Construction Products Association chairman reveals three strategic objectives

John Sinfield
John Sinfield

Construction Products Association chairman John Sinfield used the CPA’s annual Spring Lunch yesterday to outline the Association’s three strategic objectives for 2016 and unveil a new logo.

The Association represents the UK’s manufacturers and distributors of construction products and materials.

Speaking before an audience of 500 senior industry leaders and government officials, Mr Sinfield, managing director of Knauf Insulation for Northern Europe, said: “My compliments to CPA chief executive Diana Montgomery and her team for the new look to the logo and the new website. The change is more than skin deep as there has been significant effort put in behind the scenes to rethink and refocus the CPA’s objectives and strategy. More than ever these are clearly centred on responding to the needs of you, the members, and helping your business to succeed. Our work continues, much as you recognise, but now with three key objectives always in mind:

Increasing Recognition for the Industry

“First is the matter of increasing recognition for the industry and your business. The CPA is known as the voice of our industry. That’s a turn of phrase that sometimes gets overused, but as the umbrella trade association representing 85 per cent by value of all the manufacturers and merchants, we have a clear mandate from our members. This support, together with our expertise and insight, means we are often the first point of contact for politicians, civil servants and the media seeking information and advice about policies that affect not only your business but the wider construction supply chain too.

“We have occasionally had to fight hard to remind our new colleagues in government that our industry accounts for more than a third of total construction output in this country and is invested into every constituency from Land’s End to John O’Groats. And while we may not be as sexy as the makers of F1 cars or the latest fighter jet, manufacturers of construction products are just as innovative and employ more people in the UK than automotive and aerospace manufacturers combined. To the government’s credit, they have been willing to listen to us and their support, for example, of the Construction Leadership Council bodes well for a productive working relationship with the construction supply chain.”

Construction Products Association CPAGrowing the Market

“When we undertook the market research and asked our members their thoughts on the CPA’s ambition to help grow the market for construction products, it sometimes met with scepticism. Could a trade association actually achieve such a thing? Can the CPA really help grow a member company’s business? Our answer is yes, if we can provide information or help address those areas which are key to your success.

“Probably the most obvious examples of this are the economic forecasts and surveys, for which the CPA is so highly regarded. Our members tell us that this information is indispensable to business development and strategies, offering highly accurate insight into market data, growth opportunities and risks. Certainly in my role as MD at Knauf, I can attest to the value of this information and how it can help my business grow. Later this summer the economics team will also publish a regional, ‘hot-spot’ analysis, which many of you have said would be very useful.

“Another important factor determining whether our members grow or not is the skills shortage. We have put the CPA at the heart of efforts to study this problem and find effective, practical solutions. We have started a pilot project with the help of CITB and a small number of our members to see if we can put ‘product-user training’ on a more formal footing with nationally recognised qualifications. By doing so, we will not only ensure our products are being installed correctly by qualified individuals, but the builders and tradespeople would be better trained, with more flexible and professional credentials; all of which should in turn improve productivity and ultimately grow our market.

“As we take this work forward, we have also been lobbying government to ensure that you will be able to use your Apprenticeship Levy vouchers to provide training to your supply chain as well as your own people. This will ensure the sector is able to deliver quality not just quantity when encouraging new entrants to the sector. These discussions are a work in progress but we believe this will be an important measure for the industry to make best use of the new levy.

“Digitalisation is another key area which will determine growth opportunities. Not only because of the April BIM deadline just passed. Here too, the CPA has been leading on behalf of manufacturers and distributors to prepare for this, and we are now working to develop the next steps to BIM Level 3. We lobbied hard for government’s continued support to Level 3, and so were very pleased to see the recent Budget commitment; while the £15 million investment may seem slight in quantity the signal it sends to industry is in fact strong and appreciated.

“But more broadly, digitalisation, with its demand for collaboration and innovation, plays to our strengths as an industry. As the year progresses, you will hear more about some potentially game-changing developments which the CPA is driving, including Project Data Templates and Digital Object Identifiers.”

Reducing Regulatory Risk

“Aside from our focus on raising the profile of the construction products industry and helping support growth opportunities for your markets, our third major objective is to reduce the regulatory risk to your business.

“Not long ago the CPA published a report which studied the factors underpinning investment in our industry. Our research identified 132 current and pending UK and EU policies and regulations impacting our business, not even counting health and safety, human resources, finance or transportation.

“The sheer number and complexity of these policies and regulations is a risk in itself to business. Added to this are the growing complications arising from the need to harmonise regulations both with the EU and the increasingly influential devolved regions in the UK.

“This is another area where, I believe, the CPA really delivers, though it is not always obvious. Again, a tremendous amount of work is done behind the scenes, day in, day out. Protecting our members’ interests. Minimising barriers to doing business and seeking opportunities in the way new regulations are set out. Most importantly though, we try to ensure policies are effective, clearly defined, consistent and have a long-term future.

“A perfect example is the ‘Every Home Matters’ Review, a major study of the framework of standards which offer consumers the information and protection they need when choosing home energy efficiency and renewable energy measures. It was commissioned late last year by DCLG and DECC and is led by BRE’s chief executive Dr Peter Bonfield. Peter specifically tasked the CPA to lead a critical work stream focused on fabric, involving not only of our own members but the entire sector. The Review is due to report later this month and we look forward to taking its proposals through to implementation.

“Until then, this role is a testament to our reputation, our expertise, an objective ability to develop consensus in difficult areas, and a track record of delivering. It is also another example of how the CPA is at the centre of major regulatory, technical and sustainability issues and risks impacting your business.”

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