Saint-Gobain Acquisition of Sika

Whilst details are still pretty limited it does appear that Saint Gobain have aquired a control in Sika.

What does this mean in the UK for the 2 companies?

The Sika Board and Group Management have identified 2 product areas where there will be direct competition between the 2 companies, technical mortars and tile adhesives.

Whilst globally this may be an issue, how big an issue is it to the companies in the UK?

The definition of technical mortars is very subjective, but if we assume this means renders, repair systems and grouts in the UK where are the areas of compitition?

  • Saint Gobain, mainly through there weber brand, have a high level of market share in the External Wall Insulation market, which is a market Sika is absent from!
  • Sika has a strong market share in repair systems and are market leaders with some of its corrosion control systems, whilst the weber brand is present in this market in the form of flowable concrete and sprayed concrete, it is generally used in the commodity end of the product range.
  • Grouts products, whilst high volume are very low value materials. This is a strength of weber. Sika have struggled for many years to compete in this market and in recent times have all but withdrawn from it!

Tile adhesives in the UK are dominated by several companies such as weber and ardex to name a few, but for Sika in the UK this product area is a relatively small market, generally only exisiting in the portfolio to provide a full range of products to major customers such as DIY retailers and builders merchants.

Will there be a conflict between the 2 companies in the UK in tile adhesives and technical mortars, well not really! Several years ago this would have been a major issue, but both companies have found there own route through the markets and there startegies have diverged.

Saint Gobain with its weber brand has a very effective production facility for the products produced for the technical mortars and tile adhesive segments, whilst Sika have a smaller production facility that is without doubt more expensive to run and produce for this area.

My guess will be that the synergies Saint Gobain  are looking for from the aquisition, in the UK market, will be support function based with a particular emphasis on production of the materials. The conflict of interest mentioned by the Sika Board, may simply not exist in the UK market, and the divergant strategies of the 2 companies may mean a strong market position, without duplication of effort and resources.

Watch this space to see how this one pans out!

Innovations in Structural Strengthening – Cast Iron and Steel Structures using UHM Carbon Fibre Plates

Interest in strengthening metallic structures was first led by the off shore industry. The civil engineering industry soon realised the opportunity for its use and major bridge owners such as London Underground Limited and Network Rail expressed interest.

In 1996 a DETR/PiT program was set up to develop the use of composite materials in strengthening metallic structures. Detailed areas for investigation included design, specification, materials performance and installation best practise. The main output from this program was the Institution of Civil Engineers design and practise guide ‘ FRP Composites Life Extension and Strengthening of Metallic Structures’, which was published in 2001.

Both cast iron and steel structures have been strengthened with bonded composite plates. Wrought iron is also a material being considered for strengthening.

Another major part of the DETR/PiT program was to carry out full-scale validation of the technique. A London Underground Ltd bridge called D65A was selected for this trial. The bridge consisted of 3 main longitudinal beams with transverse beams spanning between them. Two of the transverse beams were selected for the trial. A target of a reduction in peak strains in the beams of 25% was chosen and designed for. A known load was pasted over the bridge both before and after strengthening and a reduction of peak strains of 23% was recorded. The discrepancy between the target and the actual reduction in strain was investigated and found to be due to the stiffened beams attracting additional load from other parts of the structure.

The plates for strengthening metallic structures are generally considerably larger than those used for strengthening reinforced concrete. The requirement for increased stiffness of the strengthened element means larger cross section areas are required and the fibres used within the plates, although still carbon, have a higher stiffness than those used for strengthening reinforced concrete. These requirements mean that plates are generally manufactured to the exact dimensions and properties required for the project, making them bespoke plates.

To provide plates that have a high level of control of fibre alignment, and hence final plate properties, a pre-preg method of manufacturing is adopted. This involves unidirectional fibres being pre-impregnated with an epoxy resin to form a sheet. These sheets are then laid up individually in the required direction and a vacuum used to consolidate the layers and obtain the maximum fibre fraction content. The whole component is then cured in an autoclave. This method of production also allows tapers to be built into the plate, reducing the thickness at the end of the plates to approximately 1mm and in turn reducing forces on the bond line.

The finished plates are then delivered to site flat in a similar way to steel plates. However, they are considerably lighter than the equivalent steel plate. The substrate needs to be prepared to remove all contamination and corrosion products and provide the maximum levels of adhesion of the adhesive. Although the plates are lighter than steel plates they are too heavy for the adhesive to hold in place whilst still curing. Temporary supports are required to maintain pressure between the plate and the substrate while curing takes place. Once cured a final protective coating is applied over the plate and on to the metallic substrate to prevent corrosion of the substrate.

In 2002 the LUL bridge MR46A was strengthened using the Sika CarboDur DML System. The bridge is a single 28m span bridge consisting of mild steel main and transverse beams. Strengthening was required for the bridge to carry the full LUL load requirements. Various Sika CarboDur UHM plates up to 13m in length, 30mm thick and 250mm wide were installed.

In more recent times production of plates using aramid fibres has been carried out. The aramid fibre is less conductive than carbon fibres and this is believed to be beneficial in reducing induction forces when strengthening bridges over high voltage cable, a common situation on electrified railways.

Technical Sales Strategy – Construction Products

Selling technical products, profitably, within the construction industry invariably means selling to specifiers such as architects, civil engineers, structural engineers and client teams, especially if they are new innovative products. All of these specifiers will have spent many years becoming qualified and will be educated to degree level. All most all of these technical professionals will be looking for technical support from sales people and won’t be comfortable seeing a ‘sales’ person. They will constantly be judging the technical knowledge of the sales person based on the knowledge they have of the product, the understanding of the relevant standards relating to the application and the technical language that they use. They are unlikely to give any sales presentation credibility if they have judged the sales person as not being technically knowledgable.

Any successful technical sales strategy needs several elements to be considered;

Product positioning is important, is it a product which has a technical differentiation to anything else in the market place? If there isn’t, is it a commodity product which needs a different sales strategy?

What sort of sales team will you need? Do you employ people with technical knowledge, but limited or no sales experience, or do you train sales people technically concerning everything associated with the product?

Technical sales tools such as CPD presentations, white papers, Specification Clauses, standard details will all help sales people demonstrate there technical capability and are a necessity in any strategy.

Structural Strengthening
Structural Strengthening

Structural Strengthening Product Data Sheets

Why is it so difficult to get find all the Product Data Sheets for CFRP Plates and Structural Adhesive materials which are available in the UK Market for Structural Strengthening Systems? Many of the major suppliers dont have them readily available on there websites.

Below is a selection of the key products which are generally available in the UK, from Sika, Weber and Mapei. You will probably notice that not all of them are from a UK website, so I hope they are correct. These products are generally for use on concrete structures for flexural strengthening

Click to access Sikadur%2030%20PDS%20(CE).pdf


Click to access carbodur_structstrength.pdf


Click to access 10.010_weber.tec_force_carbon_plate.pdf


Click to access 02.020_weber.tec_EP_structural_adhesive_04.pdf


Click to access 1001_carboplate_gb.pdf


Click to access 1006_mapewrap_11-12_gb.pdf

Next step is to do a product comparision which will appear on the website.