No Limits

Fortress Fencing & Safety Systems

According to Laurie Joyce, Sales Development Manager, the company’s core business has always been and remains temporary fencing – especially the steel-mesh perimeter panels of the 3000 and 5000 ranges. As well, Fortress offers shade cloth and scaffold netting, printed if the customer so desires, water-filled pedestrian or crash barriers, crowd control bars and an array of other related products and accessories.

It is most important, says Laurie, that the company should maintain large stocks at its depots around the country (Sydney is the headquarters, with offices in Brisbane and Melbourne; a branch in Western Australia is in the pipeline for the next financial year and there is also a distribution centre in South Australia), “because when you are on a construction site you can never really judge just when you will suddenly need fencing. It’s always the unexpected. Stock is absolutely vital.”

The machines that Fortress uses to produce panels are unusual, boasting an exclusive welding process, and in constant use churning out up to 700 panels per day to keep on hand. “We stockpile each size to ensure we have plenty on hand at any given time,” explains Laurie.

Very few suppliers do this – selling fencing is comparatively rare, Laurie acknowledges. Indeed, why would a contractor want to buy temporary fencing? It seems almost a contradiction in terms. The prevailing mindset throughout Australia has been to hire, but Fortress is trying to change that by selling in this segment as well as for crowd control or other products. Laurie points to cost savings, considerable reductions in cost in comparison to hiring. Even – in fact especially – on the large projects such as those in Queensland, it has proven to be “far more economically advantageous to buy temporary fencing rather than to hire it.”

Laurie adds that – as with renting a car or anything else – there tend to be a number of hidden ‘extras’ involved in hiring fencing. “We have had many companies who have come to us saying they are sick of hiring because at the end of a project they have been hit with all manner of extra costs such as damage that they had not budgeted for and there is a cost over-run. When you are buying, you can see what the total cost is and budget accordingly because there are no hidden extras and no tricks.”

He says it is often the case that a new customer finds it difficult to work out the cost equation because hiring may initially seem more cost-effective. “But when you are hiring you can guarantee there will be some sort of extra costs although you can never actually put your finger on what those costs will be.” For the contractor, it is about peace of mind and knowing there will be none of those nasty surprises when the fencing is returned to the renting company.

The contractor can then, since the panels are his, use them again on the next project. Temporary, in terms of temporary fencing, is defined somewhat differently. It is only ‘temporary’ in the sense that it is placed in a particular location for a set period of time and can then be moved to be set up somewhere else. It does not mean disposable – indeed, “it can be used temporarily many times.”

In the particular instance of the Brisbane airport link, the joint venture that built the tunnel was not a company in its own right, did therefore not want anything left over at the end of the project and thus negotiated with Fortress a special buy-back agreement (such used fencing can be attractive to a hire company once refurbished, so it is neither wasted nor sold again as ‘new’). There is room for flexibility, says Laurie; “we are trying to sell a concept, not just a product.” Fortress can listen to individual situations and help with ancillary situations such as storage or finance options.

“No other panels are made in Australia,” states Laurie. The company sourced machinery from the UK, where the concept of buying temporary fencing is incidentally much more entrenched. The equipment is state of the art, and Fortress has made it pay for itself through the quality it produces. Welds are all robotic using a process known as Smartweld. This system first forms the ends of the horizontal frame tubes, then uses a specially designed CNC welding system to fuse the vertical and horizontal tubes together. The Smartweld process provides a 360 degree weld effect which has been tested to be more than 70 per cent stronger than conventional Mig welded joints, to “dramatically” improve the overall strength and life span of the fencing system. And manufacturing in-house provides better means of quality control, says Laurie, than with panels made offshore, while the cost of the product is under control too and not at the mercy of dollar exchange rates (the steel itself is of course imported but Fortress’ exposure is limited compared to a company that is importing finished product).

However, it is important that ‘high-quality’ should not equate to ‘heavy’. “We have managed to get the quality right but also ensure that it is a very lightweight panel,” Laurie explains. “The 3000 series panel weighs only 20 kilograms, meaning it is especially useful for contractors who want to put up the fence as quickly as possible. For heavy panels you need two people to carry each panel. With our products, we have a panel which can be carried legally by one man.” A video on the company’s website shows just how fast two installers can erect a 100-metre fence. These fences have been designed to withstand all that the construction industry can throw at them – they are not expected to be treated nicely. “They have to be durable and withstand everyday wear and tear.”

Fortress is finding there is an appetite within the oil and gas industry for buying temporary fencing. “It is different to the construction industry; the pipeline projects in particular are good for us,” shares Laurie. Fortress has supplied to Northern Territory too, in projects such as a large Indigenous housing project in Groote Eylant. The ebb and flow of large orders is bolstered by ranges of related products such as the shade cloths and chain and shade scaffold netting or the crowd control barriers. Workzone pedestrian barriers and concrete crash barriers are complemented by the XT EDGE protection system which is designed to create a protective barrier around hazards, voids, drop-offs, edges and other no-go areas. Ideal for industries such as construction, excavation and crowd control, this system features a galvanised welded mesh panel manufactured from 4mm steel wire at centres not exceeding 50mm x 50mm to comply with AS/NZS 4576-1995 ‘Guidelines for Scaffolding’. Each panel features a rectangular rolled top and triangular bottom incorporating a galvanised kickplate that helps prevent objects falling through the panel bottom.

Perhaps we should not apply words such as ‘flexibility’ to a company making fencing that, really, should not be at all flexible. But in fact, if you have anything that needs to be kept either in or out, Fortress really has the product for you.

“But in fact, if you have anything that needs to be kept either in or out, Fortress really has the product for you.”

Home Automation

Call it ‘domotics,’ and you are likely to receive a blank stare, but refer to it as ‘smart home’ or ‘home automation,’ and you will get a nod of acknowledgement. For the past few years, consumers have heard the word ‘smart’ attached to countless products and services, from food and drink to snacks like popcorn and mobile phones, which no one seems to refer to as a ‘cellphone’ anymore. Yet what, exactly, constitutes ‘smart’?

September 27, 2020, 3:46 AM AEST