40TH ANNIVERSARY LIKE A FINE WINE Four decades of progress, developments and innovations, and how Building Products magazine has reacted, are reflected upon by Phil Stronach. 30 BUILDING PRODUCTS | OCTOBER 2017 Tighter controls on the use of hard- and softwoods and many of the plastics, adhesives and other chemically created products that were once specified without thought, have demanded a complete reappraisal on manufacturing and product usage. We still rely on builders’ merchants as a reliable source of all the materials we need on site. The Builders’ Merchants Federation chairman, Peter Hindle MBE has given Building Products the merchant’s view on the last 40 years. He asks: ‘Would a builder from the 1970s recognise today’s builders’ merchants?’ To answer this he states: ‘There have certainly been major changes, driven by consolidation of the market, the impact of information technology, and the growth of specialist and online distributors.’ Peter continues: ‘Looking back, the 1970s was the start of a major period of consolidation in the merchant industry, driven by Travis Perkins and Jewson (now part of Saint-Gobain) which saw the emergence of major groups with a nationwide Will we ever reach the heady days of 1977, with building exhibitions bursting at the seams, or sales representatives being able to walk into a site manager’s office, offer them a cigarette and then open the order book? No! The market has changed, and we have had to change with it. As we here at Building Products celebrate a significant milestone, we are all constantly aware of this fact. There is no room for nostalgia, or an attitude that ‘we did it better back then’. So what have been the significant changes since the launch issue of Building Products? The obvious thing to mention is technology. We all carry a mobile phone, most business is carried out either with the use of a computer tablet, or directly on-line. Fewer people are needed ‘on the road’ ... indeed, the reduction in staffing levels is perhaps one of the negative effects from the technological era that moves at an amazing pace, and seems to have no bounds. However, it is arguable that the supply chain has improved immensely, with ‘just in time’ deliveries being a reliable norm in today’s market. There is one other word that has entered the building dictionary ... “green”, not the colour but the mindset that we all find ourselves in nowadays. I recall a visit to Sweden in the mid 1970s where we were shown a spun rock insulation factory. Outside, in the snow, there were some models of typical wall constructions that achieved thermal insulation values ten times better than that required in the UK at the time. This was a jawdropping moment for us ‘Brits’ and we questioned if this could ever be achieved (or would ever be wanted) in the UK. But it was not only thermal insulation that mattered. Through the years we have been encouraged to look at every ecological angle – natural resources, power consumption, delivery expenditure and the overall effects on the planet for every nut and bolt that is made, used and sent out as part of the supply chain.
Building Products October 2017
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