Supply chains in construction
'Supply chain' is the term used to describe the interconnected hierarchy of supply contracts necessary to procure a built asset. Managing the supply chain involves understanding the breakdown and traceability of products and services, organisations, logistics, people, activities, information and resources that transform raw materials into a finished product that is fit for its purpose.
Unlike the automotive industry, the construction industry has the particular difficulty that every building is different, a unique prototype, developed by a team of consultants, contractors and other suppliers that may never have worked together before and may never work together again.
On a 'traditional' building project, design consultants are first tier suppliers, working for the client, and the contractor has a supply chain of sub-contractors and specialist suppliers. On PFI or design and build projects however, there may be just one first tier supplier (sometimes the contractor) and design consultants will work for them as part of their supply chain.
One of the problems in the construction industry is that the first and second tier of the supply chain sign up to fairly onerous agreements but as the chain develops, so the contractual liabilities decrease until suppliers at the end of the chain are often not locked in at all.
The key to supply chain management is to provide a strategy that aligns it with the project programme. This starts at the design stage, scoping the work into packages. Early evaluation based on feedback from the supply chain can produce enormous cost benefits and value. Capacity and production capability in a market controlled by supply and demand are particularly significant if programme bottlenecks are to be avoided.
In recent years larger companies offering continuity in construction have taken an increasing interest in establishing relationships beyond direct, first tier suppliers. Framework contracts and partnering agreements have pioneered this approach, encouraging the involvement of selected suppliers at relatively early stages of projects while offering continuity of work. This has led to greater collaboration between lead designers and product designers to the advantage of all parties.
'Integrated supply team' is a term used by the government to describe the integration of the complete supply chain involved in the delivery of a project. This may include the main contractor, designers, sub-contractors, suppliers, facilities mangers and so on. The integrated supply team is particularly relevant on public projects as the recommended procurement routes proposed by the government are private finance initiative (PFI), prime contracting and design and build. Under these routes, the entire supply team are appointed after the project brief has been prepared, often under just one contract rather than separate contracts with each individual company.
For more information see: Supplier.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Building Information Modelling
- Collaborative practices.
- Collateral warranties.
- Contractor vs supplier.
- Fair payment practices.
- Framework agreement.
- Green supply chain management.
- Integrated supply team.
- Logistics management.
- Named supplier.
- Off-site materials.
- Subcontractor vs supplier.
- Supplier selection.
- Supply chain management.
Featured articles and news
One of the largest churches in the world, the monumental St. Peter's Basilica.
How thermal comfort is quantified and how it can affect wellbeing.
Snøhetta complete a treehouse cabin that allows guests to lie beneath the Northern Lights.
Christiania is an anarchist 'freetown' in Copenhagen where strange and experimental architecture has flourished.
“UK waste data needs improving” say BRE specialists, in this summary of their report into construction waste.
UandI announce new joint venture with US developer to work on office refurbishment projects.
BSRIA give critical response to Theresa May's speech on leaving the EU.
Why buildings crack, how cracks are categorised and what can be done.
Inaugurated last week, the new Elbphilharmonie concert venue; a soaring new addition to Hamburg's skyline.
Summary of a new ICE Transport journal which says improving transport infrastructure is essential to eradicating global poverty.
BRE look at a new government report into the accuracy of heat meters.