With the country coming out of COVID, the building products industry is facing many challenges to overcome, including supply chain issues. Julian Venus, Business Development Director of external brick cladding systems supplier Aquarian Cladding Systems, discusses how redefining roles and adding value will mean a stronger supply chain for the future.

The building products industry has had to adapt to many difficult challenges over the last few years, including building safety issues and Brexit uncertainty.

COVID-19, however, has arguably been the toughest yet, having exasperated the many ongoing issues facing the industry, including the skills shortage and net zero targets.

Supply chain continues to be an ongoing issue and the pandemic has shifted the focus to the need for supply chains that build in resilience.

Now is the time to redefine strategies and roles that can be enacted by members of the supply chain that will mean greater resilience in the supply chain moving forward. If the right solutions can be found then the opportunities for the industry are immense and positive changes can be made for the future.

Adding value

Companies must look at increasing the value they offer to the supply chain; look at customer and supplier communication, all with the purpose of providing a better service at no extra cost.

This has always been our target at Aquarian Cladding Systems. We don’t just distribute brick cladding systems, we understand the design requirements, the construction requirements and the manufacturer requirements and offer the best solution for everyone involved.

Designers and constructors have a lot to organise and may not always be able to provide the information as accurately and promptly as the supplier needs. Our role is to translate the information provided by one link of the chain into what is needed by the other link to function effectively.

Being a vital part of the chain, and adding value at the same time, will improve the supply chain and become even more important in the future.

Outcome-led procurement

Main contractors rarely procure supply chain involvement based on the outcomes they want to achieve.

Instead, procurement is often ‘price led’ with little understanding of the outcomes wanted, inadequate detailing of the work required and a lack of engagement to discuss what works will be necessary, how they could be carried out more effectively and what the major risks are likely to be.

It is assumed that those tendering for the relevant works will be able to sort out any gaps, assess the risks and price accordingly.

This clearly needs to change as it can mean spiralling costs and potential problems on a project down the line. If the extent of works required is not clear and the potential risks not known, then how can the prices obtained be accurate?

Outcome led procurement will raise standards in the construction industry; think value, not price, because the lowest price is worth nothing if the supply chain doesn’t perform.

If the supply chain doesn’t fully understand what they are being asked to do and how it fits with related packages, the chances of poor performance are high.

Better communication

While a chain does not have to be excessively long to be strong, it needs to provide maximum strength and efficiency – and effective communication is a vital part of that process.

For better procurement of supply chain members, communication and getting the basics right is key – what do you want, when do you want it and how does what you want fit with related elements of the project being designed/installed by others?

To achieve this the supply chain needs to clearly understand what they need to do, how it fits with the work of others, the timescale for doing the work, and have an opportunity to consider the risks involved and how they can be mitigated.

As key distributors of Gebrik, MechSlip and NaturAL-X, Aquarian Cladding Systems is one of the UK’s leading suppliers of brick cladding systems. Working with architects, contractors, developers and installation specialists, Aquarian’s cladding systems have been used on many award-winning buildings across a wide range of sectors. For more information, call 0808 223 9080, or visit https://www.aquariancladding.co.uk/