New thinking

15 February 2018


Daniel Searle travelled to Weymouth, UK, to visit one of the lifting industry’s newest suppliers, Britlift.

Having officially started business in 2017 as a manufacturer of lifting beams, spreader beams and lifting frames, the duo behind Britlift—Liam Botting, managing director and Anthony Culshaw, technical director—were in buoyant mood when Hoist visited them on the south coast of the UK.

With both directors benefiting from a welldocumented history in the industry, Britlift found its feet quickly in a competitive market. “After starting the business in the summer, we had a great 2017 that far surpassed our expectations,” says Botting. “A strong finish and busy Christmas period helped to set us up for the new year and we are excited about the prospects ahead in 2018.” “We thought we were going to mostly be selling our stocked modular spreader beams, but the majority of our sales have actually been custom or consultancy projects.”

“I’m very happy with custom work as I’m an engineer and the engineering side of our business, and lifting in general, is something I am passionate about,” comments Culshaw.

“And as we’re a smaller company, we’re willing to go the extra mile for our customers.”

Part of this innovative approach has manifested itself in Britlift’s weld-free spreader beams, a new patent pending development from the company. It’s the weld-free design of the beams that provides a particular advantage for many applications.

“This was driven by the oil and gas, and offshore sectors,” says Culshaw. “There is a huge specification required in these sectors, involving quality assurance and various documentation—and much of that concerns welding.

“That covers storage, procedures, inspections, MPI inspection—both pre- and post-load test. Getting all the necessary people together can add weeks or months to the delivery time, as well as increasing the cost.

“There are MPI standards relating to cracks, notches, undercutting—due to the propagation of cracks over time.

“As a result of all of this, in the oil and gas sector, the weld documentation costs can often be higher than the cost of the products.” A key part of the process of designing a weld-free beam was finding a way of avoiding putting the stress on the bolts, says Culshaw—the design ensures that when compressed, the component parts of the beam press together.

Other additions to the design were necessitated by the lack of welds, explains Botting: “The section is galvanised—this ensures that the metal is protected against any moisture which gets into the beam assembly, removing corrosion as a concern.”

The weld-free spreader beam can be supplied now, adds Botting, and there are also new sizes in the pipeline.

Further plans for the beams include potentially supplying the nuclear sector, where a similar level of diligence is applied to welds as in the oil and gas industry. Another innovation can be found in the Traditional Modular Spreader Beam system (welded design), which is a system people will be more accustomed to.

“The current standard design for modular spreader beams has been around for quite a while now, so we took the opportunity to utilise current engineering and manufacturing abilities and processes to improve the design,” explains Culshaw. “We were able to develop a new design, starting from a clean slate, enabling us to save weight and save cost.

“Our system utilizes a loose-link design, and as these links can be heavy at larger sizes—above 100t—we have incorporated an innovative system to hold these links in place whilst rigging.”

FLEXIBLE GROWTH

“We have a high-quality approach, but we are also very flexible,” says Botting. “We are happy to work with customers to provide exactly what they need, whether that be a simple or complex lifting beam or lifting frame, a 2t or 200t system, CE marking existing equipment, providing design only consultancy or manufacturing something bespoke for a gantry crane or forklift.

All of our products are designed to BE EN13155:2003+A2:2009 and are CE marked in accordance with the Machinery Directive. All of our welding is performed by coded welders and quality guaranteed. If you would simply like some advice about your existing lifting systems then we are happy to help.”

The mention of lifting frames brings up another point of innovation: “With big lifting frames, transportation costs can account for 50% of the total cost of the product,” says Botting. “So we’ve designed ours to be able to be broken down for easier and cheaper transportation.”

A recent project involved the design of modular frames for a company in India, for lifting ‘bathroom pods’—ready-fitted bathrooms to be installed during the construction phase of apartment blocks. As well as providing lifting equipment to overseas companies, Britlift are also offering consultancy abroad—an easily exportable product, notes Culshaw. Looking to the future, the company is targeting the oil and gas, nuclear, and wind energy sectors.

“The offshore wind sector is a great fit for our kit as many the lifts involved are large, and none of them are particularly standard or simple to perform,” says Culshaw.

“The nacelles of wind turbines also often have an offset centre of gravity, which means more sophisticated engineering is required to complete each lift—and it’s a relatively new industry, which is evolving bigger and heavier parts.”

There is also interest in supplying RTGs with lifting frames, which are often used in place of beams due to the low headroom of RTGs, says Botting. “It’s common for manufacturers to have a vast stock of beams in a range of lengths and capacities. With frames, however, manufacturers tend to have low stocks as each one is very bespoke. As a flexible company we can design, manufacture and supply lifting frames to specific dimensions quickly.”

In the near future, 2018 may see Britlift move to a new location to accommodate their growing business.

“We originally signed up to 12 months at our current premises, but due to current order and enquiry levels we may have to move before that time,” says Botting. “With the way the business is going, and the interest and enquiries we have received, we would like to move into bigger premises to increase spreader beam and spreader frame stock levels plus add some lifting beam stock. Adding lifting beam stock will mean we can service clients that may currently have to wait 4-6 weeks, within a few days.

“In the longer-term, we may bring manufacturing in-house in the future. Most of our competitors sub-contract as well, and it makes the process more costefficient and lead times could more than half. If we do bring manufacturing in-house we will maintain our current high-quality standards by only employing coded welders, and implementing stringent quality procedures

A lifting frame produced for a scientific research facility in Europe.
A selection ofBritLift’s lifting beams
Full beam: Technical director Anthony Culshaw, left, and managing director Liam Botting.