Home Roofing The main takeaway messages from the Roofing Suppliers Group conference

The main takeaway messages from the Roofing Suppliers Group conference

by Jennie Ward

NFRC CEO James Talman discusses the key topics that were under the spotlight at the recent Roofing Suppliers Group conference, and explains what they mean for roofing…

James Talman, NFRC CEO.

We recently held our first in-person event in almost two years, the Roofing Suppliers Group (RSG) conference. This event brought together almost 100 of our Supplier Members to discuss some of the biggest challenges facing the industry from material availability and pricing, logistics, UKCA marking, digitisation and net zero.

We also elected our new Roofing Supplier Group committee, made up of 12 members representing all the major roofing types and chaired by Andy Williamson of SIG.

Here are some of the major themes that came out of the event:

Success often comes from incremental changes
We started the event by hearing from Amy Williams MBE, who won gold at the Vancouver Winter Olympics in the skeleton. The difference between silver and gold in the skeleton can often come down to fractions of a second, and so small incremental changes can be a game-changer.

Amy spoke about all the small alternations she made in the lead up to winning gold, from what she wore, to what she ate, even how she managed her body clock. Her point was there wasn’t one radical intervention that led to her winning, but lots of small changes, which compounded over time.

Amy said that the lessons she has learnt from her training can also be applied to business, so what small changes could you make to your business that, over time, would lead to better performance?

Call to action on driver shortages
We also heard from Martin Reid, Director for Scotland and Northern Ireland at the Road Haulage Association (RHA). Martin’s speech was quite timely, as it came the day before the widespread petrol shortages we saw at forecourts across the country due in part to a lack of drivers.

Martin told us how the logistics industry employs 2.54 million people, is worth £124 billion to the UK purse, and 98 per cent of all goods moved in the UK will spend time on the back of a lorry — construction products included. However, as has since become very apparent, the industry is facing a shortage of around 100,000 drivers, and this is starting to cause major issues.

So, what can be done?
In the short term, the RHA is calling for drivers to be classified as a ‘skilled’ occupation so that hauliers are able to recruit from overseas to help tackle the immediate crisis. In the medium term, they are calling on the government to prioritise vocational tests – prior to Covid the DVSA would do around 75,000 HGV driving tests, however, last year it was around 35k, with roughly a 50,000 pass rate, and there is now a major backlog.

In the longer term, the RHA’s focus is on attracting new people to their industry by improving the image of being a driver. One key aspect of this is better treatment. We can all do our bit here, and Martin urged everyone in the room to always treat drivers with respect and understand the time pressures they are under, by ensuring they can deliver and move on in good time.
NFRC is supporting the RHA and other logistics trade associations in their lobbying efforts, as if this is not addressed, material shortages are only set to be exacerbated.

Greater efficiency is critical to achieving net zero
Another theme of the conference was sustainability. When asked about what firms can do to start working towards achieving net zero, a common response from the panel was to focus on the efficiency of your business. Cutting unnecessary waste and getting it right first time can go a long way to reducing a company’s carbon emissions. The construction industry is the largest user of materials in the UK and produces the largest waste stream. At each stage of the construction process there are opportunities to reduce waste, reuse or recycle.

NFRC recently produced a Guidance Note on Zero Avoidable Waste that examined what the roofing sector is currently doing to avoid unnecessary waste, and how we as a sector can work together over the next 30 years.

This is just a snapshot of some of the many themes we discussed at this year’s conference. Whilst there are many challenges ahead, I came away from the day feeling optimistic that our sector is ready to meet these challenges head on.


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