Howard Morris, Managing Director at Trade Fabrication Systems (TFS), explains how collaborating with offsite processing partners can help to build value into the supply chain both in the short term and long term, giving merchants a competitive advantage in a pressured market.
In recent times, and quite possibly now more than ever, builders’ merchants have faced high levels of uncertainty. Yet it is not an industry that is without its challenges in a normal world. Effectively managing inventory is a major challenge in the merchant sector, and being able to predict supply and demand is difficult at the best of times.
Insufficient stock can result in lost sales opportunities, whereas surplus stock can damage cashflow. As an incredibly competitive market, merchants across the nation have standardised their ranges to cut costs and remain profitable — ultimately resulting in commoditised inventories and less choice overall for customers.
It has become standard practice to ensure standard stock items are available, and with many merchants now offering the same products it only serves to encourage competition for the same sales.
However, with advancements in modern processing techniques for timber products and the increased awareness of the benefits of offsite processing, some forward-thinking merchants have sought to build a commercial advantage by utilising a processing partner to enhance products, add value and increase their offering.
One thing that you can guarantee almost every builders’ merchant will have in stock is a blank door. Commonly held as unfinished, primed or simply white, timber doors are a perfect opportunity for merchants who are looking to enhance product offering without impacting inventory.
Advancements in modern timber techniques have enabled builders’ merchants to offer pre-finished and pre-machined doors, without housing the doors in stock. Available in any RAL colour, the merchant can offer this as a standard finish in its product portfolio and by working with offsite processing partners, get this sent to the customer pre-finished, ready for immediate installation.
Similarly, the processing ability of partners should equip them with the potential to accurately precision cut space for door seals, hinge mortices, locks, letterbox slots and more, reducing the need for a joiner onsite — saving the customer time and money.
Traditionally running the risk of damaging a finished door onsite, merchants can be confident that their end users will be satisfied with a factory-completed, clean and precise result.
Virtually any timber substrate held in stock can be processed and enhanced through offsite processing. Whether it is softwood, MDF (panel or mouldings), cladding, plywood, OSB or doors, all of these have the potential for a value add element to the customer.
By working collaboratively with an offsite processing partner, this presents an opportunity for merchants to leverage advantage in an already competitive market. Without impacting inventory or stock levels, merchants can enhance their existing stock to the benefit of the end users — while maintaining profitability.
Processing a partnership
Working in partnership with offsite processors is an opportunity for builders’ merchants to add value and improve overall offering for their customers. With that in mind, it is imperative that the processing partner of choice will respond to demand and ensure the quality of the finished product is of the highest standard.
The most reliable indicator of performance and quality is the BS EN ISO 9001:2015 quality assurance certificate. For merchants, identifying partners who work to these quality assurances is an indicator that there are clear processes in place to ensure the quality whilst also instilling confidence that these are diligently followed.
To alleviate any pressures on the merchant, it is paramount that the appointed partner is independent. Therefore, only the products supplied by the builders’ merchant will be enhanced to the agreed specification and finish, ensuring merchants retain their purchasing power.
Working with a partner who can provide logistics support is also a key consideration. A processor who can hold merchants’ stock ready for call off and can deliver on a JIT scale is beneficial to enhancing build programmes for customers. Processed products can be sent direct from the merchant’s chosen supplier, straight into the processing facility — allowing for a combination of items to be processed, providing increased sales opportunities and margin enhancements.
It is also vital to choose a partner who is able to professionally pack and protect products for delivery. In doing so, this will help to reduce damage in transit, therefore minimising the risk of financial loss for the merchant if goods are impacted. This will not only protect the merchant’s reputation, but also make sure the product is ready for immediate installation for the end user.
It is important that builders’ merchants help to provide their customers with more choice without dramatically increasing the cost per item. Although difficult singlehandedly, working with business-to-business partners is an opportunity to reap the rewards of offsite processing and gain a competitive advantage in a commoditised environment.
Trade Fabrication Systems is a leading processor of coated and laminated wood-based panel products. To find out more about the services it can offer the merchant sector, go to https://www.tradefabricationsystems.co.uk/market-sector/business-to-business/