Tony France, Sales Director Ibstock is BMBI’s Expert for Bricks.
Brick production and despatches both grew to the highest levels in a decade as demand continued to increase during 2018.
Full year figures, provided by the Brick Development Association, reveal that British brick manufacturers produced over 2 billion bricks for the first time since the recession. Beginning in 2008, it led to the mothballing or permanent closure of many brick factories over a 5-year period.
Similarly, 2.05 billion bricks were sold in 2018, which is slightly higher than in 2017 and was the biggest despatch volume since 2007 before the recession and credit crunch.
GB brick stocks are at relatively low levels, and it is increasingly essential for our industry to improve schedule accuracy so that manufacturers can provide a more reliable service with greater certainty of availability and supply. Working more closely with customers, Ibstock for example, has seen good improvement in 2018 and we will continue to prioritise those customers that provide the most accurate order and call-off information.
With demand exceeding supply, adding new capacity has been a priority. During 2019, Ibstock will continue to work to increase production. Our new Eclipse factory is now at almost full capacity and steadily increasing production up to its target of 2 million soft-mud bricks a week by the end of this year. In addition, we have planned a factory maintenance programme at some of our further 20 factories, which will increase yields, improve quality and provide greater volumes for the growing market.
Together with the capacity enhancement work of other GB manufacturers, we should see total production increase by somewhere around 5%. This will provide enough volume to match anticipated GB demand in 2019, without the need for increased volumes of imported bricks or alternative products.
This year, 2019 appears to have got off to a good start. Anecdotal comments from builders’ merchants indicate strong sales in January, despite some developers reporting slower than expected house sales, and blaming uncertainty for the slowdown.