Ensuring client certainty in uncertain times

March 24th, 2015 Posted in: Lakesmere

The dark days of the recession may be over but for those of us who were lucky enough to emerge on the other side relatively unscathed, the forecast is still somewhat unsettled.  Now as construction activity increases, companies are facing the new challenge of ensuring they are able to make the most out of the new opportunities available and the difference between those who planned ahead and those that didn’t is quite often the difference between surviving and thriving.

The period immediately after a recession is always a tricky one, particularly for companies such as Lakesmere who operate fixed-term contracts where prices are agreed long in advance, sometimes up to two years ahead or even longer.  Whereas the recession saw lower costs as suppliers reacted to the lack of activity, as the market improved and demand has increased so too have prices.   However despite fluctuating market conditions, there is a need to hold steady in our commitment to our customers by honouring these fixed prices and this is quite often a costly burden to bear.

As restrictions from fixed-term contracts put further pressure on companies, many of which are still weak from the recession, it is those that anticipated the challenging market conditions that are really feeling the benefits of the recovery.  Lakesmere for one saw the writing on the wall early on and understood that with the uncertainly over prices coupled with the dramatic increase in demand, there could be risks of delays in supply. With external forces out of our control we realised the answer could be closer to home – why not look at what we could produce ourselves?

The solution was to replicate our already successful mobile manufacturing model operating in the Middle East with the creation of our new Innovation Technology Centre (ITC), but this time we gave it a fixed address alongside our Winchester head office.  From here we are able produce a range of bespoke metal roofing and cladding sheets and associated ancillaries for use on a number of our contracts, giving us greater control and providing greater reassurance to our clients. By allowing us the flexibility to manufacture bespoke structural and architectural metal components to clients’ exact specifications, we have already provided solutions for a number of our more complex contracts such as the Olympic Stadium redevelopment and the new Resorts World complex at Birmingham’s NEC.

Although we still rely on our established supply chain for the most part, our move into manufacturing lends itself perfectly for servicing those contracts that require bespoke rather than off-the-shelf solutions. By producing these elements ourselves rather than adapting a standard product, we are able to bring significant benefits to a project.  For example, our decking profiles for standing seam weather sheets have been specifically designed to match the standard cover widths of standard seam roofing, eliminating the need for substructure and therefore reducing the weight, materials and labour required.

In-house manufacturing is also bringing with it all the benefits of off-site construction, from improved factory-controlled quality, reduced waste to greater control over health and safety and that other unpredictable force – the weather.

With the current economic boom in the capital, many of our contracts that are benefitting from the work undertaken by the ITC are London based with Tribeca Square, a new 23 storey residential development in the Elephant & Castle area of London being a prime example. For inner-city projects where tight site footprints and limited access is commonplace, producing bespoke products via Lakesmere’s ITC and the Group’s unitised glass facades facility in Northern Ireland can also reduce the need to store materials and the amount of waste generated on site.

Taking a more active role in manufacturing has been a natural progression for us, however the move has also been a strategic one, prompted by the anticipation of the needs of our client base and set against a backdrop of challenging market conditions. In many ways it is perhaps our ability to constantly evolve that gives our clients the security that they increasingly demand and making our mark in manufacturing is just one of the ways that we are able to offer valuable delivery reassurance to our clients in these somewhat unsettled times.

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