A New Era of Supply and Demand in Roofing

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Victoria Ramwell from cold-applied liquid waterproofing specialist, Kemper System, discusses how recent events such as Covid-19 and Brexit have had an effect on roofing manufacturers’ supply, and how best to tackle it.

THERE IS NO DOUBT that 2020 was a challenging year due to
Covid-19 as well as the uncertainty around Brexit and the impact it will have on the construction sector.

Many manufacturers of all trades have struggled, and will continue to struggle with stock supply, as it is becoming increasingly difficult to rely on third parties because of the pandemic – and this could potentially get worse due to Brexit.

At the end of last year, UK construction companies were advised by Build UK to liaise with their supply chain much earlier than normal as the end of the transition period for leaving the EU loomed. The construction contractors’ association estimated that duty and other costs could increase from 2-8%, in the case of a no Brexit deal.

Some roofing manufacturers import almost all of their raw materials from overseas. With predicted delays at ports due to Brexit and unforecasted growth in the UK after lockdown, this could have a knock-on effect on the supply and demand chain of our industry.

Being Proactive

For manufacturers, thinking ahead and buying in plenty of stock to fulfil orders is a first step. The Chief Executive of Build UK, Suzannah Nichol, said our sector should be, “….talking to suppliers and manufacturers, placing orders earlier than usual, importing products ahead of time, and storing them in the UK, particularly in the first quarter of 2021 and where they are on the critical path of any programme.”

At Kemper System, with offices and warehouses across the world, we planned in advance for this and made sure we had plentiful stock in our UK warehouse in Warrington. We had new product being delivered every day from as early as summer 2020. We have been able to fulfil our customers’ orders and will continue to do so throughout the beginning of 2021 when for many, the uncertainty of Brexit will hit.

But what else can our industry do?

Re-evaluation

As well as staying ahead of the game when it comes to product ordering, now might be the time for contractors to also look at alternative product suppliers for roofing solutions, and expanding their portfolio of contacts.

Some manufacturers of roofing systems source a lot of their raw materials in the UK, and by broadening your relationships with other manufacturers, contractors can explore which companies have a decent amount of stock already in the UK.

This is especially prudent if contractors are coming up against long delays and price rises on materials they use for their current repertoire of roofing. This might mean operatives may have to be flexible, and work with different systems which offer the same benefits, but are applied differently. If this is the case, then training and upskilling should be explored with any new roof build-ups or coverings they are using.

Although this may create more cost in the short term, this could be a very timely investment in order to offer security of supply to customers in 2021.

Kemper System offices

Skills and Training

When it comes to skills, it is often the contractors who are expected to take sole responsibility of product application training. But it is also vital that manufacturers of liquid roofing products step up to the plate to help raise standards – especially if there is a demand in new product training as a result of supply issues as mentioned above.

Even if contractors are simply switching to another liquid waterproofing manufacturer – and there are a lot of liquid systems on the market to choose from – it is not a one-size-fits all process when it comes to the different liquid chemistries and application techniques. Each liquid chemistry and product is different and so the manufacturer will have its own set of instructions and recommendations for effective application, including suitable substrates, surface preparation, mixing and application.

Contractors should take advantage of manufacturers’ training courses to ensure they are fully up to speed on the product and how to apply it.

Competency in skills means Kemper System has increased its base of certified contractors as we step into new markets, adding to our product portfolio and offering wider customer services in response to this crisis – meaning we are a supplier with a 360-degree focus. Kemper System training is also part of the Basic Competency Programme (BCP), approved by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), and available at its headquarters in Warrington.

Supply Tracker

Another tool our industry can use to help stay ahead of the game when it comes to supply and demand issues is the Materials Report on the supply of construction products, which was launched by Build UK and the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply on 1 January 2021. The report, which is planned to be updated regularly, reveals where goods are manufactured and how they will be affected by changes in regulations, currency fluctuations, transport and import duties.

The availability of supplies will also be influenced by ports used for imports, the length of supply chains, and the raw materials used. But the level of risk will increase as the amount of control over an aspect of supply falls, warns Build UK.

Knowledge is King

Looking ahead, amidst the economic uncertainty, construction could do well. We need buildings and we need watertight roofs. By remaining focussed, expanding our relationships and knowledge, as well and working together more closely as an industry to deliver for customers, we should prevail.

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