You are no doubt acutely aware of the time involved in building trust, yet how it can be destroyed in an instant. Trust is the foundation of every relationship, and if lost, that mutual respect between parties may never be rebuilt.
In the wake of the tragedy at Grenfell Tower, trust in the construction industry has been a key topic. It is not hard to locate evidence presented to the public inquiry demonstrating occasions where incorrect information or advice was offered and how this may have subsequently contributed to the catastrophic loss of life.
This behaviour was unacceptable, regardless of any parties’ intent or underlying motive. Construction product manufacturers, contractors and architects need to have confidence in each others’ expertise and be able to take advice with surety – the construction sector is symbiotic, and all our businesses will suffer if we find ourselves continually second-guessing one another due to a fatal breakdown in trust.
Fortunately, the Hackitt Report made clear that we are not starting from the ground floor, but it also showed that we still have a long way to go. All of us are rightly proud of the reputation that UK manufacturers have around the world for delivering high-quality products and technical advice, but that reputation is being tarnished by a handful of players seeking short term gains.
I know we all worry about the bottom line, especially after the challenges we have collectively faced as an industry, including the pandemic lockdown and the UK’s exit from the European Union and raw material shortages. However, we know that a few quick wins are not worth it if they could come back to bite you later. Opportunism rarely yields long term rewards and is often toxic to relationships.
A good customer is a happy customer and one who comes back time after time, continually satisfied. Meanwhile, the cladding replacement saga, unlikely to end any time soon, is a source of unhappiness and dissatisfaction for all. We see leaseholders trapped in unmortgageable properties and facing repair bills that could exceed the equity in their home, parliamentarians wrestling over proposals to commit further billions to cover these costs, whilst all of us in the construction sector just simply watch our reputation be dragged through the mud. The only group that’s set to benefit at all from this sorry situation are the lawyers who will be arguing about this in the courts for many years to come.
So, where do we go from here? How can we avoid a similar situation arising in the future? There is of course no panacea, but all over our industry people are coming together to identify methods to instil confidence in our work and we must embrace these and take every opportunity to demonstrate that we are to be trusted.
The proposed Code for Construction Product Information from the Construction Products Association’s Marketing Integrity Group will hopefully usher in radical change. Information that is clear, accurate, up-to-date, accessible, and unambiguous – these are the five basic tenets that underpin the code and are something we should naturally aspire to.
At Ravago Building Solutions we have launched a review and are working closely with our partners to ensure that our processes and procedures are robust and we will be able to proudly and confidently demonstrate that we are compliant with the Code. We have always been open and honest with our clients and partners, but we are eager to identity further improvements to how we manage the production and publication of product information.
For example, we are introducing a new electronic system to control the content of critical external documents, such as technical data sheets and product brochures, which contain essential information for anyone specifying or using our products. Soon, our whole team will be able to track changes more easily from instigation, through art working, to publication – removing any doubt about where changes are in the pipeline and guaranteeing that only the latest versions of documents remain in circulation.
We certainly will not be patting ourselves on the back and saying “job done” once we’ve certified our compliance with the Code. Ultimately, trust is not something that can be built overnight and, like any structure, requires careful maintenance. I do know one thing for certain in that, despite its fragility, trust is incredibly powerful and we fail to protect those precious bonds at our peril.
By Chris Gimson, Commercial Director, UK and Ireland, Ravago Building Solutions
First published on Barbour Product Search, 20th September 2021