Calls for industrywide adoption of product traceability policy growing too loud to ignore
Author: Ross Matthews, Head of Sales at BSI Identify
Dame Judith Hackitt has once again called for product traceability to form part of regulatory measures to increase building standards and safety.
Following her post-Grenfell ‘Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety’ report which highlighted a need for a ‘golden thread’ of digitally-stored data to improve property design, maintenance and safety, Dame Judith’s reiterated her recommendation for product identification to play in a part in the process. This sends a further reminder to the building industry of the culture change needed to bring greater accountability to construction’s product specification and installation phases.
However, the building sector isn’t renowned for its ready embrace of practices that are designed to result in smarter, more efficient ways of working. So, perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised at the apparent reticence amongst some manufacturers to fully buy-in to the idea of product traceability, despite the undoubted clarity it’ll bring to supply chain as a whole.
Best practice framework
Dame Judith’s latest statement on the importance of product ID in relation to best practice was given in her capacity as Chair of the International Building Quality Centre working group, which has created the Building Products Performance Good Practice Regulatory Framework. Resulting from consultations with a coterie of global building products’ specialists, the framework provides a means for countries worldwide to assess and identity where its products’ regulatory system could be improved.
In an interview with Construction Management magazine, Dame Judith spoke of the ‘huge bearing’ products have on a building’s safety performance. Although she expects the UK government to follow the framework’s recommendations, Dame Judith lamented that measures to improve building protocols, such as product traceability, were not being adopted fast enough in general.
No more building blind
Product traceability forms part of the framework’s assessment process, which is good news for long-time advocates of the system as an example of best practice. In the UK, for too long we have been building blind using products whose origins and performance remain a supply chain mystery. It’s a practice that fits with a ‘That’ll do’ mindset that not only jeopardises structural integrity and building safety, it’s left the UK with a property portfolio that is among the least thermally efficient in Europe.
The fact that product ID hasn’t been enshrined in regulation shouldn’t deter manufacturers from adopting it, particularly if doing the right thing by building owners and occupiers is a motivating factor. And why wouldn’t it be? In some ways construction is a vocation as much as a profession, as many will have been driven to join the industry in order to make a positive difference to people’s lives and the environment.
Getting ahead of regulators and competitors
But let’s be realistic. Profitable businesses aren’t driven by feats of altruism. Therefore, it's worth pointing out that early adopters of product traceability services such as BSI Identify will not only be one step ahead of the regulators, they’ll be stealing a march on less foresightful competitors. Developers who have sensed the winds of change are already making product ID a requirement for building projects. This means traceability-compliant manufacturers will be more likely to circumnavigate the queue when it comes to ‘getting in front’ of potential specifiers. It will also protect their assets from being swapped out at the installation stage.
So, there is much to recommend getting on board with product identification before regulators demand it. It will hallmark participating manufacturers as ambassadors of best building practice, which from a reputational point of view, is extremely good business.