Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Scaffolding and Formwork

Scaling up!

CONSTRUCTION OPPORTUNITIES offers an insight into the latest developments in the scaffolding and formwork market in India.


Although factors like cost, speed and efficiency have been the principal drivers for the growth of the global formwork industry, it is only in recent times that Indian companies have moved away from traditional timber formwork and embraced the more customisable and durable system formwork on a larger scale. Much of this owes to the presence of international brands like Peri, Meva, MFE and Doka in India whose entry has garnered serious attention from the local industry. Notwithstanding this the “conventional formwork market still dominates the Indian scaffolding industry by nearly 95 per cent,” explains Raj Lakhani, Managing Director, PERI India, his views gaining strength from a recent scientific market study done by his firm. “Every market analysis is created on the basis of certain parameters. We do it on the basis on construction output and consumption. The market for conventional systems is still very high, so we have just scratched the surface. The intense competition has meant that suppliers are constantly innovating products to garner higher market share.”


Earlier people used to construct only with traditional formwork; they used to build with column beam and slab kind of construction where the internal wall used to be of masonry.  Incidentally MFE Formwork, the aluminium formwork firm from Malaysia, was among the first major companies in India to introduce the concept of system formwork among developers and contractors. Ketan Shah,  Managing Director, MFE Formwork Technology (I) Pvt. Ltd. offers historical perspective. “In 2001, we started with low-cost housing projects wherein all the walls used to be concrete walls, there used to be no masonry, no plasters. It took the developers some time to understand that by shifting from column beam to all concrete wall it can give them certain benefits in terms of cost and appearance. As against the 20-30 day cycle, nobody ever thought a 4-5-6 day cycle was possible. With technology, people can build much faster.”The construction cycle in India that used to be around 25 days has been brought down to less than five days on an average.” Along with speed and the subtraction in timelines have also come high levels of safety.




With India being a highly capital intensive market and a large number of projects done in the SPV mode or in collaboration, the use of system formwork in construction has not found high residual value. Also depending on the scale of projects, people still prefer conventional scaffolding and formwork for a regular seven to fourteen storey building over system formwork. Indeed of the major challenges faced by suppliers is in driving home the advantages of systems formwork among clients as also underlining the quality and best practices inherent in them.


Quality is a relative concept among buyers, according to Ujwal Sabnis, Director, Meva Formwork Systems Pvt Ltd. “How does one define it? For someone, the best quality material available in his budget will be a quality product; for others it could be different. But the market is evolving and so is the perception.”


Vikram Mehta, Managing Director, Spartan Engineering Industries Pvt. Ltd. while agreeing with the sentiment points to the drawbacks of conventional scaffolding systems in the country.  “There are numerous local manufacturers in the country and no uniform standards. Also the initial cost of scaffolding including for erection, commissioning, dismantling are very high, also the space taken for erection is very high.”

On the other hand, modern systems are made available in the construction kit concept which means it is highly versatile and can be employed to design any architectural shape. Further as the life of the system is very high suppliers tend to focus highly on training manpower for safe handling and reusability of the product. “In general, a system is a winner in which you require minimum customisation,” emphasises Lakhani. “We focus on the reusability of the system because the life of the system is quite long and, often, the requirement of customisation in our systems is very low.”


A major area of concern in the formwork industry is the manner in which the product is often times handled by workers on site. Sabnis is led to say, “People are careless about handling the systems and end up recklessly dumping it. The prime concern among the big players is to impart knowledge about the life cycle of the systems.”  Bharat Patel, Director – Sales and Marketing, Nav Nirman Formwork Systems Pvt. Ltd. adds, “With the use of the advanced formwork system, proper training requires to be imparted to labourers on the standard procedures followed in the erection and de-erection of the system, which increases on site work efficiency.


Awareness in terms of handling and maintenance is also important as this gives longevity and improves the life of the product.”  Anupam Kumar Sharma, Managing Director, Doka India adds, “Our advisory services can provide valuable insights into the technical feasibility, and decisive pointers to aid the choice of optimum, cost-effective forming and construction methods. In later phases of the project, Doka services such as 3D planning, the ‘ready-to-use’ pre-assembly service, formwork instructors or formwork co-ordination all help to optimise the construction workflow, save resources and keep work on schedule.”


Smart formwork Systems

There are several formwork systems being currently used in the industry, but developers and contractors largely continue to rely on the following four types of formworks:


System column formwork: The column formwork systems now available are normally modular in nature and allow quick assembly and erection on-site while minimising labour and crane time.  Innovations have led to adjustable, reusable column forms which can be clamped on-site to give different column sizes.


Jump form systems: The jump form systems supports itself on the concrete cast earlier so does not rely on support or access from other parts of the building or permanent works. Often described as climbing systems, they are suitable for construction of multi-storey vertical concrete elements in high-rise structures. Self-climbing formwork cuts down requirement for crane time considerably. 


Slip form: Similar in nature and applicability to jump form, slip form is more economical for buildings more than seven storeys high. The formwork rises continuously, at a rate of about 300 mm per hour, supporting itself on the core and not relying on support or access from other parts of the building or permanent works.


The tunnel formwork: This is extremely popular for mass urban housing in international projects. It allows the contractor to cast walls and slabs in one operation in a daily cycle. It combines the speed, quality and accuracy of factory/off-site production with the flexibility and economy of in-situ construction and is recognised as a modern method of construction.



With the formation of a new, proactive government and new infrastructure projects lined up in the 12th Five Year Plan, and pending projects getting cleared, the formwork market, already witness to technological developments, is expected to get increasingly busy. Market analysts are of the view that the share of the scaffolding and formwork market will grow by 10-15 per cent year-on-year. That should be happy news for those who want construction to scale up.