In 2008, a brand-new steel service centre was built alongside the canal in Bree (Limburg, Belgium). The Limburgs Staalservice Center (LSC) is equipped to produce about 200,000 tonnes of steel plates for steel processing industries in the neighbouring countries. “Being located alongside a waterway is crucial for our business,” says Site Manager Edwin Cramer.
The benefits of transportation by water
Steel service centres such as LSC act as an intermediary between steel producers and steel traders. Their reason for existence lies in the fact that the steel market is an ‘on demand’ business. The steel processing industry requires project specific materials such as custom-shaped steel plates to be delivered just in time. “This is a challenge for steel traders,” explains Cramer. “On the one hand, they try to keep only a limited stock on their premises because of large overheads. On the other hand, they have to deliver to order, without delay. That’s why we exist: we are in fact a service provider, offering storage space for the trader’s steel coils plus a sufficient production capacity to produce steel plates of various sizes on demand.”
Cost efficient and environmentally-friendly transportation
LSC’s location alongside the Zuid-Willemsvaart near the Albert Canal, which connects the Scheldt and Meuse rivers, is crucial for the business. Edwin Cramer: “Steel coils are shipped in from various locations, mainly from Ijmuiden, Antwerp and Rotterdam. On our site in Bree, we produce and deliver plates for industries in Germany, the Benelux and Northern France. Approximately 90 % of the coils are transported via waterway. This is beneficial thanks to its low cost and its limited ecological footprint. Imagine the number of truck loads required to deliver about 200,000 tonnes of coils over the road each year.”
Imagine the number of truck loads required to deliver about 200,000 tonnes coils over the road each year.
Growing to full capacity
Currently, the service centre employs 20 people and plans to hire another 30 in the near future. Cramer: “We are entering the second phase of the site’s construction. We have just one plate processing machine now, able to produce plates from 2 mm to 20 mm, and up to 16 metres long. But we have ordered a second machine, able to produce thin plates from 0.8 mm. It is due to be installed by the end of 2009. By then, we hope to fully use our coil storage capacity of 50,000 tonnes. The demand is there, even in the current economic climate.”
Turnkey contractor reduces project risks
LSC took no risks for the construction of its new service centre in Bree. “Our turnkey contractor had optimized the plant layout,” says Edwin Cramer. Nevertheless, a number of site-related issues required special attention when works started. Thanks to TCS’s solid expertise and good planning, the works were completed in about 15 months.
TCS designed an efficient factory layout on the 37,000 m² grounds at the Zuid-Willemsvaart. “It’s comforting to know that they have expertise in both crane and building construction,” says Edwin Cramer. “This way, they could optimize all aspects of the building, including steel structure, foundations and crane infrastructure. I only had to communicate the limiting conditions of our production process, they took care of the rest. As a result, they designed a highly optimized building in terms of feasibility and efficiency.”
Avoid costly soil consolidation
Unfortunately, once the construction works started, it turned out that, at certain points, the underground soil was too weak to support the building. “Preliminary soil sampling had not revealed this weakness,” says Edwin Cramer, “which meant that turnkey contractor TCS was forced to find an alternative for the foundations quickly. Interestingly, they proposed a solution based on gravel piles, thus avoiding a costly soil consolidation.”
An experienced turnkey contractor
TCS also took care of all the co-ordination work required to carry out the project. Cramer: “For instance: an Elia high voltage power carrier runs over the terrain. For safety reasons, this had to be switched off during crane manipulations, requiring careful planning and co-ordination. That’s another reason why we have chosen this experienced turnkey contractor, a partner that offers much more than your typical steel constructor. This significantly reduced the hardships for us.”
- 22,690 m² hall, 1095 m² office area, 12,500 m² roads and parking area
- 1564 tonnes of steel
- 40 tonnes x 40 metre Procrane coil handling crane with integrated coil gripper control, automated storage space management and anti-sway
- 40 tonnes x 28 metre Procrane loading crane with integrated coil gripper control
- 6 additional Unicrane+ cranes for plate handling
- Coil lorry (40 tonnes)