Matt McCarthy heads up the Infrastructure segment at PERI UK. After working his way up from Senior Formwork Designer almost 20 years ago, he is now in charge of developing the temporary works specialist’s portfolio of impressive civil engineering projects such as HS2 and Thames Tideway Tunnel. Prior to that, he project-managed PERI’s involvement on Hinkley Point C.

What is your role within PERI?

At PERI, our focus on segmentation means we can provide knowledge and expertise across multiple construction sectors. I am the UK Sales Manager for the Infrastructure segment, leading a team of five sales engineers dedicated to supporting customers in this market.

How did you start at PERI?

My career at PERI began in 2008 in the Technical team. I joined the company as a Formwork Designer before working my way up to become Technical Office Manager for our Chepstow office, which relocated to Bristol in 2022. I then moved into a more commercial role at PERI, becoming Project Manager for one of the UK’s largest infrastructure projects, Hinkley Point C.

What does sustainability mean to you?

Sustainability means continuously improving the way we manufacture or engineer construction equipment so that our products perform to the highest standards for our customers time and time again. Sustainability has always been a focus for PERI. Throughout the product development and manufacturing process, we look at ways to optimise material usage by introducing panels and systems that are versatile, quick, and simple to use. Equally, we look at ways to manufacture products from sustainable and recyclable materials, like our DUO system.

All of our bespoke solutions are also value-engineered, enabling us to reuse and reduce material requirements for our customers at every opportunity.

Which sectors do you work in?

With a team of sales and engineering specialists combined with our diverse portfolio of infrastructure products, we specialise in a wide range of sectors within the Infrastructure segment alone.

We have completed some of our most notable projects, such as Mersey Gateway and Werrington Tunnel in the Bridges and Tunnelling sectors. In recent years, we have been able to diversify our skills and expertise in other sectors, such Power, Rail, Road, Marine, Concrete Repairs and Water, which includes our involvement on multiple Tideway sites over the last few years.

What types of products and services do you offer?

Our offering spans from formwork to concrete sensors to training services, so we can support our customers with the full end-to-end construction process. We are renowned globally for the quality of our formwork products, whether that is our off-the-shelf panel systems like MAXIMO or VARIO for more bespoke and complex requirements like architectural concrete finishes.

Our scaffolding range, PERI UP, is manufactured to the same high-quality standards, with flexibility and speed at the forefront of its design. A key feature for me is how it can be integrated with our formwork systems, providing a fully accessible solution with a high degree of safety. An example of this is our PERI UP Tunnel Traveller, which has been used at Hinkley Point C to enable installation of the waterproof membrane.

Our infrastructure range has expanded over the years. At the core of most of our solutions, is our VARIOKIT engineering construction kit. The components in this range can be used to form tunnel carriages –  both mining and cut and cover, heavy-duty  shoring, balanced cantilevers for bridges as well as parapets and trusses. We can also offer a special steel system where these are more suited to the application, which is what we provided for the complex tunnelling requirements at HS2’s Copthall Tunnel site.

We pride ourselves on the services we offer too. We are at the forefront of a constantly evolving digital world, with capabilities ranging from BIM and modelling to animations, VR, and AR. We also have tangible digital products such as our concrete pressure sensor for real-time tracking of the concreting process and concrete strength as it is being poured into our formwork.

The combination of our products and services makes PERI a one-stop-shop for our customers’ construction needs. As an example, when forming a tunnel, we can offer the access in the form of a PERI UP Tunnel Traveller to facilitate the installation of a waterproof membrane and subsequently to fix steel ahead of a secondary lining. We can then supply the travelling formwork,
faced with PERI plywood to pour the secondary lining, with an integrated access system to finish the concrete face and install any mechanical and electrical components. All of this can be planned in advance and declashed with the support of our digital technology and engineering services.

What are some major projects you’re currently working on?

We are currently working on major projects across the segment. In the Rail sector, we are involved in HS2, providing bespoke solutions for Copthall Tunnel, Colne Valley and the Aerodynamic Box at the Curdworth Box site. We are also continuing our work on Hinkley Point C. Travelling north into Scotland, we’re supporting the Tay Crossing project with our ALPHAKIT system – a new heavy-duty shoring product that we have introduced to the market.

What are some standout projects you’ve been involved in over the years?

The headliner for me is Hinkley Point C as I’ve spent so much time on site; seeing it below ground to where it is now and how far it has come is fascinating and something to be proud of. HS2 is another hugely challenging and exciting project, where we are involved in bridges, heavy-duty shoring and both cut and cover and mining tunnel parts of the project.

The variety of structures and construction methods really make these two projects exceptional feats of engineering and demonstrate PERI UK’s capability to deliver the complexities of each project simultaneously.

When a client comes to you with a particular problem, what’s your process for coming up with a solution, and how closely do you work with clients throughout the projects?

To answer the second part of this question first, customer proximity is one of PERI’s core values and in Infrastructure it really comes to the fore. We are committed to engaging with contractors as early as possible, as this plays a crucial role in value engineering and maximises the benefits for all involved. With this approach, we can keep costs low and avoid rework. Our range of products and services takes this a step further by enabling us to provide end-to-end support for our customers, whether that is digital engineering and declashing in the planning phase or on-site product training once our equipment is on site.

For complex projects, we will create a dedicated project team that will work closely with our customers from start to finish to understand the project requirements, challenges, and our approach. With our Sales, Engineering and Customer Service teams working closely together with our customers, we can provide designs that meet the brief and also modify solutions if requirements change throughout the project.

What are your plans going forward to ensure PERI’s services are still around for years to come?

Early engagement and customer proximity will be invaluable as we continue our growth journey in infrastructure. Our R&D team are always looking at ways to introduce innovative and competitive products that help our customers save time, money and improve safety standards.

Delivering high service levels alongside our temporary works solutions is a top priority for us, and we strive to achieve this in every single interaction with our customers.

As mentioned, sustainability will also have a part to play when thinking about longevity. In addition to focusing on reducing material waste, we started generating our own green energy in 2023 after investing in Photovoltaic cells across our Rugby, Brentwood and Glasgow depots.

How can the industry tackle its skills shortage and how do you recruit/retain/ train your staff?

Given the scale of major projects underway in the UK, we can expect to face a certain level of resourcing challenges. However, nurturing talent across all fields will be vital to keep skills shortages to a minimum and to ensure the next generation of the workforce is well-equipped.

We are the only temporary works company to offer accredited formwork training alongside scaffolding training courses and Continuing Professional Development (CPD) days where we can dive into a topic in more detail. We can significantly reduce rework and improve the rate at which we get things right first time with proper training.

Within PERI, learning and development is high on the agenda and training resources are inclusive and readily available. Employees from all departments are encouraged to take part in our basic formwork and scaffolding courses to improve their understanding of our products. Developing and retaining talent in more specialist roles is important too. Our engineers undergo CPD to learn best practice, develop their skills and support their journey through our Engineering progression framework.

What are your views on collaborative working?

As I alluded to earlier, early engagement is key and paramount to a project’s success. Not only does it improve project planning, but it also brings teams closer together throughout the lifecycle of a project. I have worked on numerous projects where disciplines are often siloed with no consideration for the teams around them, who are all working towards the same goal. Our aim is to remove these silos from a formwork and scaffolding perspective so we can advise, guide and support all the way through.

What needs to be considered when selecting the right temporary works and services for structures on these types of projects?

For me, safety must be the number one priority. This comes down to the design, manufacturing quality, safety standards, training resources available and clear instructions for use. Following on from that, customer service, sustainability, value-engineering are all integral when considering temporary works solutions. These elements have a significant impact on critical aspects of a project such as time, cost, and problem-solving capabilities.

What trends are you noticing in the industry, what do main or sub-contractors want to see more of?

Temporary works support and involvement in the construction process has certainly increased over the years. If we compare a design from 20 years ago to now, we are worlds apart in the level of detail. I think this demonstrates the growing importance of temporary works companies in the construction market.

As previously mentioned, customer service is gaining importance, particularly in the infrastructure sector where requirements are more intricate and projects span years, not months. A strong rapport needs to be established between Tier 1 contractors, sub-contractors and temporary works specialists to maximise value and benefits on any project.