What We Learned in 2020

As 2020 draws to a close we look back over what can only be described as a roller coaster ride to see what the construction product manufacturer can learn and the positives to take away.

After many years of the UK government receiving conflicting messages from the construction industry we finally saw the value of one voice, provided by the Construction Leadership Council (CLC). Consequently, government economic policy is promising significant investment in the built environment to stimulate the UK economy. This is very different to what happened during the financial crash of 2008.

The CLC, supported by Build UK, Construction Products Association (CPA) and Construction Industry Council (CIC) also lead the drive to develop social distancing policies for construction sites. Although these initially reduced on-site productivity many contractors are now reporting that productivity is approaching pre-Covid levels as better planning and organisation replaces the chaotic approach of the past. There has also been much greater interest in Modern Methods of Construction as a means of moving labour off-site and streamlining the construction process.

Many of us have had to learn to work from home, with the expectation that office utilisation will never return to pre-Covid levels. For the individual, there are positives to this with reduced cost and time of commuting. But also negatives as junior staff do not benefit from the learning experience of working within a team and all home workers lose out on social interaction and the creativity that comes from being in a group.

Home working has seen greater adoption of cloud-based processes such as BIM, but also lead to manufacturers looking at how they can automate their marketing and sales processes to give the customer a better experience while improving staff efficiency. The video meeting is one example of a tool which has now been widely adopted making our days more efficient. Particularly for the sales person who could easily spend an hour travelling to each meeting in the past. But this development has itself created new challenges; learning the etiquette of online meetings, the need for a whole series of digital tools to support discussions and ensuring that you don’t spend the whole day in back-to-back meetings.

CPD has always been an important tool for engaging with specifiers and with little or no face-to face delivery, companies are having to re-visit their CPD content to ensure its delivery is effective in the new formats of a recorded presentation or a live video delivery. This requires training for those who are delivering, as well as ensuring the offering is sufficiently compelling to be selected.

Forecasting in 2020 has been almost impossible. After an initial slowing in the Spring, many manufacturers have enjoyed strong sales, but with people and businesses having to self-isolate due to Covid the logistics behind these require weekly review increasing the administrative burden. There are structural changes to the market as Hospitality, Retail and Office sectors see a fall in investment, but RMI, Residential, Infrastructure, Health and Education can all expect growth. The CPA anticipate a fall of 14.5% in construction output for 2020 followed by a 13.5% increase in 2021. Of course, we still have the uncertainty of Brexit to take into account.

Evidence presented at the Grenfell Enquiry has shown construction in a very bad light for Client, Consultant, Contractor and Manufacturer. It also suggests that Dame Judith Hackett’s review which will lead to the Building Safety Bill is more than justified. The industry is now working towards implementation of change with publication of Setting the Bar. Manufacturers should pay particular attention to WG12 Construction Products Competence and early next year can expect to be consulted on the recommendations of the CPAs Marketing Integrity Group which will have consequences for all product manufacturers their distributors, merchants and stockists.

Enjoy your seasonal break and the opportunity to form a special Christmas family bubble or take a late holiday in the sun. We look forward to working with you on your market research, learning or consultancy projects in 2021.