Opinion

Supply of UK structural steelwork assured says steel construction body

Current issues around some parts of UK steel making will not affect the structural steelwork sector’s delivery of current and future projects says Sarah McCann-Bartlett, Director General, British Constructional Steelwork Association

Recent reports that steel making in the UK is in crisis may have led some to wonder whether similar issues might be felt further up the supply chain.  In fact, we even have consultants making unsubstantiated generalisations about the potential effect on manufacturing in the UK. But for the structural steelwork sector in the UK, this couldn’t be further from the truth. 

UK based steelwork contractors have moved to assure construction and infrastructure clients that current issues around some parts of UK steel making will not affect the structural steelwork sector’s delivery of current and future projects. 

Why is this?

Structural steelwork is already fabricated in the UK from a mix of high quality domestic and imported steel.

  • The UK has an efficient steel stockholding and distribution sector that services the structural steelwork sector well with a balance of UK and imported steels. 
  • UK steel distributors hold high levels of stock and a wide range of products for all construction and infrastructure end uses.  UK stockholders are able to increase their supply to meet all current and future demands.
  • Tata Steel has confirmed to their clients that the production of steel sections in the UK is unaffected by recent announcements.
  • SSI and Caparo did not supply structural steel to the UK structural steelwork sector. While the impacts of the closures are devastating to the affected workforce and local communities the supply chain for structural steelwork is unaffected. 

As a result, the BCSA’s forecasts for growth in the UK structural steelwork sector are unchanged by the current events in steel making.  The UK fabrication of structural steelwork is expected to grow in volume terms by 5% in 2015 and by 2% in 2016 as it meets the needs of the growing construction and infrastructure sector. 

The delivery of steel framed buildings and steel structures is almost wholly done by UK based steelwork contractors, with a massive 98% of UK structural steelwork demand fabricated in the UK. 

While these growth forecasts meet demand for current and planned construction and infrastructure projects, UK steelwork contractors also have the ability to increase output should demand for structural steelwork increase further. 

Structural steelwork consumption in the UK remains below the long term average of 1 million tonnes per annum at 862,000 tonnes.  But at its peak, UK structural steelwork consumption reached 1,400,000 tonnes and UK steelwork contractors have the capacity to deliver further growth.  

Structural steel remains price competitive against other construction materials – latest modelling by Gardiner & Theobald shows the cost of a steel framed building is around 5% lower than a concrete framed building with steel prices offset by increases in operating costs for steelwork contractors, such as wages.  

In contrast to steel making, the delivery of steel framed buildings and steel structures is almost wholly done by UK based steelwork contractors, with a massive 98% of UK structural steelwork demand fabricated in the UK.  

This delivers a range of advantages to clients including shorter lead times, contractual security, exceptional quality of design work, better logistics on site and of course the UK structural steelwork’s excellent health & safety record. 

However as recent events have shown, all sectors are subject to import pressure and it is important that the government realises that foreign contractors will often bring their own supply chains with them.  This risks hollowing out the UK supply chain and foregoing the additional economic value that using a UK structural steelwork supply chain brings.  

BCSA and the UK constructional steelwork sector strongly support the steel making industry’s calls for a level playing field for UK steel manufacturing.   A UK supply of high quality steel creates a competitive and efficient market, and importantly supports the UK economy and UK jobs. 

Comments

were do you think your company can get the structural steel when we have no steelplants of our own,because when the time comes Britain will have to pay top price to outside suppliers
were do you think your company can get the structural steel when we have no steelplants of our own,because when the time comes Britain will have to pay top price to outside suppliers
Peter - BCSA strongly supports the UK's steelmakers and an ongoing UK supply of steel. It's good for competition and of course for the British economy. But there is a global oversupply of steel and the UK already imports some of its structural steel needs. This article is saying that there are other sources of steel and that the structural steelwork sector is in strong shape.
I would like to add another reason to support our own UK steel- making industry. Our own UK steel manufacturer tata understands our needs well and has been innovative in developing the UK steelwork market. The rest of Europe is well behind the UK in the use of steelwork in construction. Tata has been the key mover in market development and technical innovation in the UK constructional steelwork industry. The result has been a much much higher share of sttelwork buildings in the UK than concrete compared to other European countries-effectively neglegible foreign imports of structural steelwork and a positive export balance. Of all the building matrials used in the UK steelwork is the star.The spin-offs are also seen in the success of UK architects and consulting engineers exporting their expertise in steel framed buildings around the world. Yes UK needs a strong UK steel making indusry. The govermennt should understand and get behind manufacturing. It is irrational for politicians to say we cannot fight global market forces when in the UK the indsutry cannot buy electricity at global market prices because of government policies. Is the UK pushing the EC hard to get compliance with anti-dumping agreements? Short term support can be looked at in a crisis as it clearly was for the banks. Yes steel making is also too big to fail as the UK wants to have a successful manufacturing industry and steel as a matrial is at the heart of most of manufacturing.