When it comes to digitalisation, the construction supplies industry is something of a traditionalist. Many firms in the sector have dragged their feet in adopting emerging technologies, with complacency leaving the industry falling behind other sectors.
But what impact could this belated take-up have on construction supply businesses? And how might they benefit from increased investment in digital technologies?
Here, we’re taking a speculative look at what the future holds for the building materials supply chain, before exploring the advantages construction supply businesses stand to gain from embracing digital business management solutions.
What is Digital Business Management?
Digital business management is the process of implementing future-fit technologies into business models, processes and actions with the aim of improving experiences for employees, customers and contacts.
It encompasses a huge array of different digital technologies, affecting almost every conceivable facet of a business. From stock management to employee welfare, digital business management can streamline all aspects of your business’ relationships with internal teams and external partners.
The technologies that can be a part of your business’ digital strategy are always evolving and always improving, so it is often a case of identifying which technologies can best benefit your processes and services in the short and long term. It’s almost impossible for a business to be invested in the forefront of every technological advancement, but choosing wisely could elevate them above the competition.
Why the Construction Supplies Industry Needs to Revaluate Digital
For decades, construction supplies businesses have held a comfortable position within their respective supply chains. Relied upon by local consumers and businesses for the procurement of materials, components and equipment; their market has seen slow progression, rendering digital innovation a ‘nice-to-have’ as opposed to a necessity.
But now they face a new challenge – digitalisation – a disruptive force with the potential to offset market position and diminish custom. Over the next decade, it’s predicted that digital technologies will change the face of the construction ecosystem, revolutionising how and from where materials are procured and sold.
Currently, building supplies businesses account for a high-value share within the construction ecosystem. That’s because they act as an intermediary player within the supply chain, procuring materials and equipment from manufacturers, and selling them on to contractors and individuals, who rely on such suppliers on a near-daily basis.
Without technology adoption, digitalisation threatens construction suppliers’ position within this ecosystem. As stakeholders throughout the supply chain look to cut costs and improve efficiency, digital-driven alternatives have the potential to render traditional sources of supply obsolete.
But it isn’t too late. The construction supplies industry has time to sure-up against digital disruption, embracing a future-fit business management model that not only ensures continuity, but brings a wealth of benefits besides.
How Can Construction Supplies Businesses Benefit from Digital Business Management?
Businesses in the construction supplies industry may feel reluctant to invest major capital in digital transformation. But doing so offers more than simply keeping pace with the times, providing a means of improving efficiency, reducing costs and making operations more profitable.
Let’s take a look at some of the key benefits construction supplies businesses can expect by embracing digital.
Opportunities for Productization
From a profitability standpoint, many businesses can improve revenue generation by productizing processes and services into a marketable product. Digital adoption allows firms the opportunity to package up supply distribution services into more focused, distinct product ranges, increasing revenue as a result.
For example, a construction supplies business could turn its knowledge of building works into ‘how-to’ guides, videos and resources, which could then be sold or used to better market the business. Using in-house knowledge, services and functions to augment the business is one way digitalisation can bring operations into the 21st century.
In-house expertise and enthusiasm can also open up new opportunities for the business. The senior management team may specialise in the business’ core offerings, but the tangential interests of the wider team could open up markets and offerings that are ripe for diversification.
This is perhaps best demonstrated by Google’s 20% Project, which gave their team the chance to work on passion projects one day a week – leading to services such as Gmail and AdSense.
Supports Just-in-Time Distribution
Cost is the pervading consideration for most construction supplies businesses, and one of the best ways to protect against cost rises is, for many, the just-in-time distribution model. This inventory management solution effectively minimises the volume of supplies a business holds at any one time, for the optimum balance between supply and revenue.
Digital innovation makes the just-in-time model a more feasible and workable enterprise. With systems in place to track inventory in and out of the supply chain, it becomes decidedly simpler to avoid over-purchasing materials, whilst also ensuring that the business has enough inventory to meet ad-hoc demand and requests.
Embracing digital can give construction supply businesses greater freedom in their stock. With an effective ecommerce system, ERP solution and PIM integration, construction supply businesses can expand their range to include all relevant supplier options without having to store excess physical stock.
Safeguards Against Direct-to-Site Distribution
As touched on earlier, one of the greatest threats construction supplies businesses face is being removed from the distribution supply chain. With digitalisation making it simpler for contractors and consumers to procure equipment and materials from multiple sources, we’re likely to see a significant rise in direct-to-site distribution and sales in the coming years.
Investing in digital now will ensure that construction supply specialists remain competitive and relevant in this changing marketplace. By embracing digital solutions and innovation, they can continue to offer their customers a value-add service – whether that means cheaper prices, faster delivery and turnaround times, or a smoother, resource-efficient transaction.
Smooth, steady adoption can ensure construction supply businesses don’t compromise any of their existing qualities and services, such as personalised service and efficient problem resolution.
Digital Integration for Next-Generation Contractors and Consumers
While the construction ecosystem has been slow to adopt digital innovation, many building firms and contractors are waking up to the potential – so it’s vital that suppliers do the same.
From next-gen technology to advanced systems and modelling, such as building-information modelling (BIM) and building-management systems (BMS); construction firms are more reliant on digital solutions than ever. By adopting a future-fit digital business management approach, construction suppliers can align their service offering with the needs of digital-ready clients and contractors – safeguarding their customer base and driving efficiency throughout the supply chain.
Businesses throughout the construction ecosystem are facing increased pressure to uphold and promote sustainability, both in the materials and equipment they use, and in the logistics they employ to move goods from A to B. Digital investment can make it simpler to control this area of operations, with parameters in place to track, record and monitor efficiencies across the supply chain.
Not only that, but with batch tracking capabilities, you can provide clients with accurate information about a particular product’s efficiency rating, so they can purchase with confidence. Suppliers are also better placed to procure efficient materials from a broader range of manufacturers, helping clients meet their sustainability targets.
More Impactful Decision-Making
Digital business management supports improve decision-making, with increased access to company-wide real-time data making it much simpler for senior stakeholders to take control of day-to-day decisions. With unified systems and processes, strategies become less fragmented, with greater transparency and efficient workflows facilitating faster, more instinctive decision-making.
The latest findings, results and KPIs can all be made readily available to senior stakeholders as well, in formats of their choosing. This reduces the legwork of sourcing information, and ensures decisions are made with all relevant information in hand.
Advanced Sales Tracking
While many construction supplies firms will likely already perform sales tracking in some form or another, a digital approach can make it a much simpler endeavour. With full automation and reporting, you’re able to get a detailed picture of the products, equipment and services you’re selling the most, and how well your personnel are selling them.
Such insights can be extremely valuable when it comes to improving sales and marketing – two operational areas which businesses will need to invest in if they’re to stay competitive in the years to come. And with real-time updates on how your sales team is performing, you’ll have a clear picture of the products and materials which need pushing to hit weekly and monthly sales targets.
Fully-Informed Sales Reps
Whether you have sales teams in satellite offices or representatives out on the road, digital integration allows them to have eyes on up-to-the-minute data, stock levels, pricing and information. This removes occurrences of them phoning head office for more information, and allows them to operate more efficiently and professionally.
So, there you have it, an in-depth look at the benefits digital innovation can bring to the construction supplies industry. If you need help integrating future-fit digital technologies in your construction supplies business, the Intact team can help. With a wealth of knowledge and experience at our disposal, we can help you make the right decision for your business. For more information or to learn more about our services, visit the homepage or get in touch.