On 21st of July 2022, the Construct General Manager interviewed Vaughan Taylor the Strategy Director for Encon Construction Products as part of the CONSTRUCT Member interview series.
Vaughan heads up the Encon Construction Products division of the Encon Group dealing with multiple products such as masonry components, concrete & reinforcement accessories, construction chemicals, waterproofing, geotechnical and Groundwork products.
1. Can you tell me a little bit about Encon’s history? Such as when was Encon founded, what activities do you carry out, have there been any changes or developments within the structure of the organisation.
Encon is a privately owned company and was originally set up in 1981 to distribute insulation and technical insulation and in 2006 Nevill Long who specialise in interiors became a division of the Encon Group. In 2011 Stuart Moore CEO lead a management buy-out and took over the company having worked for Encon for many years. Since the management buy-out, Stuart has expanded the scope of the company from a distributor of insulation materials to supplying an extensive range of construction materials that sit within various specialisms. Encon Construction Products has 23 branches across the country, from Aberdeen to Plymouth, with our largest branches in London.
2. What are Encon’s unique selling points, is there anything that sets you apart from other organisations?
Encon’s unique selling point is that we specialise in construction disciplines such as waterproofing with specialists who are CSSW qualified in the design process for structural waterproofing. Encon provides technical knowledge and as a distributor of multiple brands and products, we can provide a neutral and unbiased view and ensure the best solution for a particular project in line with the specification and Client requirements.
Encon works predominantly on large projects, such as HS2 and Hinkley Point. We pride ourselves on early engagement making sure we plan for carbon emissions, sustainability and procurement, and taking the time to prepare for different eventualities.
We work with several key manufacturers such as Ancon (a Leviat company) stocking their Reinforcement range of Continuity Strips and Couplers which are CARES Approved. Our 150,000 square metre facility in East London holds large stocks ready for distribution throughout London and the South East. We provide reliable and fast delivery of goods, with CLOCS and FORS accreditation, and we also have ISO accreditation 9001, 14001 and 45001 as you would expect from a leading organisation and a member of CONSTRUCT.
One of our main selling points is that we are a specialist distributor with technical experts that specialise in the products we distribute. So not only can we deliver a product quickly and effectively, but we can also provide advice and guidance to our clients. We understand delivery requirements, the market and what is required to make sure our service levels and just in time deliveries match the customers’ specific needs.
We have just developed a 150-page technical guide for all our construction products with an overview of each product containing relevant images and information. The guide gives brief product overviews with easy and quick access to product information and its application to ensure correct usage by the people working with the products on site. The guide will be regularly updated to ensure it remains relevant alongside an ever-changing market and includes all the latest products.
3. Have you experienced any challenges created by the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions and how have you overcome them?
We are a health and safety-driven organisation and have all the appropriate policies, procedures and risk assessments in place as you would expect. During the Pandemic, we revised our policies and introduced new measures in line with government regulation and guidance, and to ensure all our teams could work safely. The work and support of our H&S and HSEQ teams was superb, allowing our branches to stay open and continue to supply materials for our customer projects. In line with our strict COVID policy those who could work from home, did so and this is something we continue to do today – I think hybrid working is here to stay! Most of these restrictions have now been relaxed or removed, however, we have maintained elements of our COVID policy, such as screens and hygiene requirements so we continue to work as safely as possible as we now learn to live with the continued threat
4. What do you believe to be the biggest challenges for our industry for the remainder of 2022?
The world has changed quite dramatically over the last few years with the Pandemic and now the war in Ukraine. Admittedly at the beginning of the pandemic, the first few months were difficult. Fortunately, the government saw that the construction industry was vital to the UK’s economy. During that time, our branches never closed. We carried on working, supporting the hospitals, especially the nightingale hospitals, which was a mandate from our CEO Stuart Moore to make delivering to hospitals a priority.
I believe with all the things that have happened over the last few years the industry is still quite strong but there is unprecedented demand for materials and workers which has been driven by the large infrastructure products taking place. HS2 and the Thames Tideway Tunnel and other major projects are using a lot of resources and employing large workforces creating a supply and demand issues on other smaller projects.
Allocation of products is a big challenge for several reasons. For steel reinforcement, the issue is due to the closure of the Azovstal steel plant caused by the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. The Azovstal steel plant was a major supplier of steel to Europe.
Fixed-term contracts are another challenge for the industry. With the current price increases, room for negotiation is required to prevent construction companies from going under. A price agreed as part of a fixed-term contract three years ago is not viable in the present economic climate and contractors will not be able to complete projects if they are held to the original fixed-term contract.
5. What plans have you put in place to deal with the challenges you have identified?
Resource, price and availability combined with fuel and energy price rises have added to overall costs for many businesses and resulting in a sea change in the way we need to work. We have strategic plans in place to help us circumnavigate the various challenges and ensure we continue to deliver what our clients need and keep their projects going.
6. What are Encon’s organisation’s main priorities?
As an independent business, we pride ourselves on the level of service we provide our customers including support, advice and guidance delivered at a high level, ensuring continued work and a satisfied customer.
Early engagement is another priority as this allows for considered planning such as looking at schedules to ensure we can deliver the required goods on time and in the correct sequence to meet the client’s demands.
We have a strong HSEQ department led by Deborah Gore our HSEQ HR Director who along with health and safety responsibilities is leading our focus on sustainability. Examples include trialling and replacing old vehicle stock with new electrical vehicles and exploring new initiatives and processes to reduce our company’s carbon footprint.
We are also focused in areas such as coastal erosion and flood defences. We have developed geotechnical solutions that prevent flooding in rivers and coastal schemes. We are not just looking to sell a product, we want our product solutions to also contribute environmentally, help reduce the impacts of climate change and add value to what we do in the community.
We actively keep up to date with building safety legislation such as the new Building Safety Act 2022. At a minimum, we meet the latest legislation but in reality, we strive to go above and beyond. Encon has been a strong lead post Grenfell participating in society and committee meetings to enhance the fire protection installed in buildings and ensure manufacturers comply with legislation changes.
Our HSEQ team keep us up to date and informed on any H&S issues as well as carrying out regular inspections and audits at all our offices and branches. We aim to be proactive rather than reactive via our management systems, policies, procedures, and training programmes.
Encon works with the Bounce Back charity to provide skills training to prisoners, giving them a route back into mainstream society and giving prison leavers a second chance, while also addressing the skills shortage in the construction industry.
Additionally, we are taking on more apprentices either school leavers or graduates. We have always been active on training, development and apprenticeship programmes but with growing labour shortages, we are taking this to another level. Apprentices are provided with full training and given a career pathway to success with mentors to help them along the way.
7. How have increases in fuel price, business energy bills such as gas, electricity etc. as well as increased wage bills affected your business?
The cost of fuel has risen exponentially and has required a lot of planning and organisation to reduce and wastage of fuel but there is no way to escape the fact that the fuel bill has risen sharply compared to previous years.
Encon is at this present time trialling electric lorries to replace petrol/diesel vehicles to see if they can go the distance and deliver the goods on time as required by our customers. As technology improves it will eventually be possible to replace all delivery vehicles with electric ones but until that time, we will continue to plan our work, so we are as economical as possible.
We are in challenging times so we have a team looking at how we run our branches and where any innovations or procedures can be implemented to reduce the amount of gas, electricity and lighting that is being used.
8. What benefit have you seen from being part of CONSTRUCT from a supplier perspective?
We enjoy attending Construct Day as well as sponsoring the event. The networking opportunities that go with the event are beneficial as you get to put faces to the people you have been doing business with.
We’d like to become more active with CONSTRUCT and attend committees, as a major benefit of CONSTRUCT membership is to share best practice and contribute to the improvement of our industry.
Encon appreciates the prestige that goes with being a member of CONSTRUCT along with the information, guidance and safety alerts provided via the CONSTRUCT website and monthly newsletter. Now CONSTRUCT is an ATO we are looking forward to the training that will be delivered.