There is an overriding sense of optimism according to participants of a recent Supply Chain roundtable held by independent construction, property and management consultancy, RLB UK, with all of them giving a rating of 7-9 out of 10 of how optimistic they feel about the next 12-18 months.
The annual roundtable event was chaired by RLB UK’s Global Board Director and the Construction Leadership Council’s lead for the Supply Chain and Business Models workstream, Ann Bentley. During the roundtable, RLB UK talked to a variety of subcontractors, covering a number of key construction packages, to feel the temperature in the supply chain. Key findings from this year’s roundtable include:
- An increase in enquiries and tenders as the market heats up but also a surge in the number of companies involved in the procurement process with many of those around the table saying that they are often competing with up to 12 other companies for each project.
- It was felt that there needs to be a better understanding in the market of how to procure for value, something that RLB’s Chair of the Supply Chain roundtable and Global Board Director Ann Bentley has written about in depth as author of the Construction Leadership Council’s Procuring for Value
- There was a general consensus that in the aftermath of Carillion, Grenfell and other seismic events in the last decade, things have improved in terms of working fairly and collaboratively with there no longer being such a significant issue with fair working procedures and payment terms.
- Most companies are now ready with plans in place for Brexit and although the shortage of labour is still a concern for the industry, the forces of supply and demand have naturally evolved, however, with organisations now seeing an influx of nationals from other countries supplementing the labour force , particularly from Asia.
- For those who currently work in the EU an interesting point was made about the movement of materials post-Brexit. Currently many of them use the UK as an import and distribution hub, with materials passing back and forth between the UK and EU countries several times as part of the distribution process. There were concerns that this process will become cumbersome and expensive in the future.
- The industry still has an image problem with construction not being seen as an attractive career choice in schools and FE institutions.
- The advance of technology in construction has brought its own challenges as well as opportunities, with technology only as good as the person operating it and a risk of losing vital skills through automation within projects.
- Modern methods of construction and offsite manufacturing are now part of the course for many in the supply chain driven by a desire for efficiencies, reduction of waste and increase of speed in projects.
- With the Government’s target to have a carbon net zero construction industry by 2050, it was felt that this has triggered a more proactive sustainable approach to most projects, with SKA, BREEAM and LEED being an integral consideration for clients and our supply chain roundtable attendees saw this as a natural progression.
Ann Bentley, Global Board Director of Rider Levett Bucknall UK comments, “At Rider Levett Bucknall UK we believe staying close to those involved in the supply chain helps us understand the complexities of it, the changes that are taking place and results in us having an educated insight to what is happening across the whole design and build process. It is essential we continue to work collaboratively, listening to those who we work alongside to bring the best outcomes to our clients.”
RLB’s Supply Chain roundtable took place in January 2020 and included representatives from Michael J Lonsdale, The Cabling Group, Radii Partitioning, Byrne Group, Salter Demolition, TMJ Interiors and Grangewood.