The good, the bad and the ugly.
The UK construction industry is quite rightly feeling good about the future, with more than three-quarters of the 2,000 respondents to a survey conducted by Construction Enquirer and the Build Show reporting a positive outlook for their business over the next 18 months. A result which we at Plastic Surgeon can fully endorse, based on what our own clients are telling us, though the findings of this and other surveys raise issues of concern for many companies.
So while it is an encouraging set of results, there remain three restraints holding the industry back. In addition to a scarcity of heavyside materials and other products, both the cost and availability of skilled workers/subcontractors were identified as the serious threats to sustained recovery, with 44% of respondents highlighting the skills shortage.
The latest Markit/CIPS UK Construction PMI survey for August also recorded the biggest shortage in subcontractors for 17 years. Plus it reported that it is seeing the steepest rise in rates charged by subcontractors since the survey began in April 1997.
Chris Williamson, chief economist at survey compilers Markit, said: “The concern is that shortages of both raw materials and suitable subcontractors could start causing growth to slow, and could push up inflationary pressures within the sector.”
Supply chain shortages were inevitable after such a long recession: I can remember being shocked and saddened to see Pilkington Glass’ factory closed on my way through Plymouth to visit my parents. I know for a fact that the brick industry followed suit, mothballing many of its production plants in order to help weather out the storm. In fact Markit/CIPS UK Construction’s survey very much reflects this ugly pattern, which was reproduced across the country and led to many of our manufacturers laying off workers – the problem now being that delivery times are at their longest since 1997 as suppliers struggle to keep up with demand with the recovery.
Therefore to summarize the UK’s current building constraint:
• We have a shortage of skilled tradesmen
• Tradesmen are expensive
• We have a shortage of building materials
We would therefore advise that for either refurbishment/restoration work or for putting right the damage which inevitably occurs on site, the answer to all three of the above problems is to bypass them: by using the repair services we offer at Plastic Surgeon.
Accepting that repairs are more cost-effective than replacing damaged sinks, kitchen worktops, shower trays etc, in the real world – beyond a few pod or module manufacturers – ‘immaculate construction’ remains a fantasy of the Egan Report: while we are offering a good way forward in dealing with the bad and the ugly sides of site working.