Ductwork sector must tackle contractual abuse

Ductwork firms must take the opportunity over the next three years to tackle once and for all the contractual abuses that do great damage to their sector, according to a national M&E contractor.
This was the key message delivered by Allan McDougall, Managing Director of Shepherd Engineering Services, at a conference entitled Ductwork Contracting in the 21st Century and organised jointly by the Ductwork Group of the HVCA and the Association of Ductwork Contractors and Allied Services (ADCAS).

Mr McDougall added that ductwork companies often complained about their poor relationship with M&E contractors: “Yet, I cannot remember the last time we had a dispute over a technical issue. More than 90% of the gripes are commercial – and now is the time to sort these out.”

Mr McDougall, who is a past president of the HVCA, added that the industry was guaranteed healthy workloads over the next three years, thanks to major government investment in schools and hospitals, plus the 2012 London Olympics programme.

And he urged all sub-contractors to ensure that their first tender price was their best price, so they could be included earlier in the design process.

HVCA Ductwork Group chairman Barry Pollard pointed out that the ductwork sector was working on margins of between 0% and 3%, and was thereby subsidising profits further up the supply chain.

“Most industries have substantially increased their prices, but there is pressure on us to reduce ours still further because the construction industry is selling buildings at less than realistic rates,” Mr Pollard insisted.

“This financial squeeze from the top is the root cause of most of the aggravation we experience every day of our working lives.”

On a happier note, both associations acknowledged the event as a significant step forward for the sector.

“Even a year ago, such an open discussion of mutual problems could probably not have taken place,” commented ADCAS president Paul Roxburgh. “Yet our HVCA colleagues suffer from many of the same problems that are facing us.”

The programme also featured a contribution from HVCA Head of Technical and Safety Bob Towse on Part L of the Building Regulations, and from Professor Rudi Klein, Chief Executive of the Specialist Engineering Contractors’ Group, on contractual and payment issues.

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