Tight timber supply conditions pose both challenges – and significant opportunities – for the year ahead, Stairways Midlands bosses are predicting.
Throughout 2020, the raw material supply chain has been beset by new hurdles, most significantly those coming as a result of pandemic-related issues and sea-changes in market dynamics.
Stairways Midlands director Neil Stevens believes the key to making the most of the situation is even closer partnership working for both suppliers and customers, to help forge ahead where unforeseen restrictions and a fluid regulation space are the new normal.
Neil said: “I know everyone has heard this a thousand times, but what we have all faced in 2020 has been unprecedented. No one could have predicted this, no matter how well-developed business continuity plans were.
“We have learned a lot though. It has helped us all review our processes, work smarter with customers and suppliers – and invest further in our staff. This is the blueprint for future working.
“We must all work more closely with all links in the supply chain to help avoid significant delays and price fluctuations.
“It helps mitigate major supply issues and is a no-brainer when you stop to think about it – which we have had plenty of time to do this year.”
Stairways Midlands remains a significant player in the construction industry, serving a range of accounts for nationwide builders, as well as a significant number of smaller and bespoke companies.
Working in closer partnership with stakeholders helps support the company order bank, ensures facilities are large enough to “stockpile” for pipeline orders and helps safeguard against the challenges an exit from the EU will undoubtedly throw up in the coming months.
Neil added: “We simply don’t yet know how imports will be affected and what changes we will see to haulage costs.
“We would urge customers – and potential customers – to start conversations with us sooner rather than later. This can help both them and us with purchasing strategies to avoid supply issues and unbudgeted cost inflation.
“Materials through this year have been hit by things like a surge in people, confined to their homes, undertaking DIY projects. There is no way we could have predicted this a year ago.
“We also faced fierce competition with other European countries, and the USA, seeking structural timber, something which impacted our traditionally well-supplied timber sector in the UK.
“Like it or not, the new normal is longer lead times, which we can manage, but need to be aware of what is coming down the track.
“Demand for our products remains high and the construction sector has rebounded strongly, but to keep it buoyant in the coming year, we must continue to work more closely, to the benefit of all of us.”