Steel fabricator S&L Steel is close to completing the first phase of the landmark Crown Sydney Barangaroo – with support from steel supplier Liberty Metalcentre.
“For a large project to be successful, it has to be a team-oriented effort or it will fail – it’s as simple as that,” says Pablo Santos, Director at western Sydney-based steel fabricator S&L Steel.
Pablo makes the assertion with all the experience of someone who has delivered a number of multi-million dollar projects over the years. With several large projects successfully completed in the areas of infrastructure, commercial buildings, bridge works, water treatment and power station construction, he and the S&L Steel team are engaged on arguably the largest building construction project ever to appear on S&L Steel’s books – the Crown Sydney Hotel Resort in Sydney’s Barangaroo.
It’s certainly the most high-profile job the company has taken on. The Crown Sydney Hotel Resort complex is one of the best-known projects currently underway in an Australian capital city. Once complete, the tower on the western edge of Sydney’s CBD will stand at 71 storeys tall and will become the city’s tallest habitable building at 275 metres.
Pablo explains that the tower is basically two buildings in one, with the skyscraper sitting on a five-storey steel-framed atrium.
“The lower building forms the base and then the concrete pour goes all the way from level six to the top,” he says. “The interesting thing about where it’s at just now is that the basement of the building is being dug out at the same time as we’re building up. That’s not generally the way buildings are constructed here in Australia.”
S&L Steel was awarded the contract to fabricate and erect over 2500 tonnes of structural steel, welded beams and plate required for the Crown Sydney building by construction manager Lendlease in 2016. Work is well underway on the five-storey atrium, with steel erection almost complete on level 4.
S&L Steel Director Pablo Santos in his office.
“Level 5 is much smaller than the floors below it, so once level 4 is finished our scope of works is nearing completion,” Pablo says.
Liberty Metalcentre’s support for the tender
Pablo explains that winning the fabrication job for S&L Steel was a personal crusade from the outset.
“I understood that this was going to be an iconic building – I wanted the steel to be made in Australia and I wanted to prove to everyone that the job could be carried out in Australia,” Pablo says.
He understood implicitly that pitching for the contract – and delivering to Lendlease and Crown’s expectations – was always going to require the support of a trusted steelwork supplier. He says Liberty Metalcentre played an important part in S&L Steel’s successful tender.
“When I started to have a good gut feeling that the work was going to go forward, I gave [Liberty Metalcentre General Manager] Mark Lewin a call and I said, ‘I’m serious about winning this job and keeping the job in Australia’. His response was: ‘I’ll throw at you all the resources you need – what do you want?’
“The fact that Metalcentre committed to the project from the very start and has supported us all the way through has been amazing – whether it was locking in pricing or committing to volumes, they’ve been extremely proactive,” Pablo says.
Teamwork and trimming costs
A visit to S&L Steel‘s workshop reveals the expanse needed by a steel fabricator to service multiple projects, both big and small, at any one time.
The facility offers over 6000sqm of yard space complete with machines for plasma plate cutting, blasting and painting to prepare fabricated steel for different finishes. Two 60-tonne cranes in the workshop transfer steel product between fabrication, paint shop and despatch area.
The bulk of the structural steel supplied by Liberty Metalcentre to S&L Steel was processed on beamlines and coping lines at Metalcentre’s nearby Wetherill Park branch, with the remainder processed at S&L Steel using its new beam line. In terms of the plate needed for the job, Metalcentre facilitated delivery of high-grade plate up to 100mm thick directly to S&L Steel from the mill as part of a cost-saving initiative.
Cutting a steel beam in the S&L Steel workshop.
Metalcentre’s Muralidhara Sharma says delivery of product straight to S&L Steel’s yard helped take some pain away from one of his biggest customers.
“We were able to provide a cost saving with the transportation and handling costs by organising rapid transport arrangement, mainly at night, which we had not done before for any other customer,” Muralidhara says. “S&L Steel run a 24-hour operation, so they had the capacity to take the product even at night.”
Another value-add provided by Metalcentre, he says, has been setting up a comprehensive action plan and holding regular weekly meetings with the S&L Steel team to ensure smooth delivery of steel materials exactly when required.
Procurement of material is just one of the many challenges associated with being a fabricator, Pablo says, and it doesn’t matter if the operation you run is a big or small one.
“When you’re trying to source 70mm plate, you can’t just go down the road and buy it – you have to put orders in well in advance of when you need it and rely on your supplier to come through with the goods. Because when you need it, you really do need it.”
Cutting connection plates at S&L Steel.
Another challenge with this project came early in the process with getting buy-in from everyone in the business.
“It’s one thing for me to have want to take on a job on, it’s another to get everyone within the business wanting to go on that same journey,” Pablo says. “You just know you’re going to be working some late nights, working some weekends, calling in some special favours.”
S&L Steel’s relationships with its partners in steel supply and fabrication reveal the importance of teamwork in tendering for, and delivering, complex projects.
“The way I see it, I’ve got 90–100 people that S&L employ – almost all of them are local workers – and that means I’ve got about 90–100 mortgages that S&L feels responsible for. So yes, I do feel proud that the company has pulled together to take on this project.”
Main image courtesy Lendlease