REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL – 1, 2, 3

Reasons to be cheerful

Written By Mark Tomlin, CEO VJ Technology

As we enter 2019, I think we have many reasons to be cheerful. To many, 2018 was a year of bad news. However, I think it is easy to overlook all the good and focus on the bad when it is so frequently making the headlines. The construction industry achieved a lot in 2018 and I for one think that 2019 has a lot to offer. The question is how to make the most of it?

Many are quick to highlight the low points of 2018. The year started with the collapse of Carillion and it ended with what now look looks like control of Interserve being handed over to the banks as it negotiates a debt-for-equity swap with its lenders.

There were also a large number of major projects that were delayed – Tottenham Hotspurs’ new stadium, Crossrail and the Aberdeen bypass to name but a few. However, I think we are missing the point. These projects are highly complex and for many their delay in delivery is to be expected, especially when set against an industry that, like many others, is feeling the financial pinch.

It is easy to point the finger at major projects that are experiencing challenges, but what about all the other outstanding projects that were completed? You only need to look at the shortlist for the annual Building Awards and it is easy to see the high quality and diverse number of complex projects being delivered each and every year.

Despite the gloom that has beset the industry and the Brexit uncertainty that continues to loom over us, by and large most companies seem to be in a happier place now than they could have predicted earlier in the year. The reason for this? Here are three possibilities:

Progression of the three big H’s – Hinckley Point, Heathrow and HS2

These three major projects typify the industry. The UK may be a small nation but the sheer size and complexity of some of the projects we are delivering defy logic. These are major projects that are going to be years in the delivery and will keep many businesses busy, from design teams to engineers, contractors to suppliers. They are however just the tip of the iceberg in terms of projects the UK will be delivering in 2019 and beyond.

World class design, engineering and delivery

The UK is still renowned for world class design and engineering and the capabilities of both tier one and the growing number of specialist subcontractors ensures we have the skills to deliver even the most complex project.

The last 12 months have seen a step up by many specialists. They have become specialist and in many cases are embracing a more construction management approach that sees them work directly with clients. See The Special Specialists.

Together these teams of designers and contractors will ensure the UK is at the forefront of construction.

Investment by the supply chain

Responding to the needs of the market, the wider supply chain has repositioned itself to be leaner and more efficient. Many businesses, such as VJ Technology, have invested to be able to provide clients with the materials and technical support they require.

There has also been an appreciation around skills, with many investing in apprenticeships to help build the workforce of the future.

It is no surprise that these three possibilities are intrinsically linked. We have a pipeline of exciting projects working alongside design teams and contractors who are skilled to deliver them. We have a supply chain that is there to support and provide the necessary materials and services to ensure projects are delivered safely and on time and budget. For those companies that are forward thinking – that have invested to create businesses that are aligned with customer requirements and are able to provide customers with genuine value – I firmly believe that 2019 will be a success. Despite facing the triple hit of rising costs for labour, materials, and fuel, as recently pointed out by the Construction Products Association (CPA), and the continued uncertainty around Brexit, in the absence of a crystal ball no one really knows what the outcome is going to be. However, we are an industry that is notoriously resilient and willing to learn and adapt. If nothing else, I’m sure 2019 won’t be boring.