Special Report | Advice on working with specialist suppliers

Special Report | Advice on working with specialist suppliers

As local authorities and housing associations are only too aware, building, refurbishing and maintaining homes to required standards is a vital but complicated business, where having to manage multiple suppliers can soak up time and money. Gordon Brown, Key Account Director of Public Procurement for SIG Roofing, discusses the benefits of using a one-stop-covers-all specialist supplier.

In June, the Prime Minister took the economic brakes off by announcing plans to ‘build, build, build’, powered by a huge capital investment programme. A key part of this programme is £12bn for affordable homes and a radical reform of planning guidance, so commercial property could more easily be turned into places to live. This significant funding injection is a welcome tonic for the roofing sector, as well as the broader construction industry — construction being widely recognised as one of the key drivers towards restoring a healthy economy.

With the changes having come into force in September, there will be an understandable keenness to move quickly, especially after so many contractors had to down tools during the Coronavirus lockdown. However, despite the large sums involved, this is no time to lose sight of the need for effective budget control and efficient management of resources.

Experienced public procurement officers, and their counterparts in housing associations, will be only too aware of the time, money and resources that can be consumed by having to deal with multiple suppliers, tendering and re-tendering for contracts that are basically the same. This was one of the reasons for the comparatively recent introduction of framework agreements, recognised as creating better long-term value for both client and supplier.

Within my 30 years in the public procurement sector, this has been one of the most significant changes within this sector. Another is that the long-standing practice of simply going for the cheapest quote has been abandoned. Instead the focus is on best value, the ‘most economically advantageous’, with the lifetime cost of materials a major consideration.

Key questions
This is where selecting a specialist in the supply of specialist materials such as roofing, covering all the bases, can be such an advantage. But what to look for? Here are some key questions to ask of your potential supply partner.

  • Firstly, does your potential supply partner have the right experience and support network in place? At SIG Roofing, for example, our Public Procurement team have over 60 years combined experience within this sector.
  • Secondly, are they financially stable? Particularly in these challenging times, it is essential to establish they are here for the long run. This will ensure continuity of supply and that your projects are in safe hands.
  • Are they able to supply the range of materials you need, and at the right price? As I said earlier, best value is a fundamental. So they will need not only to hold a comprehensive range of stock but also to have used their purchasing prowess to be able to offer competitive prices in the market. In addition, can they provide a full take-off, giving an accurate estimate for every single item you will need for the roofing project, so important for large-scale developments.
  • How good is their Supply Chain Management? Do they work with quality manufacturers, and can they guarantee just-in-time delivery, ensuring the right materials are available in the right place in the right quantities at the right time?

Here having a national network of branches is an advantage, making local delivery easier. Also, through minimising the stock held on site, the opportunity for theft, vandalism, tenant disruption and expensive on-site storage is reduced.

  • Do the products meet essential regulatory compliance? This ranges from CE marking to (RoHS) Restriction of Hazardous Substances, Conflict Minerals and Modern Slavery legislation.
  • Finally, dealing with multiple suppliers may mean having to manage multiple warranty claims should the unfortunate happen, which can be costly and a real headache. SIG Roofing, however, takes this hassle away by covering the complete build-up of a roofing project with its single 15-year ONE Warranty package.

All of these are good reasons why a well established, specialist supplier can be the better choice, and will help bring about the benefits that framework agreements are designed to deliver. These include increased value, a focus on continuous improvement and a strategic relationship with the supply chain over a long period (generally up to four years).

Future trends
A key issue becoming more prevalent with framework agreements is moving towards zero carbon construction, which is something SIG Roofing supports in how we do business, always seeking to reduce the company’s carbon footprint.

A lot of people are now looking at offsite construction, for example. With the industry facing a skills shortage, it’s becoming easier and quicker to build in a factory then ship the pieces to the site for assembly. With one of the social housing frameworks we supply, the houses are built in a modular format in a prison.

So, with prospects for increased construction activity improving, the future is looking promising. More new affordable homes, naturally means more roofing projects.

But it’s not just new-build schemes. The majority of the UK’s housing stock is older properties, from the 1940s through to the 1970s. Much of it needs improvement, including some social housing, so the RMI side will also be busy.

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