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[INNOVILT Alliance Journal] ⑥ Eucho Industrial, A Manufacturer of INNOVILT Scaffolding System

2020/12/16

Join the next story of INNOVILT Alliance Journal at POSCO Newsroom! The sixth story is about the visit to Eucho Industrial, a manufacturer of ES700 Ultralight Scaffolding System.

In construction sites, many tasks require working on a scaffolding installed in mid-air. This means that field workers are always at risk of falling. In fact, statistics show that 60% of fatal accidents at construction sites last year were caused by falling.

Experts focused on the “scaffolding system” as a way to reduce falls on construction sites. They explained that with the scaffolding system properly installed, the frequency of fatal accidents can be reduced greatly. The Korean government is also striving to spread this scaffolding system with the “Clean Workplace Support Project,” which supports the costs of scaffolding system installation in SME construction companies.

So what makes the scaffolding system so important? On hearing that Eucho Industrial, which manufactures and leases scaffolding systems, has become an INNOVILT Alliance with POSCO, POSCO Newsroom decided to pay the company a visit. Let’s dive into the details about the scaffolding system!

l Scaffolding System: In Charge of the Safety On Construction Sites

Eucho Industrial’s material center is located two and a half hours drive away from Seoul. In the spacious yard, long round steel pillars were neatly stacked. As we were looking around the company, Eucho Industrial’s CEO Byeong-Gi Jeong came to greet us. “Welcome to Eucho Industrial. You’re looking at the scaffolding system manufactured at the plant just now. Are you curious about where and how these pillars are used? Let me share the details inside.”

The “INNOVILT Alliance” mark was the first thing that caught the eye, on visiting CEO Jeong’s office. Here we could meet Eucho Industrial’s Meong-Gon Kim and Young-Soon Chang, and also POSCO’s Min-Seok Lee who would be explaining to us about the scaffolding system.

First, we heard what a scaffolding is. Scaffolding is a temporary structure that makes work in high areas possible. It is a kind of a walk plate that enables workers to transport and move materials.

Such scaffolding is largely divided into steel pipe scaffolding and scaffolding systems. Steel pipe scaffolding is made by assembling steel pipes in a checkerboard shape and tightening them with bolts and nuts. Safety can be secured to a certain extent by using standardized materials and installing them tightly. However, in some small construction sites, the scaffolding is installed only in some places, or there are cases where the clamp is not properly tightened. These are considered as the major causes of fall accidents. The scaffolding system compensates for these shortcomings of steel pipe scaffolding. The walk plates, passage, and safety railing are fabricated beforehand at factories and installed in a batch. Unlike steel pipe scaffolding, which can be installed arbitrarily, the scaffolding system is much safer in that it is modularized by calculating its structure.

l Eucho Industrial: The First Company to Introduce the Scaffolding System in Korea

Eucho Industrial specializes in making and leasing temporary materials such as the scaffolding system. In 1995, the company started the first temporary material rental business in Korea, and in the same year introduced the scaffolding system for the first time in Korea, thus opening the era of the scaffolding system at construction sites. In 2009, Eucho Industrial also started to develop its own products.

▲ Eucho Industrial’s CEO Beong-Gi Jeong

“The conventional scaffolding system applied in the past was manufactured with overseas (France, Japan) technology, so it often didn’t fit the conditions of Korea. For example, as the height of workers of each country was different, Japanese products were too low for domestic workers while the case was the opposite in European products. Also, the price was too costly, making it difficult to apply to all sites.” This was why Eucho Industrial stepped up to develop a scaffolding system that was suitable for domestic construction sites.

l Ultralight High Strength Steel Pipe Made with POSCO Steel

Securing lightness in weight was what Eucho Industrial paid attention to when developing the scaffolding system. Because, in the case of conventional scaffolding, the heavyweight posed a burden on the workers at the sites. So, the new scaffolding system required steel pipes that are light and able to withstand the weight of the workers. And that was when Eucho Industrial encountered UL700 (Ultra Light 700), a steel pipe product made of POSCO’s high strength steel PosH690 (POSCO High strength 690). The ultra-light steel pipe was 25% lighter in weight and 40% higher in tensile strength than existing products — the perfect material that Eucho Industrial was seeking.

Eucho Industrial’s Myeong-Gon Kim said, “The more we reviewed the performance of UL700, the more we became certain that it was most appropriate for our new product. On the one hand, of course, there were skeptical views. It was because the product was new to be adopted, so there were issues regarding its supply and demand and machinability. However, we put our faith in it since it was made of POSCO steel.” POSCO’s Min-Seok Lee responded, “We also had confidence in the technology that the Eucho Industrial has had in the field of construction safety. We believed that we could create great synergy with Eucho Industrial which recognized the importance of construction safety earlier and pioneered the temporary material sector.”

In 2010, the cooperation between the two companies finally yielded prominent results. A full-scale mass production system was established for ES700 (Eucho System 700), the ultralight and high-strength scaffolding system adopting UL700. It was the result of endless doubts and concerns about product performance and repeated experiments and tests to solve them. “The product was sent to a related institute to check how strong it is, and the product passed the test. However, due to the nature of rental products, there were opinions that the quality couldn’t be verified by testing only new products. So we threw the product on the roof of the factory over and over again to damage it. I remember that everyone was pleased with the result that the quality was the same as the new product even after use.”

▲ Eucho Industrial’s CEO Byeong-Gi Jeong and POSCO’s Min-Seok Lee looking at ES700, the ultralight high-strength scaffolding system

Eucho Industrial’s Young-Soon Chang also thanked POSCO, who worked with Eucho Industrial the entire process, from material selection to mass production. “There were times when I wondered whether our product was truly competitive. However, since we are an SME, we lacked the infrastructure to conduct test performance. At that time, POSCO suggested experimenting to see if Eucho Industrial products were indeed strong. As a result, we carried out structural performance tests on ES700 and products of other companies at POSCO R&D Center in Songdo. All three tests showed that our products possessed better strength. It was a reassuring moment to have a partner with whom we could share and solve problems together.”

l ES700: Equipped with All Functions Required On Sites

Eucho Industrial explained that the ES700 Ultralight Scaffolding System has three main advantages. First of all, the biggest advantage is its lightweight. The thickness of the ES700 is 1.92mm for the vertical material and 1.8mm for the horizontal material. Both the vertical and horizontal materials have become 15% thinner than conventional steel pipe scaffolding, which is 2.3mm thick. The weight was also reduced by 25%, compared to the existing product, which demonstrates that the weight of 4 to 5 materials of other companies equals the weight of 6 to 8 ES700s. It also reduces transportation costs as it becomes lighter, enabling the transportation of more quantities at once. Eucho Industrial CEO Jeong went on to explain, “This isn’t all. Because it is easy to transport and handle, the constriction time is also shortened, and construction efficiency is increased. It is also effective in preventing musculoskeletal diseases of workers on the site who are carrying the materials.”

But doesn’t reducing the thickness weaken the product’s strength to withstand the load? Wouldn’t the safety also be reduced along with its weight? POSCO Min-Seok Lee stepped in to explain the strength of ES700.

ES700 is made of CGH690 and PosH690, a POSCO World Premium Product (WTP) high-strength steel with a tensile strength of 690MPa and higher. Most of the products of other companies have a tensile strength of 400MPa. I think I need not explain which one is safer. Since it is made of high-strength steel, the damage rate is much lower than that of conventional products.”

The elongation, which is the rate at which the steel does not break and stretches, is also excellent.” Myeong-Gon Kim added an explanation, “If a steel product is just strong without being able to be stretched, it will break easily even with a small impact. On the other hand, steel products with strong flexibility — high percent elongation — are excellent in shock absorption, so they are quick to recover even when hit hard. Increasing both strength and elongation is difficult to implement in steel products. But POSCO technology made it happen.

The second advantage is compatibility. ES700 can be applied to any existing scaffolding. This is differentiated from existing products that must be purchased as a full set. Myeong-Gon Kim added, “The walk plates for the scaffolding system is more expensive than conventional scaffolding. With the ES700, it can be used together with any other walk plates, thus reducing the cost of purchasing and managing scaffoldings. It’s much economical.”

The last advantage is simplicity. Thanks to the simple shape of the product, it can be installed quickly and easily. Unlike conventional steel pipe scaffolding, which requires scaffolding installation experts, with ES700, you have to simply insert the wedge pin of the horizontal material into the bracket of the vertical material, and it’s all done! Once the horizontal level is well aligned, anyone — even a worker with no experience — can install it easily and safely. Does the easy installation make it less safe? The answer is no. The structural safety of the product is also excellent due to the high friction area between the vertical and horizontal materials. It is also easy to disassemble as it doesn’t require any separate process to remove the pins. The overall cost is also estimated to be reduced with the cost saved in material construction and labor.

Ik-Won Choi, CEO of construction company GMT, said, “Experts specializing in installation and construction acknowledge how good ES700 is. It is light enough that a single person can carry up to 10 products, and the labor cost for installation and disassembly is more than 15% efficient than other products. When organizing and logistics costs are added, the difference is up to 20%. The workers also prefer construction sites where Eucho Industrial products are applied. Since it is such a competitive product, we have no choice but to increase the stock of ES700 products.”

l ES700: How Are They Made?

“Now you know what the ES700 is. But aren’t you curious about how it is made?” said CEO Jeong after his explanation. We quickly put on our safety caps and headed to the factory.

First, POSCO high-strength steel (PosH690, CGH690) is shaped into 48.6mm-wide (for vertical materials) and 42.7mm-wide (for horizontal materials) steel pipes (UL700) and delivered to Eucho Industrial. The pipes then undergo five stages to become the ES700. The first is the cutting process, where the steel pipes are cut according to the five different modular lengths of horizontal and vertical materials. Holes are drilled for connecting pins in the steel pipes for vertical materials, and a “C”-shaped groove is made in the steel pipes for horizontal materials. This process is called the punching and notching process.

▲ Steel pipes that have undergone the punching process (left) and the notching process (right)

Once the vertical and horizontal materials have completed the punching and notching process, brackets and wedge pins are welded to the steel pipes. The vertical materials are then shipped to the plating plant where they go under a separate hot-dip galvanizing process to increase corrosion resistance as they have to withstand the load directly. The horizontal materials also undergo a rust prevention process through zinc treatment on the welding parts. Finally, impurities are removed from the surfaces of both materials, and the ES700 Ultralight Scaffolding System is complete.

l ES700: Acknowledged by Workers on Sites

Eucho Industrial’s Young-soon Chang said with confidence, “The response in the field is great. They say that it is light and easy to install, so it speeds up the work. Recently, reorder requests are coming in from sites where the products have already been used. Isn’t that proof that our products satisfy them?”

However, ES700 was not well received in the beginning. It was because the price is 20 to 30% higher than other products. Since temporary materials are perceived to be materials that are used for a short time anyway, many try to reduce costs by utilizing cheap materials imported from overseas. However, since ES700 is made with POSCO premium steel, its price wasn’t competitive. So what was the strategy of both companies to overcome this issue?

POSCO’s Min-Seok Lee replied, “We appealed to the price competitiveness of the ES700 in terms of overall cost, not just the initial purchasing cost. ES700 is lightweight and easy to install and disassemble, reducing transportation, storage, and labor costs. The initial purchasing cost may seem pricey, but in terms of overall cost, the products are much cheaper than conventional products.”

CEO Jeong also added, “If you make the product with imported materials, you can, of course, sell it at a lot cheaper price. However, there is an incomparable difference between the quality of POSCO steel and cheap imported steel. When the material is folded, cheap imported materials show multiple cracks. This is a problem that does not occur at all in POSCO Steel. From the user’s point of view, products made with imported steel may seem good at first because of the cheap price, but they cause additional costs since they have to be repaired for damages later on. Since ES700 is made of high-strength steel, it is more durable than conventional products and has a longer life. In the long run, the durable ES700 is much more economical.

Eucho Industrial has never thought of utilizing steel from overseas, whose safety is uncertified. With this belief, ES700 has been recognized for its excellence and was applied to major construction projects, such as the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, Samsung Electronics R5 in Suwon, and POSCO Incubating Center. It has gradually expanded its market share, and currently, it is also being used at the construction site of Section 10 of the Hamyang-Changnyeong Expressway.

The ES700 Ultralight Scaffolding System listed its name as an INNOVILT product last year. Eucho Industrial’s Young-Soon Chang said, “Since the product is certified as premium steel for construction material by POSCO, we are filled with confidence and pride when meeting clients. I believe that the influence INNOVILT Alliance creates will be strong.”

The two companies are also preparing to leap further with the INNOVILT certification. They are planning to expand the use of ES700 by improving its value chain and accelerate market share. There are already responses from the sites saying that they will only use ES700 in the future. With this momentum, POSCO and Eucho Industrial will also work together to foster installation companies specializing in INNOVILT products”.

At the end of the interview, CEO Jeong said, “Innovation is only possible with differentiated technology and know-how, and with persistence and passion to keep going. We are pleased to have POSCO as such a reliable partner. We will continue to pioneer the development of products that can lead the construction market with outstanding materials.”

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