Steel Manipulator: An innovative solution for landing steel structures

steel structures, steel manipulator

Costain and Thomson Engineering have worked collaboratively to create a solution for landing steel structures that deliver improvements in safety, efficiency and the environment

The Stirling, Dunblane & Alloa (SDA) electrification project is a major extension to the wider Edinburgh to Glasgow Improvement Programme, electrifying the major commuter routes to the north.

The programme has reduced journey times and increased capacity alongside the significant environmental benefits of switching to overhead line electrification (OLE).

However, a key challenge for the project was safely delivering 1,800 steel structures and their associated supports.

Working with Thomson Engineering, Costain has helped develop the innovative ‘Steel Manipulator’. The manipulator installs the multiple pre-dressed, pieces of steel that make up the OLE efficiently and safely without the need for an additional plant.

Benefits of the Steel Manipulator

The manipulator helps eliminate significant safety, health and environmental harms when landing steel structures as;

  • Offsite manufacture and a single piece of plant significantly reduces track time and exposure to risk from plant/pedestrian interface
  • Offsite manufacturing also reduces night working, which is associated with fatigue/wellbeing issues
  • It simplifies lifting heavy loads with greater control of the load
  • It significantly reduces working at height and the associated risks
  • Reduces the projects carbon footprint as fewer machines are needed
  • Increases efficiency and productivity

The manipulator now provides a step-change in eliminating harm for complex material handling issues across Costain’s business.

The news comes after Costain saw a number of delays to the timing of contract start dates and new awards in summer, which affected their profits.


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