With the UK's construction sector growing at its fastest pace since 2003, the renewed optimism being spoken of is coming to fruition. As an SME operating in the manufacturing sector, it's fair to say that we are seeing a dramatic increase in enquiries and orders from the housing sector in particular, a growth which can be attributed in part to the Government's Help to Buy scheme.
With recent figures published by the Department for Communities & Local Government confirming the number of new houses being built in England in 2013 is at its highest for six years, it is imperative the industry doesn't mistake the positive outlook for a chance to sit back and expect the opportunities to come knocking.
After all, construction is a sector where we have a strong competitive edge, we have world-class expertise in architecture, design and engineering, and British companies are already leading the way in sustainable construction solutions. It is also a sector with considerable growth opportunities, with the global construction market forecast to grow by over 70% by 2025.
The renewed focus from the Government with its 'Help to Buy' scheme launched in April last year, and the anticipated growth in private house building, infrastructure work and commercial activity will certainly help drive recovery in the industry over the next four years. But what more can we do?
During these times of austerity customers are more cautious and shrewd. They are looking more towards the total cost of acquisition; they have to consider the value of the product, the logistics costs given rising fuel prices, the environmental implications and much more. Manufacturers serving the industry have to be able to promote and deliver the best possible return to their customers, yet it shouldn't necessarily mean through cost. Customers within the industry should be more concerned about the quality of a product, its lifespan, the value it can bring in the long term. Let's start thinking longer term.
The UK construction industry has an opportunity to drive recovery over the next four years, but in order to do this we need to be better and think smarter. After all, complacency will make a company's chances of survival slim; businesses across all sectors need to work hard to make the most of the opportunities presented to them.
It's also imperative we invest in our most important asset, our people. There is far too much emphasis on short term gain. We have more than enough managers; developing effective leaders will propagate growth and secure our long-term future. By attracting more of the brightest students to study at university means they will be better prepared for a vibrant career, one that will help maintain the growth and stability of our industry
Lastly, if we are to remain competitive on the global stage, investment in R&D is key. The UK's research community is amongst the best in the world- so why aren't more companies exploiting this in order to gain a competitive advantage? We work with academia to validate our products and their benefits and strive to design the best possible solutions for our customers. The UK's academic institutions can support the development of innovative solutions in a number of priority areas for construction - we just need to utilise them.