Few people could have failed to notice that our industry is on the up; orders are on the increase and there is a general optimism permeating the sector.
In fact, lead times are an issue for many of the Federation of Piling Specialists’ (FPS) members as they endeavour to meet client demands and growing order books. HS2 is also much more of a reality and while this is an infrastructure project, it will bring with it many additional projects – small and large – as it progresses.
Great times ahead then? Well hopefully yes, but as the industry gets busier and resource gets stretched there is also a tendency for so-called “new” ground engineering contractors to appear, competing for work alongside more established ones.
Now I must state that competition is healthy and I’m not for one moment suggesting that I have any objections to the arrival of any new piling company. Indeed, the opposite is true – competition keeps us all on our toes, stabilises prices and if nothing else reflects the overall health of the market sector such that there is sufficient work to keep new companies in business.
However, I do urge caution and encourage clients to look beyond the headline quote. Many new companies pop up with little or no track record of their abilities. Often they have no financial stability, offer precious little commitment to health and safety, quality, training, or even offer a sustainable business model.
Price will always win-out for many but, given the consequences of a bad appointment, can you afford to gamble on appointing a company whose only USP is price? All too often money talks and some new companies will undercut the reputable contractor, only to leave a trail of disaster behind them that affects us all and that includes damaging the construction sector as a whole.
Turn the pages of any industry magazine and you will always find an example of a “here today, gone tomorrow” company, that has secured this or that multi-million-pound contract yet has never filed any accounts and has no trade association backing to endorse the quality of its work or safety record.
FPS membership is not just a badge of association, it is an endorsement of the business standards of the member company demonstrating the company has passed an independent audit of all aspects of its business from financial stability to health and safety and quality and competence of work.
Rather than being the “also” part of any tender it should be top of any tick list, as it is your assurance that the work will be done as specified.
Of course this may mean that a tender from a FPS member may not always be the lowest price, but there is a price for the reassurance of knowing a job has been completed correctly, first time, on-time, and with full consideration of safety. And recognising that things sometimes go wrong, the company you chose to work with is not only here today, but here tomorrow and accountable!
Martin Blower is chairman of the Federation of Piling Specialists