Global uncertainty impacting construction products
Author: Dan Rossiter, Built Environment Sector Lead, BSI
The Ukraine-Russia conflict is having a somewhat disproportionate impact on the cost and availability of products used during construction. While only 1.25% of imported products are from the region, as noted by the Construction Leadership Council (CLC), they include common raw materials including bitumen (used in damp proofing and road surfacing), aluminium, copper, and iron. In addition, Russia is a major exporter of crude oil and gas.
The result of this is twofold: Firstly, it can affect product availability. Prior to the Ukraine-Russia conflict, there have continued to be issues relating to the availability of products such as bricks, blocks, roof tiles, and manhole covers . While shortages of these products related to rising energy prices and the global pandemic, this conflict adds an additional tension to a strained supply chain. Secondly, due to the lack of availability, the price of many products have increased between 5-10%.
What this issue highlights is how important traceability is for products used during construction. Through traceability, a consumer, including contractors and sub-contractors, can better understand their products and their respective supply chains; allowing them to better manage any risks associated with availability, procurement, delivery, and installation.
However, traceability cannot be achieved without clear product identification. As identified by Dame Judith Hackitt within Build a Safer Future , there is recommendation for all products “to carry permanent marking to ensure their identification and traceability”. A reason highlighted in the report is that “When packaging is removed, some materials and products become unidentifiable or untraceable to specific manufactured batches”. Given that the availability of a particular product may be at risk, it is important now more than ever to know exactly what a product is (identification) and where it has come from (traceability).
It is this very issue that BSI Identify attempts to satisfy. Through a novel application of Digital Object Identifiers, products registered on the identify platform are given a unique persistent identification number (UPIN) which can be used to access information associated to a product. Access to this information can be achieved digitally or physically through typing the UPIN into a web browser, or through the use of markings, such as QR codes, on the packaging or the product itself. This means, that through BSI identify, anyone can determine what a registered product is and where it has come from; providing much needed certainty. Following a pandemic and global conflicts, the availability of products used during construction continues to be in flux. However, through clear and unambiguous product identification via tools such as BSI identify, the issues may be mitigated providing some level of certainty in these uncertain times.