The building product landscape continues to change how contractors work, with an increasing need to prove safety and compliance. Paul Midgley, Market Manager – Trade at Knauf, explains the added value for merchants in embracing a system selling approach, highlighting the benefits both for them and their customers.
The specification and installation of building products is undergoing a period of legislative and cultural change, placing far more onus on the supply chain to prove that the products they choose are both safe and meet the required performance standards. This applies not only to single products in isolation but, critically, it applies to the way products perform together when used in combination to create a system.
For contractors this can lead to pressure to switch to products outside their norm to achieve the levels of safety and performance necessary. Manufacturers are increasingly responding to this development by providing “system solutions”.
Partition walls are an excellent example of this. Traditionally, contractors who have won projects might come into their local merchants to buy the board they’ve always bought, the timber they know, and the fixings which do the job. This gives them the speed that comes with using familiar products and the best price for commodity products.
And while the relationship between merchant and contractor is still strong, the approach to product choice can be driven by habit or familiarity. However, with more and more projects requiring proof of compliance, testing, and warranties, is this traditional approach still fit for purpose?
There is a huge opportunity for merchants to adopt a system selling approach, providing complete solutions for their customers while also growing their basket sale.
It starts with asking the right questions. By understanding what projects customers are working on, merchants can begin to find the opportunities to add value. For example, where performance is key, a comprehensive manufacturer system easily gives the technical performance and installation speed they need on site.
“There is a huge opportunity for merchants to adopt a system selling approach, providing complete solutions for their customers while also growing their basket sale.”
For projects where moisture control or acoustic performance are the focus, it’s having the knowledge and access to specialist products which benefit installers. Recommending moisture resistant board for wet rooms over standard plasterboard will give contractors a better finish and less snags in the future.
Fire protection is another area where proof of performance is critical, and having specialist knowledge will pay dividends. Testing certificates to prove compliance and safety are increasingly being demanded.
While individual products such as metal partitions or boards will have their own fire classifications, it’s the full system of products together that determines the partitions fire performance. Using just one manufacturer’s board is often not enough to gain certification.
In this scenario, systems which are fully tested and compliant can help contractors avoid pitfalls in performance and certification. Furthermore, systems from manufacturers are also provided with a full system performance warranty. This warranty affords added peace of mind and adds an extra layer of security for the project but are only available as part of system approach.
Supporting the swap
While changing the approach away from individual products may sound daunting, Knauf in common with many manufacturers offers training and support for merchants. This training covers the common issues encountered by contractors in specific situations and provides the knowledge on which systems are best suited to deliver the performance needed.
Technical support is also available for merchants and their contractor customers: from understanding performance certificates to providing installation recommendations, this technical support ensures contractors understand how systems are meant to be installed.
The changes cascading down from the Building Safety Act are impacting the way contractors are approaching projects. There is a mandate to demonstrate competency with the products and systems being installed, encouraging contractors to rely on merchants and manufacturers to provide proper training and support in newer systems.
The Building Safety Act also solidifies the need to prove that solutions are tested to the appropriate standards with documentation readily available. It can be an increasingly complicated space, so using proven systems supported by the manufacturer is an attractive way to meet the requirements of the Act.
Merchants have the opportunity to add value by guiding contractors through these changes and product systems represent a huge potential for growth, while ensuring that the aims of the Building Safety Act: towards safety and performance are met.
And it all starts with a conversation. Next time you have a contractor that comes into branch looking for materials for partition walls, take the time to understand the project, with its individual challenges, and see if a system approach might just be the answer.
A version of this article appeared in the April edition of Professional Builders Merchant. Click here to read the full digital issue via the PBM website.