No one argues that the steel industry has experienced a global revolution over the last decade. The emergence of 3D modelling software, high-speed internet, rapid development of IT-enabling technologies, communication, collaboration tools, data management, web-conferencing, and a general globalization of the steel supply chain have all created opportunities for enterprising companies located in lower-cost yet technologically competent countries like India. Probably the best example of this has been the proliferation of foreign (mostly Indian) steel detailing companies entering the North American market.
DOWCO acquires leading South American Steel Detailing and Structural Engineering firm
Surrey, Canada: The Dowco Group of Companies ('Dowco') today announced that it has acquired Acuña & Asociados S.A. ('Acuña'). The acquisition closed Thursday, August 4th, 2016.
Every business has its challenges… and when times get tough, there is no such thing as ‘getting a free pass.’
There will always be uncertainties in the steel detailing business. Today’s detailer has to deal with incomplete design drawings, impossible schedules, and declining fees. This is the new normal. Detailers no longer have the luxury of picking and choosing projects or customers. Success relies on a company’s ability to adapt to market realities and continue to deliver services the market has come to expect: high quality and low cost.
A key focus area at Dowco is fast and effective communication with clients on the status of their projects. As a steel detailing services company, Dowco sees itself as a solution to the bottlenecks fabricators typically face. When drawings don’t get delivered on time, fabricators risk having costly equipment and employees sitting idle. Steel detailing contractors who can properly communicate project status, become valuable and trusted suppliers to their fabricator customers.
Understanding the need for up-to-date project information, Dowco has taken the initiative to create a custom-built project status system that tracks and communicates status of projects to clients. The system is called Dowco’s ‘Project Portal’ – you can check out the link on our website!
No one disputes that the steel detailing business is experiencing a global revolution. The emergence of high speed Internet, rapid development of IT-enabling technologies; communication, 3D model-centric communication and collaboration, data management, and web-conferencing have all created opportunities for cost-efficient service models for enterprising companies locating strategic service elements in lower-cost but technologically-competent regions.
Demographics show us that in Canada, USA, Asia and much of Europe, populations are aging. We know this only too well, as the demand for experienced steel detailers in North America increases. This shortage, combined with the fact that there are very few technical schools offering structural drafting/detailing as part of their curriculum, presents a problem for the North American steel fabricators, steel detailing companies, and the steel construction industry.
Today's headlines are talking about how 2016 may not be best year for construction. In fact, many are saying we are still feeling the effects of the Great Recession years of 2008 to 2010.
Yes, times may be challenging for business owners, entrepreneurs, and sales professionals in the steel business, but it is important we stay focused winning our own wars on attitude and grasp that it is not the market that determines our success, it is us. To be specific, it is our mindset.
There is no debating that the AEC industry in Canada has contributed much to the success of our country’s economy. For the last four decades, The Dowco Group, alongside thousands of other AEC organizations have steadfastly grown operations despite having to adapt to a myriad of technology changes, increasing globalization forces, and a general downward price pressure for products and services.
Growth naturally creates opportunities for expansion. In Dowco’s case, early growth and expansion efforts had the company establishing two, then three BC office locations, and ultimately going beyond provincial and national borders establishing offices in Ontario and Quebec, Oregon, USA, India, Shipley, UK, and Manila, Philippines. While development in IT (information technology) made such growth initiatives possible, the cost associated with this growth was high.
The last decade of industry pioneer, Hugh Dobbie Sr’s active business career saw him work tenaciously to facilitate what has now become an increasing trend; Steel detailing services providers working directly with, and/or, for the engineer rather than following the more traditional historical contractor relationship, the steel fabricator.
With detailers and engineers using modern virtual construction technologies and processes, a more collaborative and integrated model centric workflow, the detailer engineer contractual relationship makes sense. The steel fabricator need not be involved in the process until the engineer/detailer team has a complete and accurate Manufacturing Model that the fabricator can utilize for pricing, procurement, manufacturing, and construction. This workflow minimizes additional costs associated with re-design during the fabrication and construction phases, ensures initial project schedules are met, and potentially eliminates budget over-runs.
There is ample evidence suggesting the North American economy is improving. For those in the steel industry, you either anticipate or are experiencing an increasing work backlog for the first time in years.
According to Gargau’s ‘Steel Market Update’, Industrial Construction Starts “are accelerating at a torrid pace”, up 65%, over the last three months compared to the same period last year and 22% over the past 12 months. The Non-Residential Construction Producer Price Index also shows a general 1% price inflation over the past 12 months and 2.2% over two years.
Last Wednesday September the 17th, Ewen Dobbie, Dowco Group CEO, attended an award ceremony held by the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) at the One World Trade Center (1 WTC) in New York city. WSP Structural Engineers entered the 1 WTC project in the AISC IDEAS2 Awards competition for excellence in steel-frame building Design. Considered the highest award given for building projects in the U.S. structural steel industry, the Dowco Group was among the project team members that received the IDEAS2 Award’s Presidential Award of Excellence for Engineering for being a part of the 1 WTC project.
One World Trade Center, also referred earlier as the Freedom Tower, is the main building of the new World Trade Center.
Some say we are, some say we aren't…
I think it's safe to say that several years ago we were pretty happy and were all making money. Our industry was in the midst of arguably one of steel's greatest bull markets in decades. Here we are years later and most experts are saying that the market had fallen even further than predicted. It is difficult to hide from news that informs us of layoffs, cutbacks and economic stress.
Despite this, I believe we needn't follow the prevailing grim attitude. It is an established truth that the economy fluctuates. And these fluctuations move in cycles, or periods of rapid economic growth and periods of decline.
Some even believe the recession is a necessary evil that is designed to "clean the 'fat' out of the system, mop up excess, and pave the way for the next expansion."
Famous Architect Frank Lloyd Wright claimed the human race built most nobly when limitations were greatest, and when most was required of imagination in order to build. Companies that take initiative, bold and creative steps are companies that can see, project and predict themselves into the future. Whether it’s an investment in new software technology, equipment, or whether it’s incorporating another level of service or product, we need imagination in order to grow.
“A soul without imagination is what an observatory would be without a telescope.”
How to get real time data from your project
With Tekla Structures 20.0, a new feature called Organizer was added to all configurations. Organizer is a daily tool for managing model information, object property queries, and object classification. Organizer provides access to all model information in one place for effective management of model information. Organizer is always up-to-date as it synchronizes with the model. Instant feedback on the model can be used to create Excel reports on demand.
To use Organizer, click Tools > Organizer.
Good times or bad, some things never change. For any company to succeed and grow, they must be brutally honest with themselves. That means taking regular looks in the mirror and asking those tough questions: Are we really as good as we think we are? Could we be delivering a better product or service?
For the most part, most will say they are above average and get better than passing grades. They will also agree that there may still some room for improvement.
With the increasing use and application of technology, productivity has increased. However, a divergence between the higher skilled and lower skilled workers is emerging. Technology can increase productivity and profitability, but it requires parallel innovation in business models, processes, and skills. Too often, companies invest in the technology but neglect the very important step of developing human capital and fail to re-examine and improve their business and organization processes.
Already a market leader, we believe The Dowco Group offers a strong brand and platform on which to build a major, global integrated engineering and construction solutions and associated services business. We do this by continuously searching for new technology and strategies that will improve our productivity and collaboration on projects.
Positioning yourself for the future
The Industry and the marketplace is indeed tough and ever changing. I like to think what makes us different and unique, as a company is our ability to recognize and focus on the critical needs of 'today' while also focusing on positioning the company for 'tomorrow'.
Today, we watch costs; streamline our operations while delivering a quality product to our customers. We do this by focusing on planning and project workflows, and continuing to ask the question, "Is there software or technologies we should be implementing that would enable us to deliver a better product"?
Some argue that steel detailing in North America is an industry in decline. For years, people have been concerned about the increasing shortage of steel detailers in North America and with the now flattening of the world, the North American steel detailing industry is having to deal with the emergence of foreign competition.
For North American steel detailing companies to survive and thrive, they will need to re-invent themselves. Does this mean we start employing strategies that emphasize efficiency and focus on existing services and markets? Or does it mean we start focusing on entrepreneurial strategies that involve the development of new services and entry into new markets? The experts say both strategies are required. Good business practice is to constantly emphasis efficiency and to make the best use of technology and training. As for new services, most detailers today have become sophisticated users of technology, building and detailing steel and concrete in a virtual world, yet they are not fully marketing their service much beyond steel detailing...
This is, of course, an individual decision. There is no magic number of unprofitable months or years one must endure. Each person or Company has his or her own pain threshold. What might be bearable for some may be too much for others.
For those of us making our livelihood in the Steel Industry, we are faced with a constant downward price pressure for our services. I can argue that the steel detailing services industry has become commoditized and globalized with the ‘lowest’ bid usually winning. The question remains, how will the North American Steel Industry respond to these changing forces? Will offshore or overseas services become the norm? Can North American companies still be competitive? The answer to these questions will determine when enough is enough, and whether the industry as we know it is ready to throw in the towel...