It is easy for contractors to accept sub-standard expanded metal products, thinking that the specifications conform to the required performance standards. Sometimes, advertised specifications bear no resemblance to the product supplied because of a perceived cost advantage, and there is a growing concern that sub-standard specifications will slowly become the accepted industry norm.
These are the views of Dodds Pringle, MD of Vital Engineering, manufacturers of the Vitex range of expanded metal products, as well as gratings, stair treads and safety handrails.
Vital Engineering began manufacturing a small range of expanded metal some fifteen years ago, and has now expanded its offering substantially, featuring products of world-class quality.
“From these beginnings, our expanded metal products have become a recognised force in the market. Our now extensive range includes plaster lathes, filter meshes, architectural meshes, conveyor walkway expanded metals and heavy duty (8 mm material thickness) security meshes for doors, windows and blast screens,” says Pringle.
The extended range and large stockholding in the company’s manufacturing facilities in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town, as well as through dedicated agencies further afield, allow easy access to ‘off-the-shelf’ products at competitive prices.
“Our customers prefer Vitex products because they have come to rely on the accuracy of the mesh sizes and the thickness as advertised and supplied – allowing for consistency and quality, and ultimately peace of mind,” he says.
Pringle cautions against dubious practises in the industry, in which mesh sizes become ‘stretched’ in a bid to use less material.
“Thinner, lighter material compromises the quality and performance of the end-product, and the problem is that otherwise discerning specifiers, designers and customers end up unwittingly paying top dollar for something that is sub-standard.
Flattened mesh has also become a problem in the industry, where certain suppliers ‘over-flatten’ to obtain the required apertures, hardening the material to cracking point and ‘thinning’ it out of specification, unbeknownst to the end-user.”
Pringle advises buyers to conduct simple checks, such as lining up a number of the same sheets to ascertain aperture consistency. Verniers and other measuring equipment can also be used to assess the material and strand thicknesses for conformity to specifications, and to more accurately determine what the client has paid for.
“Similar issues prevail in handrail stanchions, where clients are charged a discounted price but are supplied with thinner wall thicknesses well below the specification. These sub-standard products, although not always easy to identify, seriously compromise safety, performance and plant maintenance costs,” he warns.
“Vital Engineering’s ‘Vitex’ range of products are manufactured and tested according to international and local standards to ensure conformity and to prevent costly personal injury (PI) claims. Added to this, is the fact that Vital Engineering is currently the only recognised grating and handrail manufacturer in South Africa to be design-accredited according to EN-ISO standards.
“It is critical that architects, consultants, quantity surveyors, designers and draughtspeople – and indeed anyone involved in the use and purchasing of these products – acquaint themselves fully with the product’s specifications, performance and limitations accordingly, and then ensure their requirements are being met,” advises Pringle.
Vital Engineering, passionate about quality and safety for some 30 years now, offer its customers comprehensive visual product and induction training on CD. The company also offers presentations to companies seeking to improve general safety awareness in respect of expanded metals, gratings and handrails.
“Because we feel so strongly about not compromising on quality, we caution customers against bias towards certain suppliers based on a price-driven decision, and to be aware of unscrupulous practices in the industry. For Vital Engineering, it is all about safety, and providing the assurance that comes with a world-class quality product.”
“A number of companies attempt to emulate or copy our style and manner of business, being the leaders in the industry, but we caution against following this as it can only affect the outcome of safety and project requirements”, Pringle concludes.
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