Author's Name: Nick Nedkoff
Date: Fri 24 Nov 2023

Vocational Visit to InfraBuild

        

InfraBuild is part of the GFG Liberty alliance which, among other entities, owns and operates the Whyalla steel electric arc furnace (EAF) works in South Australia. Here, iron ore, from its own ore mines in South Australia, is processed into steel from which structural sections, rails and reinforcement wire is manufactured at their rolling works. Coupled with this operation is InfraBuild Recycling which sources, processes and feeds scrap metal back into the EAF steelmaking process, which forms a very high proportion of the products used by the InfraBuild group of companies.

On Wednesday 22 November, nine Club members, including our exchange Student, Karolina, visited the InfraBuild facility in Forrestfield, to learn how they convert coils of steel wire (up to 12mm diam) and reinforcement rods (up to 40mm diam) into the intricate configurations and shapes necessary for the construction of the reinforced concrete buildings and bridges we see around us every day.

After donning the mandatory personal protection equipment, Michael (InfraBuild state manager) and Andrew, (site manager of the facility) gave us an overview of operations, followed by a tour of the main workshop. It was quite clear from the outset that safety in their workplace is a high priority issue, especially with overhead cranes continually carrying product throughout the works and operating machines that cut, bend and weld continuously, as well as creating a load cacophony of noise. We were able to observe large rod reinforcement, including huge coils of wire being automatically straightened, cut and formed into the required product.

The automated reinforcing mesh machine, receiving continuously fed coiled wire clunked, cut, welded and stacked 6mx2.4m panels of high tensile mesh at a mesmerising rate. Of the mesh being produced, 80% goes directly into the mining industry, where it is predominately used in underground tunnel works. The remainder is retailed out to the general construction industry.

The machines that fabricate the heavy-duty circular column/pile-cages reinforcement units (up to 3.5 tonnes each, usually seen at all of the major bridge works around Perth), were being relocated into a new adjoining building and so were not in operation. InfraBuild supplies 90% of these pile cage components in WA, to ensure a continuous and reliable supply to industry.

It was very hot and noisy in the workshop and the team were relieved at the eventual retreat to the board room to enjoy some much appreciated refreshments. It was there over a light lunch, that our host Michael presented a relaxed overview of the organisation and its operations.

InfraBuild National has 5,000 employees in over 150 locations working in recycling, EAF mills, manufacturing and distribution. InfraBuild Western Australia has 350 employees in 17 locations producing/supplying concrete reinforcing, structural steel, specialist steels, merchant bar, tubes, mine mesh and building products.

Of particular interest to our group was the obvious happy work culture exhibited in the plant, especially in the trying conditions found in heavy industrial fabrication. Their very low staff turnover was an excellent indicator of their culture.

At the conclusion of the discussion, President Kay thanked our host for the opportunity to tour the works and learn more of how the company is at the forefront of the development of this state.


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