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Covid-related supply issues? Clark-Drain customers are at lower risk

It’s no secret that the combination of Covid and Brexit is creating supply chain issues that are affecting the availability and price of some building and drainage materials and products.

We have not been immune to this. The challenging cocktail of a surge in demand and difficult supply conditions resulted in low stock levels, and temporarily suspended our manufacturing activity (although we have kept our sales operations open throughout!) Plus, the need to create a Covid-safe working environment for our people, through social distancing, staggered shift patterns, and machine relocation, has added to the general disruption.

Clearly, we understand that for our customers this is deeply frustrating, and we feel that same frustration ourselves, as these issues affect our ability to deliver the very thing we strive for every day: enabling you to profitably build a better everyday life for people, vehicle use and function of the built environment.

But the measure of a business’s values is not just what they deliver day to day; it’s also how they support their customers in more trying times – and we’re proud to report that our manufacturing facility is now fully functioning and with our policy of manufacturing over 70% of products ourselves in the UK, it means that we are in a stronger position to continue supporting our customers through this temporary period of interrupted supply than most others in this industry are.

This, in turn, means that our customers face less risk of disruption to their business, even in the wake of the significant challenges we describe below.

FROM SHIP TO SHORE: THE REALITY OF SUPPLY DISRUPTION

First of all, it’s important to keep a sense of perspective on this situation.

The issues with supply undeniably affect a wide range of products and raw materials (although not all), and they have largely come about as a consequence of Covid.

Here’s what John Newcomb, CEO of the Builders Merchants Federation (BMF), says: ‘Pretty much all of the availability issues at the moment are Covid-related and the result of factories closing and re-opening, along with the shortage of container capacity, which also flows from Covid.’

Bluntly, shipping lines have sought to profit from a crisis, and shipping costs have shot up by as much as 500%.

And it’s not just the shipping costs themselves. There has been a knock-on effect on the price of the products being shipped (as much as 40% on the raw material for our manhole covers, for example), as exporters seek to offset the impact of slower shipping cycles caused by a shortage of containers, and delays in the restitution of these for re-use.

Factor in customs overheads and it’s true to say that much of what we import is undergoing both financial and supply pressures.

But this is still less pronounced than in much of the rest of the industry.

How so?

RESILIENCE BUILT ON VALUES

We’ve already mentioned that we manufacture 70% of our products ourselves.

But we go further than this. As John Carter, Head of Sales and Marketing for Clark-Drain, explains: 'In addition to our UK design and manufacturing base, we have a network of global production facilities that provide additional sourcing, capacity and shipping options, adding resilience to our operation and helping to protect our most valuable asset – our customers’ trust in the service we provide.‘

All of this ultimately reduces our (and our customers’) exposure to third-party supplier dependencies in situations like the one we all find ourselves in at the present.

But it also demonstrates our commitment to our core values: technical excellence, innovation, putting the customer first, and ensuring everything we do is grounded in expertise.

There is some serious history behind this. We were the first company to develop steel and plastic drain covers as a more effective alternative to cast iron. We revolutionised rail platform drainage with a channel solution that reduced installation time by 25% over traditional products. We took defence, security and communications customers into the next generation with our own heavy-duty polypropylene chamber production. Then, as now, we faced challenges.

Then, as now, we went the extra mile to overcome them, to ensure our customers got the best we could possibly offer.

IMPACTS AND CONSTANTS

There is no denying we have a fight on our hands – but we’re fighting your quarter, too. We are engaging with the BMF, who are in turn working closely with cross-Government departments to bring influence to bear on the shipping industry.

There may indeed be impacts on our ability to supply certain products, but in many cases we have access to alternative materials, and our in-house manufacturing capability puts us ahead of the game in adapting quickly to evolving circumstances and changing customer need.

What won’t change is our commitment to providing timely and trustworthy information to our customers, delivering broad knowledge as well as specialist expertise to support specification, and providing thorough assessments before purchase, if required, to ensure that you get your stock or project requirements right first time.

It’s a challenging situation at present – but rest assured we’re well placed to help you through it.

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