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Tools of the trade

Tools of the trade

07/12/2012 | Channel: Materials, Equipment, Cranes, Lifting & Access, Major Project, Residential

Improving the supply chain is one of the areas currently under scrutiny at Travis Perkins

Travis Perkins Plc has been supplying building materials to the trade for over two centuries. The organisation was born out of the merger in 1988 between Travis & Arnold and Sandell Perkins, and today includes some of the leading brands in the industry alongside Travis Perkins, such as Keyline, City Plumbing Supplies, CCF, Wickes, ToolStation and PTS.

Now one of the largest suppliers to the UK’s building and construction industry with a national network of almost 2000 sites, Travis Perkins provides more than 100,000 products to trade professionals including building materials, plumbing and heating, landscaping materials, timber and sheet materials, painting and decorating, dry lining and insulation, doors and joinery, and hand and power tools, many of which are always available from stock.

The Travis Perkins Group is consistently and continually growing despite market fluctuations, and Geoff Cooper, group CEO explained that maintaining such a leading position requires the right strategy and resolve: “We have a determination to be the best at getting building materials to anyone that needs them when constructing, repairing or maintaining ‘the built environment’, as it’s become known,” he said. “This is achieved by having great people who are given the freedom to do their jobs in a way that establishes the reference point for our industry.”

For Travis Perkins, the merchanting brand, this also includes embracing the latest technology, and in November 2012, it enhanced its customer offering by launching a newly improved website (www.travisperkins.co.uk) with a host of innovative features, including a specially designed product catalogue, a high-powered search function, the ability to view stock levels and the option to request a quotation.

Detailed product information is now available across the merchant’s expansive range of building products, tools, timber and aggregates. With the addition of an improved search function, customers can easily find and select the best product for the job. Accurate stock levels that are constantly updated by live data back this up. Once the customer has selected the products for their job, they can submit a request for a quotation to their local branch, which will respond promptly with price, availability and delivery information.

Further developments to the website are underway and scheduled throughout next year. These will include online ordering, a choice of scheduled delivery or ‘click and collect’, a simple account application process and trade account management functions. With mobile becoming an increasingly important channel, Travis Perkins will also launch a number of smartphone apps before the end of 2013.

Alongside this technology venture, the Travis Perkins Group is undergoing other investment projects, including a major programme designed to assemble all its businesses onto a single site. Geoff explained the thinking behind this new initiative: “For pretty much all of our customers, time is money, and we can improve their efficiency and profitability, particularly in larger catchments, by making it easy to get everything in one location where we have deep product specialists across all main material categories. Customers like this unique approach to providing them with a one-stop-shop, and yet with the backing of our extensive supply chain network.”

He continued: “We operate across nearly 2,000 sites in the UK and Ireland. A number of these, through more sophisticated supply chain management techniques and technology, can release space into which we can implant more of our businesses. Through the continual evolution of our approach, I doubt the programme of increasing the density of material types on each site will ever finish.”

This project will bring multiple benefits to both Travis Perkins’ existing customers, and, Geoff hopes, suppliers as well: “It will allow us to continue, and I trust, improve, the attractiveness to our customers of using us as their main supplier of building materials, and the attractiveness to our suppliers of using our channels to market as the best way of achieving their own market share ambitions, - and, of course, allow us to extend our market share.”

Another project currently on the agenda at Travis Perkins is a distribution centre for the North of England. This is actually part of a proposal that consists of several strands, all with a supply chain focus, as Geoff explained: “We have a number of new supply chain investments planned, potentially including a large distribution centre for the north to complement our current national warehouses, a network of regional heavyside stock centres and area distribution hubs. This tiered network is designed to give maximum product availability and unrivalled depth of range, matched to customers’ requirements for project quantities of each product across a range of lead times. Having recently won several supply chain excellence awards  – including Retail Overall Supply Chain Programme 2011, European Supply Chain Excellence Awards – Public Sector & Utilities 2012, Retail Week – Supply Chain Overall Winner 2012 and Retail Week – Supply Chain Leader of the Year 2012, our supply chain, people and capabilities are a key strength of the Group.”

He added: “Work is still at the planning stage, and we have a number of options for location, but we are planning to bring this on stream in 2015.”  Although these major projects represent a degree of confidence, Geoff did note that Travis Perkins is treading carefully with its investment strategy and maintaining the company’s existing healthy business is always the main concern: “We are still out-performing the market, but we are being a bit more cautious in investing in the market until we can see firmer market conditions. Recent business failures in our sector underline just how tough it is for everybody – and there will be more in the coming months.

“We are now the largest supplier of building materials in the UK, and we want to extend our lead by continuously improving what we do, attracting the best people in our sector to come and work with us, allowing them to share in our success. Our priorities are to exploit use of our current network, with some limited network expansion – mainly in ToolStation, which is giving great returns and taking market share hand over fist from its rivals. We’re also doing some small-scale trials of our businesses outside the UK.”

The construction sector has been one of the worst hit sectors through the economic crisis and Geoff confirmed that action needed to be taken to aid a revival: “The private sector recovery is still relatively fragile, and is not yet strong enough to compensate for the expected fall in public sector spend on construction,” he said. “We need to be building more homes and investing in more infrastructure.”

He concluded with some thoughts on the future: “Our industry needs to engage more actively with government. Government’s plans to create a strategic partnership with the construction industry gives us a once in a lifetime opportunity – we mustn’t let it pass, and we intend to work with our colleagues in the sector, and the Construction Products’ Association, to grab this chance with both hands.”