British Structural Engineering!

Watched a house-choice type programme on a Digital channel a few weeks back, which was first broadcast on Channel Four, and I do have to admit that I was not only impressed, but also deeply depressed! Allow me to explain, if I may. The show, named Grand Designs, features a set of buyers looking to achieve their dream home by new build, site renovation or drastic alteration to existing property. In this particular case, the elderly couple had lived in their existing home for over thirty years, and deciding to change, went the whole way with a German-designed and built house, pre-manufactured and equipped in a factory in Bavaria, then shipped to England and erected in a week, with full fitting and completion in another four weeks. Now there are approximately similar companies in Britain offering a similar service to the Germans, but in the real world that we live in, I know which crowd I would be heading for! Watching the German teams in the factory was sad enough, but watching the installation crew at work in Surrey depressed me beyond belief. Why? Because not only did they know their jobs backwards, they worked, and worked as a team; beating the pants off any team which might be assembled from anywhere in Britain. What gives me the right to say this? Well, around twenty-odd years of watching in quiet horror as I was expected to accept second-rate, shoddy work on site, of repeatedly asking for things to be done correctly two and three times before anything was achieved to correct the appalling work done in the first place! The German finishing and fitting team were expected to perform to exacting standards, and when their own inspection supervisor found one item which didn’t meet his standards, the offending item was stripped down and re-done, immediately! You couldn’t even hope for such a reaction on a British-run job, mainly for fear that the appropriate men wouldn’t walk off the job in a huff, and never come back again! The product, manufactured in a factory to exacting measurements and tolerances, came together like a Swiss watch, and the German team not only caught up on a delay caused by the non-appearance of the crane, they beat their own estimates in order to leave the site on time!

I can only tell the reader of a similar building experiences in Inner London; though not a house but a far larger and more complex job; it was supposed to be made to similar tolerances, and when I say that I found the British erection teams both shoddy, ill-trained and totally useless in their approach to the job, that was only par for the course. It was when I was inspecting on-going work that I really felt sad, because this was work which they claimed was finished, and ready for inspection. When I say that there was an inch gap at one end of a structural beam joint (as pictured!), I do not exaggerate! There was also an attempt to get an H-beam, installed as part of the same roof structure, past my review, while having been installed with a bend in it! The bend was there so it would fit into the rest of the ill-assembled structure! There are simply no comparisons between the two nations. One bunch, the British, have to be checked and checked again, the Germans could be left alone to do their work, in the knowledge that it would be done, to standards, to tolerances, and to Project requirements!

5 thoughts on “British Structural Engineering!

  1. Interesting post, a few thoughts:
    I think that Triumph Motorcycles are a good example of a British company that does get it right.

    I am a British engineer and I impose pretty exacting standards on myself but I do this as an individual, I have often encountered colleagues for whom ‘near enough is good enough’.

    Although I work in England, I work for a German company and I have to say that they don’t always live up to the German reputation for efficiency.

    The people that impress me the most are the Americans. We sell american products as well as our own and their approach to customer service is very impressive. Their product is not perfect but it is constantly being updated and improved and the vast majority of the improvements really are improvements. I’m sure you know what I mean when I say that some companies improve their products backwards. A big fly in the ointment is their lack of metrication but we can’t have everything.

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