Wates debates the inflation conundrum

Steffan Battle
Steffan Battle Interim Managing Director
Wates debates the inflation conundrum
Home Insights Wates debates the inflation conundrum
This week saw the first of our new Wates #SummerSessions take place.

I was joined by  colleagues and industry partners  for a roundtable discussion on what we’re calling the ‘Inflation Conundrum’ the combination of factors currently impacting costs and delivery in the construction sector.
Stef Battle - Head of Pre Construction

Stef Battle

Head of Pre Construction

Our expert contributors were:

  • James Askew, Commercial Director – Wates
  • Chris Bosworth, Group Strategy Director – Travis Perkins
  • Matthew Brooker, National Head of Commercial – Rider Levett Bucknall
  • Damon Brown, Portfolio Construction Manager – L&G
  • Steve Carter, Regional Commercial Sales Director Siniat
  • Rob Clifford, National MEP Director Wates
  • Mark Richardson, Construction Director – U&I
  • Mark Smith, CEO – Billington
  • Ausra Vankeviciute, CEO – Staticus
  • Dan Whittingham, Managing Director – Opera

Collectively we were able to pause and reflect on recent happenings and the impact of global issues – including the Covid-19 pandemic – on inflation in our industry. As we talked at length about its knock-on effects on areas like the housing market, the carbon agenda, exchange rates and fiscal policy, we opened up some great debate on other key factors which often compromise our success.

The research and insight the group shared covered the short and longer-term impact on different stakeholders including manufacturers, distributors, subcontractors and the broader labour market and considered the key issues currently driving costs. Many flagged that a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to this matter wouldn’t be effective, due to regional and sector variations in demand and performance.

While inevitably the recent unprecedented times have invited a degree of uncertainty to operations, we agreed this could be mitigated with sensible supply chain management and stewardship, along with a united approach.

Lessons learned

Everyone commented that we cannot afford to go back to the old ways pre-Covid, and that valuable lessons learned in these unprecedented times must be embraced. Throughout the past few months the industry and all its parts had a common purpose, to succeed through adversity, and this united us and increased our determination and focus. Old pricing battles and siloed working methods belong in the past and we must prevent these coming to the fore as the world returns to some kind of normality.

We spoke about the huge benefits to be gained from early engagement with customers and supply chain partners, and designing collaboratively upfront to get onsite quicker and avoid unnecessary costs down the line. We also talked about the key role modern methods of construction (MMC) have to play and how to properly unlock this potential.

Royal London Hospital 

With only five weeks to build two floors comprising 176 patient beds, we brought together a core project team of experts and decision makers, who worked closely together from day one to optimise speed and efficiency onsite.

By collaborating with the client and supply chain from the start and being honest and transparent about the very real challenges ahead, problems were solved quickly and swift progress was made.  Decisiveness, cooperation and innovation underpinned performance on this project and the team onsite showed what is possible in the most challenging of circumstances.

As Chris Bosworth from Travis Perkins reminded us, sometimes necessity is the mother of invention, and we need to maintain this spirit as a collective moving forwards.

The summer series is a series of virtual ‘thought leadership’ style events designed to allow us to connect with customers and partners across the industry in a targeted and structured environment.