Well, what a year 2022 has been! Just when we thought we were getting to grips with the effects of the pandemic and Brexit, events in Ukraine have created a perfect storm of supply and energy issues. In my 30 years in the construction industry, I have not witnessed so many force majeure events in such a short period of time! Destruction of the Mariupol steel production plant in the course of the war severely disrupted the market for one of MiTek’s key commodities. With the hike in steel and energy prices, the supply chain has had to restructure itself, making the first three quarters of this year exceptionally difficult to manage from a procurement and delivery perspective. Thankfully, the situation has eased a little since but we have swallowed much of the increased cost in order to honour our contracts with customers and the situation has obviously consumed a significant amount of management time.
Main contractor approach
Despite these events, we have made some important improvements to our business processes this year that lay a firm foundation for future growth. Over the past 18 months, we have been capturing NCRs (non-conformance reports) from across the business and using this data to drive changes to our processes that make MiTek a better, safer and more competitive supplier. Thanks to a zero-blame culture within our business, this transformation has been a really collaborative process. We have eradicated departmental silos and identified key areas to improve – in my opinion, a clear sign of business maturity. Our vision is to conduct business as though we are a main contractor, instilling confidence in both our customers and partners.
Health and safety initiatives
An important aspect of these enhancements has been on-site health & safety, as part of our Work Safe, Home Safe commitment. Earlier this year, we welcomed Calum Cameron – a Chartered Safety and Health Practitioner – to the new position of Safety, Health, Environmental and Quality (SHEQ) Manager, a shared resource within MiTek Industries. Calum has been implementing improvements in terms of safe systems at work, risk assessment, electronic documentation for processes on site, welfare facilities and suitable personal protective equipment. Technology is at the heart of many of these changes; for example, the presence of individuals on site is now recorded via biometric fingerprint readers.
We have also been working to achieve further certification to add to our 9001 (quality assurance) standard, with ISO 45001 (health & safety) and 14001 (environmental) accreditation expected in May. It is important to emphasise that this has not been simply a box-ticking exercise. With engagement from senior stakeholders, we have worked hard to fully embrace the culture embedded in these standards.
In addition, we are launching a new, online portal that raises the bar in terms of SHEQ. As well as our Installation Guide, which has been created with the help of representatives from across the company, the portal features a brand-new induction video. This sets out what we expect of our workforce and addresses the relevant mezzanine risks – including working at height and use of machinery – as well as the usual requirements regarding the misuse of drugs and alcohol. Launched in mid-December, the new portal allows the induction process to be captured, logged and time-bound, with automatic reminders for refresher training. The system also keeps important contact information (such as next of kin) all in one place and instantly available.
Driving a new CSCS card
Our commitment to health and safety does not stop there, however. As the Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) contains nothing specific to mezzanines, we are working to develop a new standard that we will ask CSCS to accredit next year. This new card will cover the multiple disciplines – steel erection, floor installation and handrail protection – required for mezzanine floors and we are proud to be driving the industry forward in this respect.
Approved Installer Programme
In addition, we are developing an Approved Installer Programme to support the 20 or so subcontractor specialists who install our mezzanine structures. These companies have been pre-qualified for several years already via our e-connect system (which was specifically designed for mezzanines), with their performance on each project reviewed and a star rating awarded. Although there is always a MiTek employee as Project Manager and one as Site Manager on site with these installation teams, we want to support them with additional training and development tools. Being launched at a workshop with installers in January, the Approved Installer Programme will be trialled with half a dozen of our core installation teams. Our vision for this initiative is for our installers to consider themselves as truly part of the MiTek team and to secure benefits in return for maintaining excellent standards of workmanship and safety. Our Approved Installers will also have free access to online training, as well as advice from our SHEQ Manager. We are also looking to develop a more collaborative approach with our installation teams, with earlier contractual involvement in order to help them plan ahead for the required workload.
As you can see, it’s been an incredibly busy year for our Procurement and Contracts team. The many changes we’ve implemented this year mark the culmination of our transition from a trade mezzanine supplier three years ago to the trusted partner for main contractors and system integrators working on large and complex projects that we are today. Together, the initiatives we have put in place this year will make us more efficient, eliminating both waste and risk. In order to manage supply chain issues and system complexity, projects that we used to plan three weeks ahead are now being planned six months in advance. Every member of the MiTek team has demonstrated incredible commitment under pressure this year and this dedication continues to be a key factor in our success.