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Builders’ merchants urged to tackle employment crisis and net zero challenges to overcome industry challenges

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Employment shortages, Net Zero challenges and increasing material costs are the top concerns for 2024 according to a poll of Builders’ Merchants. 

ECI Software Solutions, a software specialist for building trade suppliers, polled builders’ merchants across the UK to reveal their top challenges and opportunities for the year ahead, creating the Builders Merchants Predictions in 2024 report

This comes as another recent report revealed that over 930,000 workers will be needed within the trade industries by 2032 to meet growing demands. 

Claire Watson, managing director at Airmatic, said that focusing on making the industry look attractive and building employment is the most important: 

“The UK is facing labour and talent shortages which could worsen if not addressed. There are currently over 140,000 vacancies that need to be filled, so attracting and retaining talent is key. Offering better opportunities for young people is crucial to bridge this gap.” 

Chris Fisher, website and product data management solutions expert (BMBI) and VP of EMEA LBMH division at ECI Software Solutions adds: 

“To highlight the benefits of this industry merchants need to come together where we can show what this sector has to offer, like the Builders Merchants Federation (BMF) ‘Make the difference’ campaign. This will help to attract and retain the next generation of workers and innovating businesses with technology.”

With the employment gap widening, a new report shared that almost half of UK companies now have a structured plan in place to align with Net Zero goals – up from 34% in 2022. 

Jennifer Thompson, CPO at Machine Max, urges businesses to focus on actioning strategies as “it is clear that the scrutiny concerning Net Zero will continue to ramp up.” 

“The construction industry has long required urgent action, and time is rapidly diminishing for it to respond appropriately and achieve set targets. 

“Closer monitoring of machine metrics is one solution that should take shape, allowing companies to correctly identify operational efficiencies throughout all stages of a project – knowing how and when machines are being used can make a big difference in fuel consumption.”

According to NBS, the latest Digital Construction report indicates that the digital transformation of the UK industry is well underway, with one in five using AI and machine learning. 

Eric Hargreaves, Director and Founder of Your Choice Home Improvements, highlights that innovating might get businesses ahead of their competitors as “companies with large overheads and little innovation are struggling to compete.” 

“Businesses that have been able to adapt to the challenges over the last few years, who have improved their product offering, and marketing capability and trimmed overheads, these companies stand to take advantage of the favourable conditions predicted in 2024. However, companies that have tried to ‘ride the storm’ the last couple of years with little innovation will likely continue to struggle and will fall by the wayside.”

Chris Fisher, website and product data management solutions expert (BMBI) and VP of EMEA LBMH division at ECI Software Solutions commented on the findings from the report: 

“With the new year, there’s always slight concerns about the potential challenges that might arise. Builders’ merchants are faced with a lot of changes to the industry like Net Zero goals and tackling the employment shortages crisis. 

“As the report shared making this industry attractive to younger people and putting innovative strategies in place could be beneficial in the long run for builders’ merchants. It’s only a matter of time before businesses wake up to the limitations of legacy systems and introduce business management software. Introducing technology into the business provides the opportunity to upskill as well as supply more open opportunities for the next generation whether that is an apprenticeship or a new role.”

Click here to view the full report here.

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