specialist products from a single merchant streamlines the procurement process to improve efficiency and reduce costs. While often overlooked, the cost to contractors in staff time of managing a vast number of orders can be substantial. Making this process more efficient can have a significant impact on costs, especially on larger projects. This also reduces the number of deliveries and so the number of vehicles accessing the site, which is important with safety being a core priority on projects of all sizes and in every sector. Merchants can also demonstrate their commitment to vehicle safety, efficiency and environmental protection through accreditations such as the Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme (FORS).

Improving collaboration At Keyline, we have invested heavily in driver training and ensure that their knowledge is kept up to date, with a requirement to complete a number of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) courses each year. We have also achieved and retained FORS Gold accreditation for a number of years, demonstrating our dedication to best practice. Collaborative working also allows more flexible and responsive deliveries. Close relationships between the teams will mean that potential issues can be addressed and avoided - while evolving project requirements can be met. Both of which will help prevent delays and improve productivity.

Merchants also have an important role as a source of product knowledge and expertise. There are significant benefits of contractors engaging with merchants earlier in the project when there is an opportunity to provide help and advice on product selection. Merchant colleagues who have in-depth specialist knowledge of the products can provide specification advice that can save clients time and money while improving quality. This may be the recommendation of a product solution of which the specifiers were not aware. Alternatively, a particular part of the design may have been ‘over-specified’ to ensure that that element of the project functions as intended. With technical and product specific knowledge, the merchant team may be able to recommend a solution or approach that is more efficient and reduces the overall costs.

At Keyline, equipping colleagues with the

right skills, knowledge and tools is at the centre of our approach. We provide on-going training to ensure they have up to date knowledge on the products as well as the factors that affect customers’ projects.

Merchant businesses have always occupied a crucial role in the supply chain. However, with the challenges of recent months and the need to improve the productivity, quality and cost efficiency of construction projects, the merchant sector should be looking at how it can add value. There is a long road ahead of us; we need to navigate and shape it by working together with closer collaborative relationships and a sharing of knowledge. With grass shoots starting to emerge and with a collective determination and demand for a better future, there is clear reason to believe that the industry can lead the way to “Get Britain Building” and even perform better than it had before. BMJ

November 2020


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