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Plumbed into FM

14 June 2010

Sustainable Building Centre

FMs need to source the right advice and supplies on time and on budget for new build or refurbishment projects. Jane Fenwick asks Wolseley UK, the world’s largest specialist trade distributor of plumbing and heating products, how it supports its commercial customers.

AN OUTLAY OF MORE THAN £3m by Wolseley UK into designing and building the Sustainable Building Center (SBC) at its main distribution site in Leamington Spa, has proved to be a valuable investment since opening in 2008. Over 9,000 people - from plumbers to MPs – have visited the SBC to see the working sustainable technology solutions for commercial premises installed in the BREEAM Excellent building. A working biomass boiler, solar panels and ground source heat pump installations are among the sustainable options that can be seen actually working and their output and carbon emissions compared. Wolseley claims its SBC is the first such commercial showcase for sustainable building products and construction methods.
Wolseley’s investment in its SBC marks a new recognition of and support for the commercial building sector that is currently adapting and constructing buildings in a more sustainable way to meet the demands – and opportunities – of the Carbon Reduction Commitment.
Wolseley’s brands are better known to the UK building trade as Plumb Center, Build Center, Parts Center, Pipe Center, Drain Center, Climate Center, and Encon (insulation, drywall and related products), William Wilson in Scotland and NW England and tool hire provider Brandon Hire. Wolseley prides itself in providing all the materials and equipment needed from the foundations to the roof of any building.
Wolseley UK is part of Wolseley plc, a £14.4bn/year turnover company. Wolseley UK’s turnover was £2,669m. Its automated National Distribution Center at Leamington Spa is the centre of an operation that stocks and distributes some 96,000 stock products, via three regional distribution centres to 470 branches across the UK. It doesn’t stop at the English Channel. A multi-national supply chain operates in 25 other countries.
Already a well known resource for your local plumber or maintenance man, Plumb Center employs about 2,280 people and has a turnover of £900m. It has been realigning its supply chain to better meet the needs of commercial building managers, FMs and occupiers. As well as the SBC, Plumb Center has developed 38 commercial branches that carry a greater depth of stock specific to this sector. It published in November 2009 a catalogue called Commercial Plumbing and Heating - The Definitive Guide 2010 that groups its range of about key 700 products listed by product type and suitability to particular sectors - healthcare, sports and fitness, special care (care homes and the less able), education, hotels and leisure, office and retail and security (prisons and hostels).
Plumb Center commercial branches each have ‘commercial champions’ - specially trained individuals who give product advice and technical support to commercial plumbers, installers and project managers so they can find everything they need under one roof. A team of experienced estimators located across the UK provides technical and practical advice to Plumb Center commerical customers and prepare quotations for tendering purposes. Product pricing and invoicing can be managed according to customer requirements.
Support for the commercial sector is most highly developed in the retail and supermarket sectors but Plumb Centers have also been a vital part of the supply chain in Building Schools for the Future projects and construction of facilities for the 2010 Olympics. Plumb Center has also teamed up with roofing company, Ploughcroft, to launch SolarReady, a solar roofing service for evacuated tube installations. More than 2,500 solar installations were completed in the last year. It has also launched a comprehensive range of commercial plumbing and heating solutions including the latest innovations in water efficient and renewable products many of which are new and exclusive to the company and intended for commercial applications.
A SUSTAINABLE SUPPLY CHAIN with fast availability of products and parts stocked in the local area was one of the main requirements when Wolseley began talking to Mears about a tailored solution for their UK-wide FM contracts.
Wolseley’s answer has been to set up dedicated ‘Integrated Supply’ branches to manage the stock holding for each of the projects undertaken by Mears’ contractors/engineers around the UK. In addition, a Van Stock Management system has been established to ensure their fleet of vehicles are stocked with spare parts to facilitate on the spot repairs and replacement of consumable items.
Cost control is also a key consideration for Mears and, due to the long term nature of many contracts, with a guaranteed high volume of work over a sustained period of time, they need to purchase products at a very competitive level. In order to make this possible, Wolseley collaborated with Mears to provide a long term approach to a competitive pricing model. Wolseley is also look to providing future value to Mears in this area.
The ability to split the invoicing down on a project by project basis in order for Mears to accurately bill their customers was also an essential requirement. Wolseley’s solution was to develop e-billing on a job by job basis via an interface with Mears’ procurement and job costing system.
Underpinning the relationship with Mears is a dedicated account manager who has responsibilities across the entire Wolseley business and ensures that service is consistent and that Wolseley is meeting with their service level agreements.
Ian Watson, Mears’s Supply-Chain Director said “Within Mears we have always put long term value for our customers first, above all other priorities. The system we have developed with Wolseley, coupled with our supply partnership, demonstrates this at its very best. This solution, to one of the long standing issues within construction material provision, gives enhanced service performance andbenefits the entire supply chain."
WOLSELEY HAS BEEN WORKING with Marks and Spencer and its in-house maintenance team, who have responsibility for maintaining 560 stores, to enable them to provide a fast, first-time fix to all critical assets.
The need for rapid access to critical parts meant that the best solution was to embed a dedicated call centre operation within the M & S Maintenance office with direct access to the Wolseley stock system coupled with a stockless branch within the National Distribution Center, backed up by an inventory resource of predetermined parts, along with fast access to thousands of stock lines. Out- of-hours ordering and stock coverage is available 364 days a year with same-day and next-day delivery on stocked parts.
Wolseley also provides dedicated account management including a product sourcing resource to assist the M & S team with managing hundreds of manufacturers and has helped with the production of a dedicated M & S parts catalogue which enables the operative to select the required products on-site. An on-line parts catalogue is currently being developed.
Free copies of Commercial plumbing and heating – the definitive guide is available from your local Plumb Center branch or visit to order a catalogue on a CD version

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