Efficient supply can transform performance

As a busy householder, which of these two options for doing the weekly shop do you find most convenient?
Visiting 15 different outlets, specialising variously in dairy produce, canned goods, beverages, fruit juice, washing materials, vegetables, toiletries and so on? Or paying a single visit to a supermarket?
Better still, stay at home, order online and let the supermarket deliver to your door, at a time that suits you. With time pressing, which approach makes life easier?
Millions of people every day increasingly choose the latter, of course. As a result there is a revolution under way in the High Street, and it is transforming the way we behave as consumers. The retail trade, in turn, is restructuring to meet these changing needs.
The construction industry – belatedly perhaps – is now set to rapidly catch up on this trend. Time pressures on site, and the increasing use of eye-watering penalties for even minor overruns, mean that reliability and timeliness of supply is now front of mind for the building services and construction industry.
We have to adopt new ways of getting materials and products to where they are needed, more quickly and reliably than ever before. Forward-thinking suppliers are now offering consolidated ordering and other tailor-made approaches to meet this need.
My own company has for some time pioneered this approach, offering clients a single source of supply, helping them deliver major projects on time and to budget. This spans not only the building services related brands Pipe Center and Climate Center, but across all of the specialist sectors that make up the group’s comprehensive construction offering.
We consider this area vital for the future of the business and, indeed, the industry. We are investing in dedicated expert teams to support and develop the service for the future. The benefits for the client are compelling: savings in cost, reduced risk, simplified management and, ultimately, client satisfaction.
We embrace the Gershon recommendations aimed at ‘releasing resources to the front line’. Through a number of streamlining approaches, these can deliver substantial cashable and non-cashable efficiencies.
They come from better use of new technology, such as E-billing, XDA/PDA compliance and B2B links. And from the use of consolidated invoices, significantly reducing bureaucracy and delivering back office benefits. There are also major benefits in terms of asset management.
Given the contractual penalties for missed deadlines and underperformance, it is more than ever vital for the industry to manage risk. Having a single source of supply substantially reduces risk.
It is a fact of life that a client with a single, consolidated supply agreement has greater clout with his supplier than someone who has spread his business over a wide area, with perhaps multiple suppliers covering many separate products. That relationship provides a wider and deeper foundation for trust, and translates into real business benefits.
Consolidated ordering simplifies the task of management. Logistics is as much a scientific and academic discipline as building services engineering. There are three-year degree courses and diplomas testifying to this.
In the same way that it would not be sensible to put a logistics graduate in charge of the design and build of a complex M&E project, it doesn’t make sense to expect a building services engineer to run a complex logistics operation. But that is what many building services companies expect of their engineers.
Managing an army of suppliers can be complicated and frustrating. All too easily, it can become a full-time job. How many unnecessary hours are spent by engineers and site managers with a mobile phone pressed to their ear, trying to sort out a critical delivery that hasn’t arrived – or has arrived in the wrong form?
Putting consolidated supply in the hands of an expert distribution company plays to everyone’s strengths. Site engineers and project managers have more important things to do than spend their days on the phone chasing suppliers.
With a single point of contact for materials and products, one call is all that is needed to resolve a problem. People are therefore freed up to focus on the job, and delivering for their own clients.
In today’s construction industry, when pressures have never been greater to reduce costs and improve delivery, consolidated ordering and professional supply and logistics management has the potential to transform the industry’s performance.
The revolution on the High Street is well under way. The revolution in the construction industry is just beginning.

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