Keystone Lintels Comment: Q1 2020

Derrick McFarland, Managing Director Keystone Group UK is BMBI’s Expert for Steel Lintels

COVID-19 caused unexpected and widespread disruption. While construction is significantly affected, government recognition of the value of our sector to the economy led to swift action in April with the introduction of new measures and guidelines for safe working. So, from the end of April we’ve seen a gradual reopening of house building sites and merchant branches.

While Q1 2020 is somewhat irrelevant, the quarter was trending in line with pre-COVID expectations. The main concern being the impact surrounding Brexit conclusions.

The challenge now is survival, and what the next eight months’ volumes will be with new social distancing rules. Productivity from building sites, merchants and manufacturers will be restricted as we adopt these stringent procedures to prevent the continuing spread of COVID-19 and avoid another spike.

Steel lintels are essential for most projects, and like many others we operated through the initial lockdown period with a skeleton team. We expanded the team from mid-April and remain open for business, supporting loyal stockists. The safety of our staff, customers and suppliers is our utmost priority and we’ve implemented a new Code of Conduct for returning staff outlining our new welfare requirements and new working requirements regarding the 2-metre rule. This is supported with detailed standard operating procedures for all tasks in our factories, offices and distribution units.

While the Government has its hands full, building enough homes of the right quality, attractiveness and energy efficiency is still a priority. It may be difficult to achieve the same build numbers with social distancing on site, but there is a housing shortage and Britain needs well-insulated energy-efficient homes that look good. The most advanced steel lintels enable builders to save energy using a more cost-effective solution than other products.

I see a different world ahead where technology enables video conferencing to maintain a visual relationship, cutting travel, which benefits the environment, while increasing efficiency and reducing costs. That said, the building industry traditionally thrives on networking so it’s important this continues, albeit in a new format.

On behalf of our sector, I’d like to thank the NHS, health and other key workers who have worked tirelessly through the past weeks and continue to do so. We are indebted to them.

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Launched in 2015, the award winning monthly Builders Merchant Building Index (BMBI) report is the only reliable measure of repair, maintenance & improvement (RMI) activity in the UK. Filling an important gap, it can be widely used in construction, and by economists, Government, national media, commentators and influencers outside the industry.