Smarter supply chains

We talked last month about the skills shortage and its impact on construction industry growth, but running alongside, and seriously affecting future development plans at the moment, is the issue of supply chain management.

Only last year, a government report into the subject described supply chains as having an enabling role in driving performance. This is certainly true if used effectively. Companies like MBDA, which is relocating its facility west of Bolton, are working creatively with their supply chains – holding suppliers days, linking in with local strategic alliances that include neighbouring councils, creating apprenticeships for local workers, and running problem solving workshops that look at the whole life of the building, not just its construction.

But this isn’t the whole story. Since the report was published, the volume of projects and contracts coming forward has increased, but many are unable to get off the ground because they don’t have the right team in place to start delivering the development. Subcontractors may well be recovering from 2007 days, but they, like everyone else, have not only come through the recession with greater caution but are now experiencing a much greater call on resources.

What this means on projects is important:

  • Look beyond the build: whole life costs, running the building, maintenance – including NRM 3 – and exit strategies should all be taken into account to get the most from projects being commissioned. Bring in the right team for the entire building, not just its construction.
  • Choose your team carefully: not only for relevant experience but for the supply chain it connects into. Local resources that bring stronger links to an area’s suppliers, in-house teams that offer more certainty, and teams with a track record of working together and coming out at the end of a project with a happy client are all in demand.
  • Don’t overlook the basics: while the government is no longer naming and shaming those not treating their suppliers well, there is no question that this is a self-regulating market. Businesses with good payment terms and a reputation for sticking to them will be top of the list when suppliers are busy.