The Covid 19 pandemic has left the UK construction industry facing unparalleled disruption with continually changing situations and shifting guidance leaving businesses juggling the need to protect employees and customers with that of keeping the business functioning. Consultancy GCS Associates interviewed a number of leaders to get insights into how they have found new ways to collaborate and thrive in highly difficult circumstances and how they see the road out of the situation leading.
Among the merchant industry names the team at GCS Associates spoke to were: BMF CEO John Newcomb, H&B buying group’s Allan Durning, David Young, CEO of Bradfords Group Ltd, Managing Director of JTD Building Supplies, Tony Sharkey, Shanker Patel, CEO, Lords Builders Merchants and Andrew Harrison, CEO, Travis Perkins – Plumbing & Heating.
Among the issues that the report highlights is that the pandemic exposed the gap between those merchants who were able to quickly adapt and those who worked more slowly. For Allan Durning, the pandemic really exposed the failure of many builders merchants to invest sufficiently in E-commerce – be it on their website or front end electronic trading. He said “ A lot of the merchants that (shut early did so) because they can’t operate click and collect. They can’t operate electronically. The more astute ones, that have invested in e-commerce and click and collect, can organise a service in a time of disruption. That is smart thinking and they thought ahead of the game”.
Most contributors agreed that there is now a need to create a more strategic supply chain with more robust forecasting in order to prepare for the ‘new normal’ post Covid-19. For Lords’ Shanker Patel, the main message is: “We need to be resilient – this is the main thing that will get us out of this”. He predicts that as the demand shock eases and we start to focus on increasing supply ahead of demand, innovation and technology will help us adjust to a new post-Covid-19 norm. Patel suggests that post-Covid-19 we will move to an uber-style delivery system where customers can track their orders ahead of time. For him, new problems need new solutions – for example, now that physical delivery signage may be becoming obsolete, he stresses the importance of electronic systems that use photographs as proof of delivery.
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