and the other problem is that no one is checking.”
Mr. Frampton says Nepean Building & Infrastructure is counteracting the prominence of non-compliant products by emphasising compliant, high quality and, where required, customised solutions for the Australian market.
“Products need to be tested and the testing is not just anything, it’s prescriptive,” he says. “There is also a need for us to understand what kind of project the product is going into and what it needs to be able to do.
“If it’s used in the wrong area or application, then it’s not until the project is finished that people realise it’s not right – it could be a disaster,” he says, adding that the company wants to help point customers in the right direction.
“There are a lot of different requirements for major projects, and many often require a variety of different sizes and customised grate and drainage products,” says Mr. Frampton.
“The important thing is that you can’t just use anything – you have to use a product that’s tested and compliant, right down to the fact the every single product has to be embedded with the manufacturer’s name.
“Going cheap is not the answer – it’s about educating the end user of what’s required to be compliant.”