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RCI March 2018

Project1_Layout 1 07/05/2013 MATERIAL SHORTAGES With ambitious government housebuilding targets, an uplift in consumer confidence, along with a renewed commitment to improve the UK’s infrastructure, the year ahead is already set to be a demanding one for the construction industry. Despite recent data outlining only a moderate 2% growth for the sector this year, largely due to economic and political changes, 2018 is already looking to be a period of adaption and development for construction professionals. While the industry must wait until the outcome of Brexit is fully determined, many construction professionals are facing challenges a lot closer to home – particularly when it comes to the way in which materials are being specified and purchased. Despite this, according to the State of the Economy and Construction Market Report, 48% of construction professionals remain optimistic about new business opportunities. However, with demand for materials at an ‘all-time high’, potential shortages and supplier changes pose a significant risk to the industry’s long-term performance and economic growth. It can be said that with change comes opportunity, and in a sector which needs to adapt and evolve at speed, construction firms now have the chance to change the way they are specifying and procuring materials, becoming more efficient, collaborative and resilient in the process. In this article, I am going to outline the biggest material challenges facing the industry, and how to overcome these without impacting the business bottom line. The procurement headache As a fundamental build material, the shortage of PIR insulation boards is still causing headaches across the European construction industry. Following an explosion at a German manufacturing plant, as well as further technical failures in the production of its key chemical ingredients, demand of PIR still far outstrips supply. With manufacturers only just beginning to recover from the situation, it will likely be a few months before the industry returns to normality. To cope with impending build deadlines and tight project budgets, many construction professionals have been forced to turn to PIR insulation alternatives, in the form of phenolic foam boards, multifoils or mineral wool products – all which match, and in some cases, outperform that of their PIR counterparts. Forcing the industry to evaluate the benefits of 026 MARCH 2018 RCIMAG.COM The year of industry evolution: why material shortages present an opportunity to adapt Duncan Voice, brand manager at Insulation Superstore talks to RCI about material shortages in the industry and why this is not necessarily a bad thing insulation alternatives, manufacturers have responded accordingly, providing substitution guides and charts for making the switch to alternative products, without comprising on performance qualities or compliance with Building Regulations. Despite being a severe industry issue, the shortage has arguably helped to showcase innovative insulation alternatives, which along with their thermal performance, boast added benefits ranging from sound and fire-proofing, to space-saving qualities. Manufacturers, such as ROCKWOOL and Kingspan, all offer viable alternatives to PIR, and for those still struggling with the shortage, using an alternative could not only save valuable time, but also help in producing a higher quality and better performing build. It’s not just PIR insulation which is struggling to meet demand, with a dramatic increase in housebuilding creating a shortage of concrete roofing tiles. As one of the most cost-effective forms of roofing, and known for its durability and versatility, this shortage has meant contractors are either having to allow more time for sourcing the tiles and/or delivery turnarounds, or are having to consider other materials. Digital demand Any shortage of materials is never good for business – having an impact on the entire build chain, from design and construction, to overall customer satisfaction. With pressures on costs, labour and the supply chain rising, taking a different approach to procuring materials can result in construction firms becoming more agile and responsive to economic changes, whilst saving significant money and time in the process. The construction industry is known for being fairly traditional when it comes to procurement processes, typically sourcing materials via triedand trusted methods, such as weekly visits to an independent or national building merchant. Whilst there is no doubt that building merchants play a key role within the industry, lack of knowledge and expertise is arguably holding back firms from taking advantage of digital channels within the supply chain. With most major suppliers and manufacturers now bringing an eCommerce proposition to the market, building project processes are being managed more intelligently and productively. For those faced with material shortages, sourcing products digitally can be the smarter way to overcome supply issues, with trusted digital providers and hybrid online businesses not only offering a catalogue of alternatives, but also expert support when needed – with trained support teams providing recommendations based on exact technical and design requirements. Construction professionals want fair pricing and a varied product range, alongside the convenience of a retail experience. Whilst traditional builders’ merchants favour the bricks and mortar approach, there is still limited choice and a lot of leg work. Adding to this, while there’s a lot to be said for seeing materials first-hand, spending time visiting several merchants is no longer the practical approach that it once was. When combining product shortages with the time taken to source the required materials from the high street, eCommerce is the smart way to shop around to save valuable time and money; improving productivity and make the best use of resources. Firms should consider sourcing materials via different channels to not only get the best deal, but to discover and learn about the full range of new solutions and technologies available to them. In the face of material shortages, of which there is sure to be more in the future, construction professionals now have the chance to change the way they are buying materials, making more informed and efficient decisions, without compromising on final performance, design or quality specifications. www.constructionmaterialsonline.co.uk “As a fundamental build material, the shortage of PIR insulation boards is still causing headaches across the European construction industry” Duncan Voice, brand manager at Insulation Superstore


RCI March 2018
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