Homing in on the Severn Valley

An expanding house builder has committed to invest over £50 million in The Severn Valley, supporting more than 600 jobs and delivering much needed homes across the region. Posted via Industry Today. Follow us on Twitter @IndustryToday Continue Reading

Engineering skill: can computer programs ever replace human skill?

In the engineering sector, the innovation of technology has undoubtedly improved the way we operate. But it is important that we do not become reliant on technology as a complete solution i.e. software will only produce quality designs if used correctly, with human input still a crucial component to success.

Computers offer assistance to engineering projects – and the successful link between computer programmes and engineering skill varies depending on which part of the AEC industry they are being used in. Looking at the three main stages of engineering design.

  1. Concept design: At this stage, the majority of the design comes from the imagination of the engineer, supported by some simple sizing elements or calculations.
  2. Drafting and analysis: This stage brings the concept design into the real world, checking that it is feasible and how it will succeed. This stage is predominantly computer-based, using programmes such as building design software to help engineers work to a greater degree of accuracy.
  3. Detailed design: This stage is when, as the name suggests, the design becomes much more detailed. At this point, the design is almost completely computer-based, with analysis happening in the background.

Things which require an imaginative aspect undoubtedly require the human element. But it’s not just this imaginative aspect that machines cannot replicate in full: fine tuning, for example, still needs a guiding human hand in order to ensure outputs are correct. While leaps and bounds are certainly being made in machine learning e.g. computers can now make decisions based on historical data and records, it is highly unlikely that this will develop to the point where human skill and judgement become obsolete.

It’s also important to note that mistakes can be made when writing the programmes designed to support design, or further along the line when inputting data into these programmes. Either error will result in an inaccurate output. For this reason, the topic of automated checking — whereby computer programmes will check the input against previous projects and their success or failure — has been a hot point of discussion within the AEC industry lately. However, it is worth bearing in mind that the majority of engineering disasters have occurred due to something unusual; that is, something that has not happened in previous related projects. While rule-checkers help when situations where rules apply, they aren’t able to flag something that hasn’t happened in previous records, i.e. something unusual.

A good example of this would be the Millennium Bridge’s wobble. This was not picked up in the design’s code. Programmes failed to predict the wind instability of Tacoma Narrows. While engineers can make use of a value judgement, computer programmes do not. As the world changes, engineers will make a value judgement to adapt their designs accordingly.

Formulas must be created, both for computers and the human element. There are several structures and designs that have had formulas developed exclusively for them. For example, the original formula creation for shell structures had to be created by expert mathematicians to ensure success. Now, with Finite Element Analysis, almost any form can be analysed — but that does not mean these forms are always sensible. There’s a certain amount of tension between architects and engineers surrounding this – with engineers focused on functionality, and architects the aesthetic element. This disparity though, can make for the perfect partnership towards the best designs.

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Ashley Carter takes on new role within Aarsleff Ground Engineering

Aarsleff Ground Engineering, specialist ground engineering contractor, is pleased to announce Ashley Carter’s promotion from Senior Technical Estimator to Head of Preconstruction.

Ashley’s always been at the sharp end of Estimating, treating every project with the same degree of interest and commitment, no matter of the size or technical complexity. His technical know-how and expertise combined with charismatic people skills and a positive outlook has made a significant impression on the company and their clients, and he will now embrace a wider role in the business.

Ashley joined the business in July 2016 with a very substantial mission on his hands – to establish and grow the company’s sheet piling arm of the business. Ashley’s input quickly strengthened their position in the marketplace, and allowed it to capitalise on the many opportunities this sector presented. Now known as the ‘Specialist Retaining Walls’ team, Aarsleff have extended their product offering to design and deliver king post walls, propped walls, anchored walls, contiguous pile walls and secant pile walls.

Looking ahead, Ashley voices how he would like to implement changes in the wider industry in his new role at Aarsleff Ground Engineering:

“In comparison to other sectors, the adoption of technology and smart systems are still majorly underutilised in the ground engineering industry. I will implement those changes to make us a much smarter company through the digitalisation of our processes – I know it’s something that our staff and clients will benefit from. Fighting the on-going skills shortage and improving our green credentials is also top of my list”.

As Head of Pre-Construction, Ashley will be representing the Aarsleff brand. Working alongside the management team, Ashley will drive key strategic goals, build customer relationships, identify business opportunities and mentor teams where necessary across the company’s Estimating, Business Development and Marketing teams.

Aarsleff’s Managing Director Kevin Hague commented:

“We look forward to seeing where Ashley will take the company in his new role. As a business, the range of geotechnical techniques and disciplines we can design and deliver in-house is enviable, and the ability to deliver multi-discipline packages under one sub-contract is a key advantage for our clients, but we are never complacent, and we can always do more. The board and I agree he will be instrumental in promoting ours services and adding value to our position as a market leader in Specialist Geotechnical Contracting”.

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4 steps you should be taking to keep your construction workers safe

Dan Casey, from hydraulic lifting equipment manufacturer Penny Hydraulics, outlines the steps we need to take to ensure the safety of our construction workers.

With so many large materials and heavy machinery, construction sites are amongst some of the most dangerous locations for workers. In fact, between 2018 and 2019, the construction sector had the highest number of staff fatalities compared to other main industry groups (HSE).

As an employer, it is your duty to ensure that your staff can be protected from any potential hazards while working. In this article, I’ll be outlining the steps you should be taking to make your site as safe as possible.

Stick to the relevant safety laws and regulations

Before the project starts, you should ensure that supervisors have gathered as much information about the job as possible. All work should conform to the relevant health and safety regulations, including the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015.

To help with this, a thorough risk assessment should be carried out to highlight areas where hazards may occur and how workers can be protected from as much harm as they practically can. At this point, measures should be taken to remove or minimise risk as much as possible, then the right personal protective equipment (PPE) and machinery should be decided upon based on the specific tasks at hand.

Make sure everyone is fully trained

Prior to any construction being carried out, all workers should be fully trained. This includes up-to-date training on how to do tasks, use machinery and wear any PPE supplied to them safely and effectively. It’s also wise to inform everyone of any rules and method statements and remind them that these have been set in place for their own welfare.

If you’re using new, unfamiliar machinery, there may not always be someone around to train the rest of the team. Luckily, the manufacturer can usually provide training on using their equipment safely.

Supply everyone with the right PPE

To keep them safe and comfortable, all workers should be provided with the quality PPE for the job. These include:

  • Hard hats,
  • Ear protection — like earmuffs or earplugs,
  • Thick gloves,
  • Steel toe cap boots,
  • Goggles
  • Particulate, vapour or gas respirators,
  • Class 2 or 3 high visibility clothing,
  • Harnesses and safety protection lanyards when working from a height,
  • Head torches and floodlights if working at night.

Invest in the right equipment

Construction sites involve a lot of heavy equipment, and this machinery can provide a few potential hazards for those working with them or nearby. Before starting any job, you should make sure that the equipment supplied for the job is suitable. So, you should be checking that it can handle the heavy loads you plan to use it for to avoid the materials or the machinery falling. You should also be making sure that this equipment is maintained regularly to ensure that it is in full working condition.

But sometimes these large machines can be impractical for the job. Construction workers may need to lift and move heavy materials once they’ve been unloaded, and this can cause some serious long-term injuries if these tasks are arduous and repetitive. As an employer, you must take steps to protect your workers from any harm that can come from manually lifting or carrying heavy loads, as stated in The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992.

To aid with carrying and lifting, and to reduce the risk of injury, you’ll need smaller cranes and hydraulic lifts, like our SwingLifts or LoadLifts. These are made to handle lighter loads, such as materials and small machinery like wacker plates, and can be fitted onto flatbeds and vans to aid with unloading and moving. These reduce the need for workers to have to lift and carry heavy items manually. Again, you should ensure that the equipment is suitable for the task at hand by checking the optimum load it can hold. These machines should also be fully equipped with the right harnesses, hooks, winches and hoists to keep the load safe during transportation and lifting.

There is no way to keep workers completely free of harm on your construction site. However, the four steps in this article can help to reduce the risk of hazards and protect your workers in the event that an accident does occur.

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The City of Liverpool College has partnered with international engineering enterprise Laing O’Rourke and The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre, one of the country’s leading cancer centres. The partnership has been designed to inspire students with the digital technologies used to develop the brand-new cancer centre and promote the modern careers now available in the construction industry.

Exclusive preview event at the new Clatterbridge Cancer Hospital Liverpool.

‘Project Innovation’ will see students of The City of Liverpool College’s Computer Science Digital courses collaborate with Laing O’Rourke to develop both augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) applications.

For the first project, students will create an augmented reality interactive app, which is designed to help speed up maintenance requirements at the cancer centre. The AR app would allow staff to see all of the machinery in any given room along with their maintenance requirements. This will in turn be linked to a database which could ultimately order and schedule maintenance automatically, dramatically speeding up the process and saving precious time.

The virtual reality app will form the second project and would be designed for staff to have the ability to see maintenance requirements and interact with objects, while being fully immersed in the building from elsewhere, allowing them to navigate around the building and stripping back the walls for a ‘behind the scenes’ view.

Estefania Alves, digital engineer at Laing O’Rourke, said:

“Construction is a progressive industry, constantly adopting new technology and digital methodologies to enhance efficiency, to reduce construction time, waste, cost and to create a safer workplace throughout the whole project lifecycle. For the industry to keep innovating it is vital that skills and experience is brought in from other creative industries.

“Working with The City of Liverpool College allows us to bring a fresh perspective to developing these vital tools, while supporting the future workforce to develop their skills.”

The partnership will provide students with experience and unique insight into the construction industry , as well as having the opportunity to provide support to the brand new The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre.

Students will work closely with programmers and coders from Laing O’Rourke’s digital engineering department as well as Clatterbridge to develop the apps, with the aim of the project creating a lasting legacy by providing students with the chance to work on a real industry project.

Elaine Bowker, principal of The City of Liverpool College, said:

“The partnerships that we have across The City of Liverpool College are designed to provide our students with unique opportunities real world experience. We are passionate about ensuring that we are at the cutting edge of emerging technologies and providing our students with the skills they need to enter the world of work.

“For our students to be given the chance to work with a multinational organisation such as Laing O’Rourke and develop a truly innovative tool for The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre is an opportunity like no other. We look forward to seeing the results of this partnership come to fruition.”

Once developed, the apps will be piloted for The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre and, if successful, will be rolled out on a wider scale.

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Hanson, one of the largest suppliers of bulk construction aggregates in the UK, has invested in the CatÒ 986K Wheel Loader – the first machine of this size and class in UK – in a deal with Finning UK & Ireland. The machine was chosen for its compact sizing and advanced technology features.

The wheel loader is the penultimate addition in a series of new Caterpillarassets added to Hanson’s fleet as part of a 31-machine deal struck in 2018, and will be in operation at Hingston Down Quarry in Cornwall. Hanson has worked extensively with Finning over many years, building a strong relationship that has led to a number of ongoing projects with the business.

The Cat 986K combines reliable, efficient loading with machine longevity, providing lower cost of ownership. Performance is optimised thanks to the power shift transmission, torque converter with lock-up clutch and axle shaft disc brakes.

VisionLink® offers insight into the health, location and productivity of the machine, helping to increase productivity, control costs, improve operator performance and ensure safety on site. Cat Connect PAYLOAD technologies such as Cat Production Measurement provide on-the-go load weighing to assist operators with achieving precise targets every time, further optimising efficiency and increasing jobsite productivity.

The Cat 986K also boasts a redesigned state-of-the-art operator cab featuring STIC steering, touch screen display, enhanced safety with improved access/egress, and better cab visibility. Serviceability is improved with ground-level or platform access and grouped service points, and a suite of performance series buckets are available too.

Sizing was an important determining factor in Hanson’s selection of the machine, and the Cat 986K proved to be the ideal size – larger than a Cat 982M but more compact than a new Cat 988K. The recent reintroduction of the Cat 988K range saw machines larger than their predecessors, and so the Cat 986K was launched as a size replacement for the original Cat 988G.

The machine will be maintained through a Customer Service Agreement (CSA Under the agreement, Finning will also provide technical support through the Finsight condition monitoring team, supplying Hanson with data on machine health that links to the CSA. This data will provide accurate information to organise preventative maintenance operations, as well as information on uptime and machine productivity.

Dave Jenkins, Unit Manager at Hanson UK, explained: “We were in the process of renewing aspects of our fleet at Hingston Down Quarry last year. We sought advice from Finning and Caterpillar on which machines to invest in for better site management and optimisation, and they recommended the new Cat 986K.

“The whole of the site team at the quarry are looking forward to the arrival of the first UK based Cat 986K, with the loader bringing all of Caterpillar’s latest improvements with ongoing upgrades and advanced technologies. This machine is matched perfectly with our face fleet, which includes a 772G and continues the long standing partnership that this quarry has had with Finning – a relationship forged over many years.

“We have been operating our current Cat 988G face loading shovel since its arrival in 2005, and this machine is performing really well after a long working life. It’s still running on its original powertrain, which is proven testament to the Caterpillar standards of durability and reliability for the whole life of their machinery.”

Phil Battle, Head of Quarrying & Aggregates – Finning UK & Ireland, added: “The Cat 986K Wheel Loader is the right size, perfectly matched with Cat off-highway trucks to maximise the volume of material moved and offer the lowest cost per tonne.

“The robust structures withstand tough loading conditions to achieve multiple lifecycles – for a lower total cost of ownership. Hanson will see improved mobility, versatility, and technology built into the 986K Wheel Loader to burn less fuel, operate more efficiently, and achieve a low total cost of ownership.”

For more information on Cat products and services from Finning UK & Ireland, please visit, or for more information on Hanson UK, please visit

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Awards and cash prizes for Survey School’s top graduates

The highest performing students on the TSA Surveying Course at The Survey School, were announced at the annual graduation ceremony at Worcester Racecourse.

The hard work of 23 students on TSA Surveying Course 45, 46 and 47 was celebrated, with four graduates named as this year’s prize winners for outstanding achievement.

All the prizes are based on assignment results, exam marks and the overall observations of the tutors.

The recipients of the Best Student Award, the CICES Best Assignment Award and the RICS Best Measured Building Assignment Award are all employed by Laser Surveys Ltd, a TSA Member company since 1996.

Jointly sponsored by The Survey Association (TSA) and Leica Geosystems, the Best Student Award went to Samuel Grimes.

Tutor at The Survey School, Andrew Crumpler commented, ‘’Sam has done extremely well on all aspects of this course. He has the mathematical ability, coupled with the theoretical understanding and the ability to realise this in the field.”

Sponsored by TSA, the Vice-President’s Award went to Jessica Hurp of Evolution Surveys Ltd, who was commended for her attention to detail, her care and the hard work she put into the course.

Eight students were in the running for the Chartered ICES prize for Best Assignment, with Zoe Hundley of Laser Surveys Ltd winning out for her consistently high standard of work and producing ‘a model’ Block 3 Intersection and Resection assignment.

RICS Best Measured Building Assignment required students to produce a measured building survey with floor plans, an elevation and a cross section.

Alexander Cox of Laser Surveys Ltd drew high praise from his tutors for the level of detail

included in his elevation and the first-class standard of his work.

Sue Stewart, Director at Laser Surveys Ltd commented, “We are so proud of Zoe, Alex and Sam and their brilliant achievements. The awards are in recognition of the hard work, dedication and enthusiasm that they have put into their studies over the past two years.

“The TSA Surveying Course encompasses the core knowledge required for surveying today and gives an excellent base to enable them to grow their technical and practical skills even further as they progress their careers.”

The Survey School has trained some 400 students to a professional standard since the TSA Course in Surveying was launched, nearly 20 years ago and is recognised by industry and employers as the UK’s premier commercial training centre for the education of land surveyors.

Successful completion of the TSA Surveying Course counts towards AssocRICS membership.

Block 1 of TSA Surveying Course 52 commences on 9 September and places are still available. For details and booking information on this and the shorter technical courses on specific topics, see the School’s website.


Caption: From left, TSA President Adam Bradley with Best Student Award winner, Samuel Grimes.

Caption: Graduation Day 2019 at The Survey School.

For further information, interviews or images contact Ruth Badley

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