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construction supply chains and current challenges being encountered with them

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At the Chamber’s last ‘Pipeline West - Forthcoming Construction Developments’ webinar, there was a discussion on construction supply chains and current challenges being encountered with them.

 

Most businesses form part of a supply chain, the question may be at what level? In a construction context, we might find the client or end-user of the asset under construction at the top. Conventionally, next would be the contractor, followed by one or more tiers of subcontractors and beneath them, material suppliers and the like. Each of the foregoing is likely to have their own supply chain(s). The ‘key’ role of logistics and transport providers should not be forgotten either.

 

Over the last several months, there has been growing publicity over supply chain pressures and challenges with BREXIT and the restrictions that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about. This has been seen in news reports, the press and industry comment. A recent survey by Haulage Exchange (reported by Supply Management Daily) articulated the issues experienced by the transport sector referring to how, ‘a perfect storm of red tape, driver shortages and other Brexit issues’ were threatening a mix of sectors and industries.

 

One imperative for any business is that of knowing and understanding its own supply chain, providing, as it should, insights into levels of spend with different ‘suppliers’, the businesses with whom most is spent, what is being bought and by who, the size of the supply chain and similar important information and facts.

 

In the wider context, given both current and more immediate supply chain pressures together with factors such as environmental and social considerations, including the need to reduce carbon emissions, encouraging collaboration and co-operation up and down construction supply chains can potentially help to alleviate at least some supply chain issues.

 

As with the ‘conventional’ supply chain described above, an informed client aware of current pressures can consider how his or her requirements can be translated by like-minded architects and designers into more sustainable designs, lending themselves to increased ‘buildability’ which collectively uses fewer new materials and wastes less. 

 

The foregoing may sound somewhat idealistic; however, there are tools, means and methods to support such an approach. A recent (9th July) BBC News item featured the RIBA and their call for more buildings to be refurbished rather than demolished and rebuilt, not least to help reduce carbon emissions. Perhaps not feasible in every case, but a good principle worth consideration potentially reducing demand for new and virgin materials.

 

By way of tools, means and methods, the RIBA also have their Plan of Work, updated in 2020, providing a systematic approach to developing designs and facilitating the careful choice of materials and products. Likewise, contractors can employ site waste management plans and/or resource management plans as tools to aid them in their sourcing and material management activities.

 

Businesses and companies can (also) potentially utilise ‘demand management’ approaches to ascertain and forecast future demand and thus ways to manage it with resource efficiency in mind.

 

So, in the broader context, driven from the top of the supply chain, clients can help through careful strategic definition; architects and designers can translate the foregoing into practical briefs and designs and, in that perfect world, contractors and subcontractors can, through a thorough knowledge of their supply chains, source all the relevant goods and services needed to deliver the final asset.

 

What could possibly go wrong?

 

William Marshall, MCIOB, PIEMA, MCIPS

Patterdale Supply Chain Services Limited.

July 2021

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