Wednesday, 25 May 2011

What future for our industry?

What does the future hold for our industry?

On the front page of the Financial Times yesterday was an article about the incredible decline in construction output during 2011. Overall construction workload fell by a staggering 39%. This is the most significant fall for the past 35 years. There were turnover statistics from several of the major construction companies, including Kier and Balfour Beatty, which indicated the considerable reduction in their construction turnover in the period.

The quarterly GEP figures issued for Quarter 1 suggested that construction output was down by nearly 5% in the period. There are no regionally adjusted figures so I would anticipate that the decline in the regions is far greater as the overall figure will be bettered by investment in the South East.

This catastrophic level of change in any industry will inevitably reshape the future considerably. For the construction industry, clearly we will never go back to the past and the type of industry it was over the past 15 years will not be seen again. We are in a period of flux at present where there is little workload or revenue, but at the same time there are improvements in technology which could reshape how we design, deliver and operate buildings for the future.

All businesses are keen to set out a vision of sustainability which looks to provide steady employment and profit for those involved in the businesses, something which is clearly under considerable threat in the construction industry at present.

As I look into the future I believe it is impossible to predict where we will be in 2 or 3 years time. Long term investments are a considerable gamble with the future being so unpredictable. Many firms are shrinking their regional presences and looking to develop opportunities in the South, which will obviously drain talent from the regions. Organisations are consolidating and changing on a regular basis. International markets continue to be the lifeline of most organisations that are able to stay afloat.

This generation has never seen such a dramatic downturn, and construction leaders are drawing on much of their experience to maintain business sustainability. While it may be difficult to predict where any of us will be beyond the next 12 months, all we can hope is that when we do see a light at the end of the tunnel, the future will be different, but secure, as well as exciting and challenging. Hopefully we can all learn lessons from this period and ultimately ensure we all have a better future.

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