NBS has released findings from its manufacturer business continuity poll. As production lines continue to open up, this timely snapshot looks at how construction materials producers reacted to the COVID-19 shutdown.
While almost all (92%) of respondents saw some or many of their projects delayed or put on hold, sites opening up again will see the situation change daily.
As Ben Hancock, Managing Director of Oscar Acoustics said: “The speed of the shutdown was disruptive, yet we’ve been working with contractors, so we can get our teams safely back on-site and installing. Our clients have been keen to keep to project timescales.”
A third of manufacturers furloughed some staff, a quarter gave (some) people reduced hours, and one in five stated some or all of its team were unable to work. The furlough scheme appears to be keeping manufacturing employees in jobs, as less than one in ten had laid off staff.
Open for business
A third of product manufacturers were able to carry on business as normal and a half were able to provide some of their services, only 13% were severely restricted and just 8% were unable to trade. Despite the healthy ability to be open for business, only 2% of manufacturers were not expecting sales to fall. Relating to specification, only 10% of firms weren’t expecting a drop in specification enquiries. Two-thirds of manufacturers experienced a fall and one in five were waiting for spec leads to tail off.
To combat the drop in sales and specification, one in ten firms planned or have already boosted their marketing spend.
As you’d expect, 98% of manufacturers have changed how they do things, with 68% significantly so. Only 7% say the shut down has meant that there’s been no change in their ways of working. One in three firms saw an uptick in specifiers wanting information digitally, and two-thirds are providing or intend to do so.
Ben comments further: “We’ve noticed a big uptick in enquiries and requests from architects wanting product information emailed over or as links, as well as looking for training materials.”
Where possible, manufacturers are embracing digital technology so they can continue to serve their customers. They’re moving to online videos for CPD/training and demonstrating product functions and qualities, offering digital sales tours and meetings as well as investing on upgrading their websites and digital product information.
Supply chain and logistics
One in five say supply chain interruption is a problem and 4% say getting materials and components from suppliers has had an impact, and a similar number say their distributors are closed. One in five say that closed sites or being unable to install onsite has been a problem and a further 9% commented on sites being closed. 92% have seen project delays, with 57% seeing most of their projects paused.
Nick Bishenden, Jacksons Fencing says, “Normally April is key for us on the residential front, with a dramatic sales spike at Easter. This year was even busier than normal as the warm weather and shut garden centres drove home-owners online so they could spruce up their gardens.”
He adds, “We have our own vehicle fleet, so we’re not reliant on third parties for deliveries. Right now, this is a boon, with all the pressures on logistics firms.
“We’ve kept our production lines open, and as we’d expected an April spike, we had ample stock.”
Charlie Ayers, Managing Director, SureCav says, “Initially there were constant requests for deliveries. As the situation progressed, fewer sites remained operational and demand dropped proportionally.”
Charlie adds: “As our distribution centre re-opens, shipping can resume and a large surplus stock means we can honour our current commitments and beyond. However, the return to business, as usual, may take a while as we’ve never been in this type of situation before. Deliveries may take a bit longer than the normal 48 hours.”
A survey respondent commented: “The issue is getting products on site. We can ship stock in from our factories however fabricators and distributors are not accepting orders and therefore product can’t get to site.”
Kerry Barker, Project Lead, at NBS commented: “Manufacturers and suppliers have made significant changes to adapt to the situation created by the coronavirus threat, particularly working from home; although some have furloughed and laid off staff. While most firms could adapt and deliver much of their services, they faced challenges from external factors such as site closures, supply chain disruption and not being able to meet customers in person.”
Commenting on the poll, Lee Jones, Head of Manufacturer Solutions from NBS said: “The UK’s building product sector appears to be handling the COVID-19 disruption well. Many firms used this time to quicken the pace of their digital transformation. They’ve increased their online presence, created video content, streamlined processes. That way they’ll exit the shutdown match fit and ahead of the competition.”