Leach Structural Steelwork Optimizes Fabrication with Accurate and On-time Information

October 12, 2018

Leach Structural Steelwork is a Preston, Lancashire, UK based structural steel fabrication company that specializes in commercial projects, factories, warehouses, and production facilities. Typical projects range from a hundred tons to two thousand tons.


Eric Leach, the Managing Director of Leach Structural Steelwork supervises all the operations, with a particular interest in the technical and production aspects of the projects.  “We have gained many benefits, time-wise, from using the Tekla model,” says Leach. “The dynamics of using the model and Model Sharing, and all the access it gives us to all the real information is very significant,” he continues.

For steel fabrication and plate processing Leach chose Voortman Steel Group for its partner. Voortman is a globally recognized manufacturer for steel fabrication machinery as well as a supplier for the plate processing related industries. They continually develop their equipment range to keep at the forefront of technology.

Indeed, Eric Leach says that they chose Voortman because of the company’s level of automation and technical ability of the machines. “They have high regard for service and customer backup and they implement new ideas very quickly.”


Maximizing the benefits with models that live the life of the projects

Leach Structural Steelwork uses the Tekla model for all phases of the business: from concept models to tendering and through the design detailing phase. Leach also has production and site information recorded.  Eric Leach explains: “The model lives the life of the projects.”


Evolving business environment

Structural steel industry has evolved significantly in recent years in technical and production aspects. Evolvements include cloud-based technical aspects and the automation of the production machinery.

With his 25 year experience in steel, Eric Leach further predicts that major developments in the next three years will include cloud and BIM and automation, real-time publishing and collection of information and feedback from all aspects of the fabrication cycle.

Currently, challenges in the industry lie in the resourcing: including technical staff and the supervision and management positions.

Role of technology is to help employees excel

With developments in technology and challenges in resourcing, how does a director make perceptive decisions about acquiring technology?

“We evaluate and adopt technologies that give us the ability to make the most potential from the people we already employ, by making the most gains with the least effort,” summarizes Eric Leach.

For example, Leach has installed Voortman machinery in all their fabrication processes. “The Voortman system is operated by a VACAM program control, which we feed directly with NC data and outputs from the Tekla model. This includes layout marking which operates very satisfactorily, and provides reliable information to the beam layouts”.

Voortman software keeps track of every part. It knows where each part is in the process without any human intervention. “When a part enters the system you literally can forget about it until it comes out from the outfeed transfers,” explains Pieter van Grolfrom Voortman Steel Machinery.

“One recent thing on our main beam line is that we are able to program the stock directly to the input beds from the operator, which ties up the order of which parts are processed,” Leach mentions.

When Trimble’s Tekla products were acquired the same Leach principles for acquiring technology applied.

“We have been a long-time user of the Tekla product,” Leach tells. Leach used version 5 from the late nineties, and has progressed to version 21.1. “Tekla is a very integrated part of the business.”

Tekla was identified as forward-thinking, and the potential of the product was quite easy to see in the early days.

For example, with a 3D model-based system all information accumulates in one place.  “A great benefit from using Tekla. For many years now, the whole team has benefited from being able to access information easily,” Leach tells.


Time savings

Leach has progressed to using the Model Sharing features of the later Tekla program, as they’ve opened new offices. “Model sharing allows us to use our designers in other locations to contribute to the same model. There are no communication shortfalls.”

Leach’s long experience with Tekla has shown that the models are fully integrated with the fabrication process. Leach is also satisfied that the operators using the Tekla system are very proactive and encouraged by the available features.


Tekla BIMsight allows information sharing with customers

“We fully utilize all the NC data, all the outputs available now progress to layout marking in the automated production, so it is very important to the whole cycle that we use the Tekla information,” says Leach.

“Tekla BIMsight is very useful for our interaction with our clients,” Leach says. Many of the customers are on older systems, or not yet progressed to 3D modelling. Therefore Tekla BIMsight module allows Leach to share their information with customers at various stages of the projects.”

Human errors and waste reduced by integration of model based information

“We believe the benefits of the automation, both technically and in the machines, allow us to operate with minimal personnel, with maximum output from the machine lines,” Eric Leach says.

“The benefits, we believe, from using Tekla and Voortman together makes the flow of information is very dynamic, very accurate, and takes very little manual effort. Most of the operations are quite concise and we can achieve transfer of large amounts of data with minimal effort,” concludes Leach.

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