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Manufacturers: Let's stick together

The recession is the perfect opportunity for manufacturers to help consultants design more efficiently, says Jason Shingleton, general manager of Polypipe WMS.

In tough market conditions, working more efficiently can often be the difference between survival and failure. The economic climate has already affected several practices within the engineering and construction industries, and many businesses are facing a significant challenge throughout the next year. There are, however, a number of measures companies can take, not only to resist the current industry downturn, but also to protect their long-term growth leaving them in an improved position once the market begins to recover.

Identifying and improving areas of inefficiency, particularly within the design of a project, is one area that, with the involvement of a strong supply chain, can begin to pay dividends relatively quickly. However, the responsibility for improving efficiency does not sit squarely with the consulting engineer.

Product manufacturers have a significant role to play in helping consultants design appropriate solutions. They are typically at the forefront of new product development, legislative change and industry trends, putting them in an ideal position to offer guidance and advice on the most suitable product.

The number of challenging projects within the civil engineering market has increased within the last decade or so in order to meet government targets for infrastructure, and to support the general growth within the construction industry. Add to this the drive for sustainability and consultants must now have an understanding not only of the latest products, but also the raft of legislative drivers within the industry.

Utilising a manufacturer’s design and technical experience can help to value engineer an appropriate solution through the use of bespoke, rather than standard products.

A bespoke solution can reduce unnecessary costs such as installation time on site to achieve a construction cost saving over the entire project. By working closely with the whole supply chain, consultants are party to the impacts of product specification from design right through to installation and ongoing maintenance.

Involving a product manufacturer at the earliest opportunity often enables project constraints to be designed out and offers a more proactive, rather than reactive, method of designing a solution.

It is understandable that challenging market conditions can make the lowest cost solution the most attractive, but more often than not this relates to the initial capital cost and does not take into account the impact on the overall project. Working closely with a product manufacturer can identify areas where a solution can be designed more efficiently and which essentially delivers a more appropriate and better value solution with improved performance, even if the specific cost of the product is slightly more than the alternatives.

However, in order for this to work effectively, it is important that consultants choose their product manufacturers carefully. To minimise the risk of product failure once installed, it is important to work with manufacturers whose products carry certification, indicating that they have been rigorously tested and achieved third-party accreditation.

When working with any product, particularly one new to the market, it is important for consultants to understand the total installation costs, so that an appropriate application can be specified within the budgetary constraints. Whilst total installed-cost data can be difficult to source, one solution is to work more closely with the chosen manufacturer rather than turning to an alternative supplier with no knowledge of the project when costs need to be shaved.

With new and ever-changing legislation having such an impact on the design and construction of new and refurbished projects, product manufacturers can often provide consultants with a useful insight into how a compliant solution can be integrated. Consultants can build on their own knowledge of legislative drivers and regulations, as well as new products which can meet those requirements.

Ultimately, product manufacturers look to assist consultants wherever possible, and a wide range of information, such as product and technical literature, is often produced to achieve this. Consultants need to be open to working with product manufacturers and, when the barriers to communication are lowered, the relationship can develop to enable all parties to share in best practice.

Polypipe Civils is the UK’s largest manufacturer of plastic drainage, sewer, cable protection and water management products for the construction and civil engineering markets. As a UK based manufacturer the business has invested heavily in its operations to provide unrivalled expertise, technical knowledge and the widest range of products.