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PEB: Sailing successfully the pandemic waves

PEB: Sailing successfully the pandemic waves

The pre engineered buildings (PEB) industry in booming. It is one of those sectors which not only survived the onslaught of the Pandemic but also registered a strong growth when many sectors were into doldrums on account of Pandemic induced lockdown. The PEB industry received a strong boost during the Pandemic from the e-commerce, pharmaceuticals, FMCG and renewable energy sector. These are a few sectors where the expansion and new facilities were coming up at a rapid phase. In fact during the lockdown and subsequent restriction in lockdown phases many large and midsized companies went on expansion. The paint companies, the plywood manufacturers, the cement and steel players; the plastic mould manufacturers, the auto component manufacturers in fact, many a sector went in for expansion or new plant. The warehousing sector in India registered the fast growth among all sector. According to reports by Knight Frank, the warehousing sector has grown from 18 percent in FY 2017 to 31 percent in FY 2021. Warehouses are made of PEBs. From this it can be interfered the PEB has logged a growth of 25-30 percent and more in the Pandemic. Pennar Industries, a leading stock exchange listed PEB company has reported a profit of Rs.33.32 crore for the fourth quarter ended March 31, against a profit of Rs.1.03 crore in the corresponding quarter of last year on a consolidated basis. The company’s revenue was up 23.35 per cent at Rs. 556.79 crore. The company has recently bagged contract worth Rs 582 crore across its various business verticals during the months of October and November 2021. The contract is for construction of manufacturing facilities, warehouses, solar P V modules, structural steel, from customers such as Ultratech Cement, Shri Digvijay Cement, Matrix Structure, Lodha Group among others. While Kirby Building Systems, a leading PEB player, has inaugurated a third India-based facility in Gujarat.

From nascent to growing stage
In the initial period, PEB was not readily. It was concrete all the way. PEB entered the Indian market in 1990s from the Middle East, as per available data. The first installation of PEB in India was in Greater Noida, Faridabad and Bengaluru. Since, it was very costly, the market for PEB remained very low confined only to couple of orders in a year. Indigenous manufacturing units were established in the 1999-2000 and then on interest started to pick up. The earlier clients for PEB were for warehouses. From simple warehouses, today PEB is practically used for construction of complex steel buildings/structure like shopping complex, sports clubs, schools or colleges, aircraft hangers, multi-level car parking, multi-level cold storage, metro stations, and many more. Till thee early 2000, warehouses were the initial driver for PEB but over the last two decades PEB sector has come up with complex and multistoried structures. As the structure went from simple warehouse to complex steel structure, so did the design. Gone are the days when detailed drafting of blue print and designing were done manually. Nowadays, advanced user friendly computer-aided BIM software takes care of design and detailing. These softwares are bundled with features to determine the strength and thickness of available steel, the building loading criteria like wind resistance, snow loading, seismic zone, and a host of other loads that the building may be subjected to. Softwares such as ETABS and STAAD are used to analysis and design the structures as they are faster in giving the outputs. TEKLA software is widely used in the PEB Industry for structural steel detailing, connection designs, and for fabrication, etc.           

Volatility steel prices a concern
Steel prices have been increasing exponentially. PEB structures are made of steel. Any increase or decrease in steel prices has a direct affect on the PEB projects. A leading PEB player explained, before the deal takes place we take steel price into consideration and quotation is given to the concern party. Some project takes longer time to complete while some are completed with a short period. For project that takes longer time, volatility in steel prices affect the profitability of PEB projects. They end up in loss if prior contract is not executed. Currently this is one of the biggest challenge the industry faces.

Skilled manpower on decline
The PEB industry is facing shortage of skilled manpower which is a vital necessity for the growth of the industry. To overcome the paucity of skilled manpower the industry is imparting training to technicians/engineers on a continuous basis to upgrade their skills. Seminars and conferences are regularly organized to enhance the knowledge of PEB technicians/engineers. The industry rues that engineers nowadays prefer jobs in software industry sitting in air conditioned room. They don’t want to go out on fields in the hot sun. ““Industry is also facing challenge in the form of availability of skill sets, whether it is in manufacturing or engineering or in designs pertaining to construction. We must constantly and continuously be updated with the latest technologies. Professionals have good qualifications, but they only know about old, conventional fabricated structures and are not up to date with the new advancements. We are working with educational institutions like NIT, NICMAR and other engineering colleges and plan a good course on a national level so that the students are updated with the latest technologies and advancements and are thus ready to join the industry as professionals. Another important aspect which is not a challenge per say but is a must-do is the continuous improvement on the safety at job sites. We make sure that the erectors, builders, etc, are continuously updated about the quality and safety standards as per the global standards,” says D Raju.

A Green Alternative to other Construction Materials
Sustainability being the buzz words across the industry, PEB has edge over other construction technologies available in the market when it comes to sustainability.  PEB is eco-friendly as the majority of its components are manufactured from cold formed sheet steel. Steel is one of the world’s most recycled materials as close to 95% of the steel product can be recycled without losing its engineering properties. PEB being a steel product is one of the greenest construction methods available. PEB is energy efficient as advanced roofing materials and better ventilations are provided which keeps the building cool. Natural sunlight through skylights are used on the roof to reduce the overall power consumption. Pre-engineered construction is inherently green products and has comparatively smaller impact on the environment in comparison to conventional brick and motor construction. The energy efficient methods used in producing the steel used for these structures and the high recycled content help in substantially reducing greenhouse gas emission. Even after demolition, these buildings don’t accumulate wastage like asphalt, concrete, brink and dust. The only by-product is metal scrap which is 90% recyclable.

Smooth Ride Ahead
PEB has taken a lead over other construction material, be it precast or concrete. PEB has advantages such as faster construction, less labour, designed to perfection, low maintenance cost and conform to sustainability norms. This has given a lead to PEB while setting us new facilities or expanding the existing one. With PEB it is faster to construct. E-commerce which has grown exponentially in the Pandemic times has to set up warehouses faster to cater to the ever increasing demand from the customers. Here PEB is the first choice and the orders from e-commerce players are plenty in offing. After PEB it is the pharmaceutical manufacturers who are expanding at rapid phase. They need cold chain warehouses to store medicines. Again PEB is the choice. To corner maximum market share the PEB industry too is coming us with various innovations such as skylights and solar panels on rooftops of PEB structure to meet the requirement of adequate sunlight during the day and of captive power requirement to mitigate increasing power cost. The Government’s focus on infrastructure with development of roads & highways, airports and railways will create a huge demand for PEB. The upcoming new airports and airport modernization projects, greenfield airports and Sagarmala project, a Rs. 8 trillion port-led development project, will need PEB for construction of hangars, warehouses, etc. The construction of metro rail networks and planned metro rail networks in various parts of the country will ring in business for the industry. To preserve the products in control environment in food and pharmaceutical industry, PEB is increasing being preferred for creation of controlled cold chain facility. To summarize, the demand is endless – malls, hypermarkets, multiplexes, SEZs, agro parks, biotech parks, industrial cities, gem & jewellery parks, apparel parks and such specialized parks – so is the opportunities.

“Other sectors which are expected to drive demand for PEB include Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG), Agro Related, Pharmaceuticals, Defense, Tyre, Textile, Data Centers, etc. Demand for PEB in the public and the government sector as well is rapidly increasing including low cost housing where government is adopting prefab technology for speedy implementation,” says D Raju.

The boom has already started for the PEB sector. The industry has successfully faced the two Pandemic waves. The industry will again successful sail the ongoing third wave.


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