The latest figures produced by the Office for National Statistics reveal that brick production figures continue to rise. The most recent figures are for February, which show a 6% rise on February 2017. The rolling quarterly figures are even more impressive: December 2017– February 2018 shows a 13% increase on the same period the previous year.
The Brick Development Association points to a continuing rise in output from existing facilities and the introduction of additional brickworks – most notably the new Ibstock factory commissioned at the end of 2017 – and a commitment from members for continuing investment in new and improved facilities.
“While construction output as a whole may be slowing we are still seeing housebuilding numbers rising” observes BDA’s Tom Farmer. “As housebuilding is a major market for our members it is perhaps not surprising to see manufacturing figures rising to meet demand.”
Asked about continuing rumours of brick shortages, Farmer continued: “There is a scarcity of reliable information about the general availability of building materials, hence we find many commentators relying on anecdotal information from a relatively small number of respondents. However, the Mace Business School monitors lead times for various product groups across the construction sector and its April 2018 analysis suggests an overall lead time for bricks of 11 weeks. This compares well with drylining (12 weeks) hard landscaping (15 weeks), architectural metalwork (15 weeks) or reconstituted stone cladding (29 weeks).
“We are confident that the manufacturing numbers meet current demand. In 2017 UK brick factories delivered over 2 billion bricks – the last time despatch volumes reached that figure was in 2007.
“However, there is a huge number of different brick types available, and manufacturing schedules may make it difficult to get hold of individual brick types at short notice while issues within the supply chain (I would point to an understandable reluctance for distributors to hold significant stocks) may cause problems for contractors who have not properly scheduled their work in advance. Our members continue to focus on increasing their capacity, so we anticipate that the volume of brick production in this country will continue to rise throughout 2018 and beyond, with imports also playing a role in meeting demand from a buoyant UK housebuilding industry.”