In this article, Tim Wright, managing director of concrete products at Ibstock Concrete, which includes the Supreme and Forticrete product brands, looks ahead to 2021 and discusses some of the biggest challenges and opportunities facing the construction industry.
I think it’s fair to say that everyone is looking forward to putting 2020 behind them and approaching 2021 with a sense of relief and cautious optimism. The last 12 months have been extremely difficult, not just in the UK, but across the globe, with the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically reshaping the outlook of the construction sector.
Whilst there is no silver bullet for the crisis and the roadmap to recovery represents one of the biggest challenges to date, certainly in my lifetime, what’s clear is that the building and construction industry has a critical role to play in restoring consumer confidence and helping power the UK’s economic growth.
It’s obviously still too early to predict how long this recovery will take, however, there are positive signs that the UK construction industry is adapting well. In the private sector, this is being driven by schemes including stamp duty cuts, which has resulted in a mini-housing market boom.
If I was to take one positive out of the last 12 months, and there aren’t many, it would be that a new trading environment has been created, due to everyone involved in the supply chain having to look closely at their operational procedures and processes.
Ultimately, this has led to the sector becoming more efficient and productive, whether it’s been the rapid adjustment to COVID-19 site working practices to maintain project timescales, or manufacturers having to collaborate closely with customers to ensure adequate levels of stock to fulfil project requirements.
As a business at the heart of the building and construction sector, Ibstock Concrete has examined how we can work smarter, and as part of this, introduced measures to make us an even easier company to do business with.
This includes implementing the most robust and stringent health and safety measures across the Ibstock network, and making strategically-led decisions on manufacturing solutions that are experiencing higher demand.
By working in partnership with the supply chain, we’ve invested in our processes and adapted quickly to ensure our customers have access to the right products and services, supporting them in carrying out their work both effectively, and safely, to help get Britain building again.
There have been challenges, particularly with some product lead time issues on roofing and fencing solutions, due to a huge spike in demand for these products following the easing of lockdown restrictions. However, we have worked hard to address this and are well placed to maintain a steady supply of goods to the UK construction industry, whether this is roofing, walling, flooring or cast stone products.
As we head into 2021, what’s important now is that the industry continues to work together and communicates effectively to ensure sustained growth is achieved. COVID-19 has significantly impacted the sector and nobody knows for sure how long this new normal will be part of our lives, but I can think of no industry better placed to overcome the challenges – and grasp the opportunities – than construction.”