The Future of Specification: Steico
How is the role of specifiers changing?
The built environment is rapidly changing as is customer demand in favour of certain performance requirements, e.g. fire safety, indoor air quality, low energy and passive, all of which are challenges to specification.
Specifiers are the beginning of any procurement process so they are the first chance a manufacturer has to get products considered for any new project. The specifiers’ challenge is to appropriate the balance between knowledge, product awareness and physical properties. There is simply too much for most specifiers to know in depth, and the process and regulation beyond specification into the construction phase seems to be designed to disrupt specification, and often does.
It is easy to see why specifiers often choose to revert back to ‘type’, when product availability, price and compliance information across world territories can so quickly become muddled by mistranslated terms, and this is a recipe that can, and does, stifle innovation.
In today’s quality focused / digital native / sustainability conscious landscape how has the needs of specifiers changed?
Information overload and lack of plausibility (with conflicting sales claims often referenced by different accrediting bodies often from non-UK territories) have not helped ease this situation.
Default is often still existing practice, price can (and often does) trump ambition and desire of the client. Remote access to information removes the possibility of exploring ancillary components and benefits such as comfort or occupant health, that aren’t necessarily a function identified in the specific building element. We do believe that the digital age, whilst giving instant access to a myriad of products, does leave specifiers working in their own silos and thus it becomes very easy to forget the potential wealth and pool of knowledge that is sitting at the desk alongside or in the office next to you.
How have you had to adapt your business to suit the needs of specifiers?
Yes. We publish a concise synopsis of a material’s benefits to aid in creating a relationship which we can develop and, within which, we can subsequently provide technical and commercial advice with a better understanding of context.
One key issue that we have to overcome with specifying innovative products is price. Too much emphasis is placed upon the initial upfront cost of a product in isolation. We have to work to ensure that a specifier looks beyond the initial price in favour of the ‘through/system’ costs, which often show savings in time and labour for the project, while offering a better performance.
Do you find the specifier-manufacturer relationship easy to start, grow and maintain? Why is this relationship important to you?
The relationship always depends on the receptiveness of the specifier. Initial contact is always the hardest, but, from our perspective, once specifiers realise that we are looking to offer the best advice and not gain sales at all costs, the barriers are removed, trust gained and longer term relationships are developed. In this changing environment, specifiers need assistance not only for the here and now, but for tomorrow’s projects and beyond. We believe that by building confidence and trust with specifiers, enables long term two-way loyalty.
What advice would you give other manufacturers?
Despite all the available means of gaining information via various forms of media, nothing beats the ‘face to face’ contact with a specifier. Resources on the internet, blogs, and literature can never give the true and full explanation of how, what or why a product should be specified. Face to face conversations offer the chance for the manufacturer to give answers to important questions that may have never otherwise been asked.