Preparing distributors for the future

Get ready for the future

As the construction industry is full steam ahead, it’s important that distributors are ready for the future. 

Construction of key infrastructure such as schools and buildings will be developed faster than ever, with reforms being planned and targets such as 40 new hospitals set for 2030.

To meet these objectives, it is now time to look forward to the future. For that, distributors need to start getting prepared with a complete basket of pipes, valves and fittings, and must be in tune with the wider trends in plumbing and heating.

Diversification and enhancing your basket of goods

One of the keys to preparing for this future is looking at your product offering and adapting to meet the needs of your customer base not just for today, but for tomorrow as well.

It is important to make sure what is made available to installers and contractors covers a diverse spectrum of project types – from new build to repair, maintenance and improvement (RMI). Last year, during lockdown, commercial activity all but stopped. However, RMI work accelerated as homeowners used money saved from not being able to go on holiday for home improvement projects.

With lockdowns lifting, the hope is that there are no more setbacks – however, the future is unpredictable. Distributors need to continue to adapt and be flexible, and diversification is often the best way to prevent sudden stops in revenue streams from becoming a cash flow and business survival issue.

The digitalisation of plumbing and heating will continue to grow and alter the way trades interact with distributors. Contractors and installers are starting to expect real time information and data regarding orders and products. Distributors with a strong eCommerce and digital offering who were able to supply this information at the height of the pandemic were the ones who managed to better navigate through this difficult time.

The challenge though has always been about knowing where products are in the supply chain, to be able to accurately forecast delivery dates. At RWC, we understand the importance of digital technologies and have acknowledged where we need to improve our processes and logistics by the implementation of enterprise resource planning systems, which further improvement relies on the honest feedback we always seek to get from our customers.

Sustainability: Evolve and innovate

Talking of change, another big shift that distributors and installers alike will need to consider is looking at how pipes, valves and fittings fit into the sustainability narrative.

Whether it’s government-driven directives such as the phase out of gas boilers in new builds by 2025, through to developers wanting to move towards carbon-friendly and water efficient systems, the drive toward sustainable solutions are everywhere. Naturally, this filters down to how we can make plumbing and heating more environmentally friendly, futureproofed and more resilient.

This means that in both commercial and domestic sectors, there will be a move toward products that can prove they reduce water consumption. Plus, products and systems may well need to have accreditation by third party sustainability assessment methods such as BREEAM.

There are many direct and indirect ways that long term water and energy savings can be achieved. For instance – underfloor heating (UFH) naturally works better with new heat pump technologies in comparison to radiators, and distributors must collaborate with manufacturers to ensure that systems are quoted and installed correctly.

A more direct way for distributors to support sustainability in the built environment is by stocking and recommending the use of innovative products that comply with new sustainability guidelines and come with the relevant accreditations such as our BREEAM-rated push-fit valves. 

Anticipation and preparedness

As we move forward in this ‘new normal’, more than ever, it pays for distributors to continue to be prepared, and be able to anticipate how the market may well move. Sticking to the status quo is no longer possible.

Tim Sykes is Divisional Sales Manager (North) at RWC

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