Industry comes together to minimise product shortages

Left to right: John Newcomb, chief executive of the BMF and Peter Caplehorn, chief executive of the CPA
Left to right: John Newcomb, chief executive of the BMF and Peter Caplehorn, chief executive of the CPA

As government and industry seek to quickly and safely increase construction activity up and down the country, a group led by product manufacturers, suppliers and merchants under the auspices of the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) is helping to build confidence, dispel rumours and minimise supply and demand constraints.

The CLC’s Product Availability Group – jointly chaired by the Builders Merchants Federation (BMF) and the Construction Products Association (CPA) – meets weekly online, bringing together key manufacturers, merchants, Tier 1 contractors, SME builders and housebuilders to understand current stock levels, actual or potential pinch points, and when and how any issues are being addressed.

The picture that emerged last week suggests that there is a good supply of the majority of building materials and products. The Brick Development Council confirmed that there are 480 million clay bricks ready for immediate delivery from 56 factories around the country. Within the supply chain there is also depth of stock in plumbing and heating, general lightside and electrical products. Increased plaster production should see stock levels restored by the end of next month. However, with some quarries still to open, the group has noted regional variations in the availability of aggregates. 

Peter Caplehorn, chief executive of the CPA, said: “The meetings are proving invaluable in shedding light on the availability of different product groups and the circumstances and business reasons behind their status, as well as the consequences, including a small but critical number of product shortages which are now being resolved with increasing production.

“Ultimately, what we’ve helped facilitate is a frank but collegial discussion around business planning that has helped us share the facts, dispel rumours and uncertainty, and plot a way forward to ‘re-open’ the industry.”

John Newcomb, chief executive of the BMF, added: “This Group has been instrumental in addressing some difficult supply and demand issues since the early days of the lockdown when most businesses chose to close and only ‘essential’ projects were the focus of attention. 

“Since then, we’ve been pleased to see confidence growing, and nearly all of our merchants re-opening, builders returning, site output increasing, and manufacturers ramping up capacity in line with new orders. All of this is being done with new operating procedures in place to ensure that safety is paramount.

“I’m encouraged that, in the face of unprecedented circumstances, our industry is working so collaboratively to address the challenges we are facing and get Britain building again.”