Steel drain puts less strain on time and labour

Lian Soon Construction's iDrain.
Lian Soon Construction's iDrain.PHOTO: LIAN SOON CONSTRUCTION
Samwoh Corporation's spillage removal machine.
Samwoh Corporation's spillage removal machine.PHOTO: ST FILE
SC Ang Consortium's global navigation satellite system for piling.
SC Ang Consortium's global navigation satellite system for piling.PHOTO: SC ANG CONSORTIUM

Construction company wins top award for cost-saving innovation to boost productivity

A simple drain may be all it takes to help construction companies save time, money and manpower.

The iDrain, which is made of steel, can replace traditional concrete drains that are currently used to funnel out waste water at construction sites.

The brainchild of Lian Soon Construction, the steel drain takes just one day to set up instead of three, and can be reused for five years, while concrete drains have to be demolished in every project.

It was one of 26 submissions that vied for an award for new ideas to improve productivity in an industry plagued by manpower and safety issues, and dwindling business.

The drain won the top Gold Award at the inaugural Singapore Contractors Association Limited (Scal) Productivity and Innovations Awards held at the Singapore Expo yesterday.

Mr Ruel Ariola, head of the Environment, Health and Safety Department at Lian Soon Construction, said his company is working to see if other companies can get funding to replicate the design.


We have opened the idea to everybody. They may have thought of it, but maybe they didn't have a team dedicated to coming up with such innovations.

MR RUEL ARIOLA, on sharing the iDrain design with other companies in the construction industry.

"We have opened the idea to everybody. They may have thought of it, but maybe they didn't have a team dedicated to coming up with such innovations," he said.

While a metre of the steel drain costs $102, more than double the $46 for a metre of a concrete drain, Mr Ariola said this would be less expensive in the long run. So far, his firm has saved about 30 per cent of its spending on drains, he said.

Another award winner was Samwoh Corporation's machine to remove oil spills, which took the Silver award.

The idea for the machine arose after a sub-contractor of the company was involved in cleaning up a major oil spill in Paterson Road in 2014. The process took 10 to 12 hours, said Mr Hon Lip Yung, a senior manager at the company.



    • Drains have to be set up at all construction sites to channel away waste water, but these new drains are lighter than conventional ones and can be less of a drain on time, cost and manpower

    • iDrains are made of steel, take just one day to set up, and can be reused for five years, compared with traditional concrete drains that take three days to set up, and have to be demolished.


    • Conventional surveying requires a lot of time.

    • The new system enables machine operators to identify the exact locations with a high rate of accuracy.


    • This uses an ultra-high pressure water-blasting method to clean up oil spills.

    • It reduces the time and effort needed to remove oil on roads, which is currently done by removing the top layer of the road and reapplying tar.

At the time, the only way to remove the oil was to remove the top layer of the road, and then re-apply tar.

In thinking of a better solution, his company worked with a supplier to modify an existing machine that uses ultra-high pressure water to clean up oil spills faster, and without any residue.

The machine was successfully used for an oil spill in Lornie Road in February this year.

While it did not win a prize, one noteworthy finalist was Chip Eng Seng Contractors' barricade post, which prevents workers from falling during precast plank installation. Workers can anchor themselves by hooking a harness to the post as they work.

Falling from height remains the most common cause of workplace deaths in Singapore, with 11 such deaths in the first half of this year.

Mr Kenneth Loo, president of Scal, the organiser of the awards, said information on innovations is disseminated through newsletters and forums are held with smaller companies to "hold their hands" as they adopt such new ideas.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 21, 2016, with the headline 'Steel drain puts less strain on time and labour'. Print Edition | Subscribe