Gratings, stair treads, pressed floors and safety handrails manufacturer Vital Engineering, which manufactures the Vitex range of stainless steel or mild steel products, has expressed its concern that substandard specifications will slowly become the accepted industry norm.
Vital Engineering MD Dodds Pringle believes that it has become too easy for contractors to accept substandard expanded metal products, thinking that the specifications conform to the required performance standards.
“Our expanded products have become a recognised force in the market and 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 its dedicated agencies further afield, allow for easy access to off-the-shelf products at competitive prices.
“Our customers prefer Vitex products as they have come to rely on the accuracy of the mesh sizes and the thicknesses as advertised and supplied – allowing for consistency, quality and, ultimately, peace of mind,” he says.
Pringle cautions against dubious practices in the steel industry, in which mesh sizes become ‘stretched’ as some manufacturers aim to use less material.
However, thinner, lighter material compromises the quality and performance of the end-product and otherwise discerning specifiers, designers and customers end up unwittingly paying top dollar for a substandard product.
Pringle notes that flattened mesh has also become a problem in the industry, as certain suppliers ‘over-flatten’ the product to obtain the required apertures. This hardens the material to cracking point and ‘thins’ it out of specification, without the end-user’s knowledge.
Pringle advises buyers to conduct simple checks, such as lining up a number of sheets of the same size to ascertain aperture consistency. Verniers and other measuring equipment can also be used to assess the material and strand thicknesses to ensure that they conform to specifications and to more accurately determine what the client has paid for.
Vital Engineering’s Vitex range of products is manufactured and tested according to international and local standards to ensure conformity and prevent costly personal injury claims. Further, Vital Engineering is currently the only recognised grating and handrail manufacturer in South Africa to be design-accredited in accordance with 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 – accordingly acquaint themselves fully with the products’ specifications, performance and limitations to ensure that their requirements are being met,” he says.
Vital Engineering prioritises quality and safety, and aims to offer customers comprehensive visual products and induction training. The company also delivers presentations to companies seeking to improve general safety awareness in respect of expanded metals, gratings and handrails.
“We feel so strongly about not compromising on quality that we caution customers against bias towards certain suppliers based on a price-driven decision. We also ask them to be aware of unscrupulous practices in the industry,” he says.
“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, but we caution against falling for this as it can affect the outcome of safety and project requirements,” concludes Pringle.