B&M Warehouse: How Prefabrication Delivers Speed and Efficiency

The B&M group is the fastest-growing variety goods value retailer with stores operating in the UK, Germany and France. It has recently injected £100m in investment to create a new distribution centre in Bedford that is expected to create 1000 new jobs. The distribution centre will become B&M’s third in the UK and will support its southern operations. Started in April 2019, the project took just over eight months to complete.

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Every installation project faces its own challenges – but when the project is one of the largest in the UK and involves a warehouse measuring 1 million square feet and 22m up to the apex, the challenges inevitably become amplified.

Fire protection systems in warehouses, storage facilities and distribution centres are extremely important: ensuring structures, assets, and most importantly, people are safe and protected should a fire start is a number one priority. To ensure the B&M warehouse is adequately protected, Compco Fire Systems (CFS) – the UK’s largest national fire engineering provider – was trusted to install the fire protection system. CFS understood that quality products and a trustworthy partner were essential to make the project a success. After working with Victaulic for 18 years, CFS knew that the firm possessed all the qualities to be the evident choice.

Preparation is the key

Before a project begins, it is essential to create a strong design that allows the installation process to be visualised, with each step of the procedure accurately mapped out. In the 17 weeks prior to the project’s inception, CFS prepared drawings of the fire protection system with Victaulic products in mind, adhering to strict regulatory standards.

In the construction industry, standard practice typically involves the delivery of products at the start of a project to be assembled onsite. This can create significant and unnecessary challenges: time is often wasted, and mistakes are made as contractors search for pieces and try to prepare the correct volume of material for the specified work zone.

However, this is not the only option: contractors can instead opt for prefabrication (pre-modulisation), where pieces are prepared and preassembled in the required quantities off-site. For this project, which had a limited timeline for completion, CFS opted to prefabricate much of the fire-proof system – with special attention to the alarm valve modules – leading to their choice to partner with Victaulic, whose grooved, easy-to-install solutions lend themselves perfectly to pre-modulisation.

This method allows products to be delivered when they are needed rather than in one go, which was essential for B&M’s warehouse installation as there were close to 72,000 rack heads and 54 valve sets involved. As required pieces arrived as part of 54 prefabricated alarm valve modules, CFS was able to maintain programme onsite by increasing the efficiency of the install.

Boosting efficiency

Victaulic’s Style 009N FireLock EZ Rigid Coupling was an essential component to prefabrication during the installation. The product is extremely economical: its single-unit design solution required fewer steps to install and its Installation-Ready technology minimised loose parts, reducing the typical job site inventory by 75%. This facilitated quick and consistent installation and boosted the productivity of contractors.

CFS also decided to employ Victaulic’s Series 705 FireLock Butterfly Valves and Series 717 FireLock Check Valves which, besides being well-known in the industry for their quality and reliability characteristics, are also the only fully LPCB-approved valves available.

Other products chosen to boost efficiency included Victaulic’s Series 751 FireLock Alarm Check Valves, preventing the reverse flow of water from the system piping to the water supply; Series 768N FireLock NXT Dry System Check Valves, often used in unheated warehouses where piping might freeze due to its ability to separate system water supplies from dry-pipe sprinkler systems; and Series 769N FireLock NXT Pre-Action Valve, an essential component controlling the water supply entry into the deluge system piping and open sprinklers.

By choosing Victaulic, CFS benefitted from a simpler, lighter valve. Victaulic’s focus has been to offer solutions which will reduce the amount of time needed for installation, so by partnering with Victaulic, CFS and subsequently B&M, were able to complete the project with maximum efficiency. In addition, Victaulic’s team further increased efficiency of the installation by providing CFS’ onsite workers with ongoing training sessions. This sped up progress and ensured products were fitted correctly.

Think about the future

In construction, even high-quality and reliable parts might require replacing at any point in time due to continuous reimagining and development of technology or unforeseen circumstances. The use of grooved solutions allows components to be dismantled and fittings to be interchanged with ease, ensuring maintenance is cost-effective and quick. CFS’ maintenance engineers, who travel the country supporting their clients’ operations, enthuse about the ease with which they can install or uninstall Victaulic products.

The B&M warehouse is a significant installation challenge – one that relies upon strong communication, well-chosen products and efficiency. CFS understood that the quality and reliability of its long-time partner Victaulic would be vital. The effective collaboration and prefabrication strategy, combined with regular training and support from Victaulic, ensured much-needed efficiency that is spearheading a successful installation.

Commenting on the B&M installation, CFS Construction Manager, Kevin Jinks, said: “The B&M installation was one of the largest projects of its type in the UK. We; therefore, needed an installation partner we could rely on and with 18 years’ experience working with Victaulic, they were an obvious partner.

“The maintenance engineers we work with are always familiar with Victaulic products and know exactly what they are getting. They enjoy the ease of Victaulic’s interchangeable solution: it’s the simplicity of the product which is the real bonus.

“As well as providing a high-quality and reliable solution to an installation of this scale, Victaulic provided comprehensive onsite training across all elements of the installation process. The effective collaboration between Victaulic and the onsite engineers meant that significant time installation savings were achieved, and products were fitted correctly and consistently.”

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