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Training merchants to succeed  


BMF trainingThe quality and variety of training and development courses offered is one of the prime reasons cited for joining the BMF. Many merchants use BMF courses to develop their teams from apprentices to senior managers. We like to think that they are all winners as they are building excellence within their own business, but the BMF’s annual Awards Dinner in September provides an ideal opportunity to recognise merchants who have gone the extra mile in their commitment to supporting their teams through BMF training.  

This year MGM Timber was named BMF Training Company of the Year, with Chandler Building Supplies Highly Commended as a close runner up.  

MGM, the largest independent timber merchant in Scotland, joined the BMF at the beginning of 2017 shortly after announcing ambitious expansion plans. They lost no time in in choosing the BMF as their training provider as they wanted merchant focussed training that would be of practical benefit for their growing business.  In little over a year they have made giant strides.  

They are committed to training new recruits and younger staff with 11 current employees in training through BMF Apprenticeships Plus Apprenticeship training Agency (ATA) to SVQ levels. Developing managers and potential managers is another priority.They now have a total of 10 team members studying for the BMF Diploma in Merchanting. In the last year they have also undertaken 10 days of in-house training to upskill 60 members of staff in key areas of the business using our Essential Sales, Managing for Success and Yard Foreman’s Toolkit courses.  

MGM Timber are now training at all levels within their organisation and the breadth and depth of that training helped them to claim the 2018 BMF Training Company of the Year Award.  

Sussex-based Chandler Building Supplies was Highly Commended by the judges for a well-crafted training programme, again aligned to specific staff graded levels throughout their business.   

They have worked closely with BMF regional manager, Alex Clifford, and BMF tutors to develop a number of in-house programmes. These include an innovative two year roll-on training plan for new starters which combines 12 set courses to form a rounded development programme.  

Young achievers  

The BMF Awards Dinner also celebrates the achievements of young people who have recently entered the industry or are taking the next steps up their chosen career ladder.  

Joe Etherington of Bridport Building Supplies, BMF Apprentice of the Year Level 2. Joe, who is undertaking a Trade Business Services apprenticeship through the BMF ATA is excelling in all aspects and has impressed customers, colleagues and his training provider alike with his diligence and attention to detail.  
Thomas Smith of Manningham Concrete in Bradford, BMF Apprentice of the Year Level 3. Thomas is undertaking a Digital Marketing apprenticeship, again through the BMF ATA which provides a gateway to a diverse range of training opportunities.  Thomas is recognised as a hardworking, goal-oriented team player by his colleagues who have been impressed by his progress and the goals he has achieved to date.  
Philip Long of John A Stephens in Nottingham, top performing student on the BMF Post Graduate Diploma in Leadership & Strategy. Philip was awarded a Distinction in this course and achieved the highest mark.  
Steve Shorey of Alsford Timber, top performer on the BMF Masters Degree in Leadership & StrategySteve amply demonstrates the power of personal development.  Having completed the BMF Postgraduate Diploma in Leadership & Strategy in 2017 he then went on to study and achieve his Masters Degree in July 2018.  

Congratulations to all our Award winners.    


BMF training ranges from formal Apprenticeships and sector-specific Diplomas, Degrees and a Masters Degrees in Merchant Leadership and Strategy, to online product knowledge and other specialist skills training. To find out more about any aspect of BMF training, contact paige.godsell@bmf.org.uk or on 02456 854980, or click here



This article appeared in the November 2018 edition of Professional Builders’ Merchant (PBM)
The quality and variety of training and development courses offered is one of the prime reasons cited for joining the BMF. Many merchants use BMF courses to develop their teams from apprentices to senior managers.

Autumn Party Political Conferences 


Brett AmphlettInter-city BMF engage the politicians


As memories of the World Cup in Russia faded, the BMF went to the Party Conferences in Brighton, Liverpool and Birmingham. This summer, BMF members were canvassed on policy priorities and the BMF used these to shape its lobbying.

The backdrop and mood of each was very different. The Liberal Democrat gathering was poorly-attended, with only die-hard party members there. Labour was upbeat, with many more commercial visitors present than in recent years. The Conservatives were tense and inward-looking, making it hard to engage, with party members squabbling over their version of Brexit.  

In this blog, Brett Amphlett (BMF Policy and Public Affairs Manager) describes who he and John Newcomb (BMF CEO) met and the main topics of relevance to BMF interests:  


People, places and policies

To illustrate the extent of our lobbying of Westminster, Whitehall and government in the nations and regions, we thought you would like to see some of those we met.  


Liberal Democrats in Brighton  

•       Lord Andrew Stunell, Construction Spokesman
•       Baroness Sue Garden, Further Education & Skills Spokeswoman
•       Lord John Shipley, Housing and Northern Powerhouse Spokesman
•       Lord Chris Fox, Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy Spokesman  

The Lib Dems want another Referendum and were scathing of the Government’s handling of negotiations and preparations. With just 12 MPs in the Commons and only one MEP in Strasbourg, the Party relies on 105 peers in the House of Lords. On policy, the BMF discussed:  

•     better technical education and vocational training & skills (inc. apprenticeships)
•     re-introducing the Zero Carbon Homes Standard and improving the energy and thermal performance of buildings
•     offsite manufacturing to increase the number of homes using modern methods of construction
•     upholding laws on environmental protection and consumer and product standards post-Brexit
•     ways that companies can improve the diversity and inclusion of their workers.  

Labour in Liverpool  

The BMF was fortunate to talk to:

•     John McDonnell MP, Shadow Chancellor
•     Peter Dowd MP, Shadow Chief Secretary
•     Nia Griffiths MP, Shadow Defence Secretary
•     Angela Rayner MP, Shadow Education Secretary
•     Lesley Laird MP, Shadow Scottish Secretary
•     Alan Whitehead MP, Shadow Energy and Climate Change Minister
•     Jack Dromey MP, Shadow Pensions Minister
•     Bill Esterson MP, Shadow Business and International Trade Minister
•     Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London
•     James Murray, Deputy Mayor of London for Housing
•     Steve Rotheram, Liverpool City Region Mayor
•     Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol
•     Cllr Ian Ward, Leader of Birmingham City Council
•     Cllr Christopher Hammond, Leader of Southampton City Council
•     Lord John Prescott, former Deputy Prime Minister.  

Labour wants a General Election and acted like a government-in-waiting.  

Shadow Ministers had carefully-worked out (and costed) policies to announce and explain to visitors like the BMF.  

Our focus was plans by cities obligated to improve air quality by tackling roadside NO2 emissions. Over the summer, we responded to consultations from Birmingham, Derby, Leeds, Nottingham and Southampton Councils. In Liverpool, we met the Mayor and Deputy of Liverpool City Region, and the Leader of Southampton City Council, to make our case.  

The BMF understands why it is a serious issue and we support moves to improve air quality, but government must be willing to work with the BMF and its members. Merchants have no choice but to use diesel and we want politicians to grasp there are no realistic alternatives at present.  

The BMF has built a reputation as a leading voice on this issue, nationally  and locally. We share common cause with (for example) the Freight Transport Association, British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association, Associated British Ports, and bus and taxi operators who all use diesel.  

The availability of compliant vehicles is central to our arguments. By the time we get to January 2020, it may not have proved possible for you to adapt - perhaps for technical reasons or no suitable vehicles were available to buy or lease - or there was an insufficient number made to meet demand. A lack of market capacity means that firms will be competing for compliant vehicles before city controls begin in 13 months time.  


Conservatives in Birmingham  

As the party in Government, security was strict, but we were able to talk to:

•     Phillip Hammond MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer
•     Chris Grayling MP, Transport Secretary
•     Dominic Raab MP, (then) Brexit Secretary
•     Robert Buckland MP, Solicitor General
•     Alok Sharma MP, Employment Minister
•     Kit Malthouse MP, Housing and Planning Minister
•     John Glen MP, Treasury Minister
•     Thérèse Coffey MP, Environment Minister
•     David Rutley MP, Forestry Minister
•     Andrew Jones MP, Party Vice-Chairman for Business
•     Neil Parish MP, Environment Select Committee Chairman
•     Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands
•     James Palmer, Mayor of Cambridgeshire & Peterborough
•     Ben Houchen, Mayor of the Tees Valley
•     Cllr Lord Gary Porter, Chairman of Local Government Association
•     Lord Mike Whitby, former Leader of Birmingham City Council
•     Cllr Robert Alden, Leader of Opposition on Birmingham City Council.  

The Conservatives had a slew of announcements. In his platform speech, the Secretary of State, James Brokenshire MP, announced several of relevance to BMF members - not all of them good.  

On planning permission, the Minister will consult on the planning system, land use and vacant buildings.  

This includes a new permitted development right to extend upwards on flats, shops and offices. No one wants a repeat of bad high-rise housing, but better use can be made of existing buildings. In the BMF members’ policy priorities survey, 74% voted for simplifying and speeding-up planning permission as their top priority.  

On post-Grenfell fire safety, the Secretary of State confirmed a ban on using combustible materials in the external walls of high-rise residential buildings. A change in the Building Regulations will mean some materials will not be allowed in new high-rise homes, hospitals, care homes and student accommodation above 18 metres.  

In her speech, the Prime Minister announced that local authority borrowing restrictions will be removed, enabling them to build as many as 10,000 extra new council houses a year. Removing the cap on what councils can borrow against their Housing Revenue Account assets is very good news. Narrowing the gap between housing demand and supply is today’s single most important domestic priority. Ministers must use all available levers to ‘Change the Ratio’ between the small number of volume house-builders and the rest to foster a diverse, functioning market for building.  

This means freeing local authorities that for too long were seen as vital, but underused players in housing provision. The new Minister for Housing and Planning, Kit Malthouse MP, did 14 fringe meetings and met us at five of them. Mr Malthouse is MP for North West Hampshire, a rural constituency based around Andover. He has been in the job since July 2018 and is the eighth Conservative to hold the post in eight years. He joked that if his smartphone rang, he would try to finish the event before changing jobs.  

Kit Malthouse has a difficult job to deliver building 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s. He has the benefit of a revised National Planning Policy Framework behind him that sets out what will and will not be allowed as developers work to narrow the gap between demand and supply.  

The Minister warned housebuilders not to become “like Kodak” suggesting if there is not more innovation, firms risk becoming obsolete. He quoted offsite manufacturing, modern methods of construction and robotic bricklayers.  

Asked what yardstick he will be judged by, Mr Malthouse said that was easy, “it’s all about numbers and I want more, better and faster.”  

Democratic Unionists in Birmingham  

The BMF was in the right place to meet former First Minister Arlene Foster, and Nigel Dodds MP, Deputy Party Leader. There was only one topic for them at the Tory Conference – continued uncertainty and suspicion over UKEU negotiations.  

Summary

In the last 9 years, the BMF has earned the right to be heard by central and local government and political parties. We enjoy good relations with politicians of all colours who take us seriously.  

Brexit dwarfs everything, but the most pressing issue is the need to boost output, employment and educational achievement in less-well performing areas, compared to London and the South East - the so-called ‘productivity puzzle’.  

Further devolution of powers and funds is very much in vogue. There are eight Metro Mayors in England that account for nearly 42% of all economic growth, covering 21 million residents. We have met five Mayors and explained how BMF members deliver for their local communities.    



This article appeared in the Winter Edition of One Voice. The posts held by senior politicians were correct at the time of going to press.  

If you would like to join the Brexit debate click here to book your place on the new BMF Brexit Forum on 23 January.
As memories of the World Cup in Russia faded, the BMF went to the Party Conferences in Brighton, Liverpool and Birmingham. This summer, BMF members were canvassed on policy priorities and the BMF used these to shape its autumn lobbying.

First class service for our members

27 November 2018
by BMF CEO John Newcomb

John NewcombThe BMF’s anniversary year is nearing its end with our final event, a celebratory Members’ Dinner, taking place at the Belfry later this month.  Although we are celebrating 110 years as a Trade Body our focus is very much on the future as we continue to support our members through changing and sometimes challenging times.  

This forward-looking focus has led to another year of firsts for the BMF.   

We held our first Parliamentary Reception at the House of Commons in April and followed this with the appointment of our first government relations consultants for Scotland and Northern Ireland.  We now have skilled teams in place to promote our members’ interest at Westminster, with all three devolved assemblies and with local authorities nationally.   

The BMF’s thriving Young Merchant Group held its first Conference, which took place at the NEC during UK Construction Week.  The Conference was a great success, attracting 150 delegates drawn from current, past and potential Young Merchant Group members. Highlights included keynote speaker George Clarke, the architect, television presenter and campaigner, who not only spoke passionately on the need to attract more young people into the whole construction industry including the building materials sector, but also voiced some ingenious ideas to help overcome the country’s housing shortage.  

Membership of the BMF Young Merchant Group is open to merchants and suppliers aged between 21 and 40 holding a key management position within their organisation.  As well as offering opportunities to network and share experience, their meetings regularly feature one or more speakers to encourage and inspire members.   

BMF Young Merchant’s newly-elected Chair, Glenn Paddison of MKM Building Supplies, and Vice Chair, Jo Callow of Knauf Insulation, are keen to continue developing the group’s work and influence, for example, by encouraging members to play a leading role in promoting careers in our industry to school and college leavers through the BMF Ambassador programme.   

They also see an opportunity to strengthen the Group’s ties with European merchants to share best practice, possibly with a European Conference next year.  This ties in well with another first for the BMF and for me personally. As the UK approaches Brexit, it is even more important for the BMF to strengthen its links with our European colleagues and trade bodies and last month I was honoured to be confirmed as President of Ufemat, the European Association of National Builders Merchants Associations and Manufacturers, becoming the first BMF CEO to hold that role.  

Another notable first, and a fantastic tribute to the professionalism of the whole BMF team, saw the BMF win the top honour of Overall Best Association in the prestigious Association Excellence Awards 2018, where we also won the prize for the best Association Website.  

The Association Excellence Awards, which are judged by a panel of over 20 CEOs and senior managers, recognise and reward the achievements of UK trade bodies, professional membership organisations and associations.  Awarding the BMF the prize for Overall Best Association – under 1000 members, the judges said that the Federation demonstrated strength in policy, membership events, communications, training and had genuine sector leadership.  

We are extremely proud to see the BMF’s work on behalf of our members independently recognised in this way. Our mission is to help merchant and supplier members to build excellence into every aspect of their business.  Be assured that no matter what our post-Brexit future brings, we will continue to develop the policies and programmes that helped us achieve recognition in the Association Excellence Awards to help our members build excellence into every aspect of their own business.  


This article appeared in the November 2018 edition of Builders Merchants News (BMN)
The BMF’s anniversary year is nearing its end with its final event, a celebratory Members’ Dinner, taking place at the Belfry later this month. Although the BMF are celebrating 110 years as a Trade Body the focus is very much on the future.

Getting the BMF strategy right

20 November 2018
by Peter Hindle MBE, BMF Chairman

Peter Hindle MBEAs the merchant industry association, we want to ensure we get maximum engagement from our members. However, to get that we need to know exactly who they are and what they require from us. The BMF has been working very hard over the past five years to ensure that it is fully representative of the whole merchant industry. We now have a full range of members from national groups right down to single branch independents as members but there is still further to go.  

We do now talk to the industry and to government with one voice, however, that doesn’t mean that we have to be speaking with the same voice to all our members. One of the things that has become apparent is that the value our members get from their membership is very different depending where they sit in the industry.  

As an association we offer a huge amount of extremely good services to all our members but not all of them will need every service.  

So, a major part of our ongoing strategy for the next five years will be deeper segmentation of the membership. We want to know which segments our members fall into so that we can tailor the offering to them accordingly,  

That’s the first question we are working on, what exactly are the segments within our membership? We could end up with a list that includes specialists, plumbers’ merchants independents, manufacturers, manufacturers that distribute: the BMF covers a wide variety of businesses within the parameters of the building materials supply chain. Yes, of course, there will be some generic offerings, such as our youth recruitment programme, which crosses all the segments but there will be much more some specific stuff. Even within the independent sector there are completely different types of builders’ merchants.  

A smaller independent merchant’s needs for example might be based around what the BMF can do to help them with GDPR, with health and safety, with a racking inspection or help with transport and employment. Smaller merchants tend not to have the infrastructure to deal with these areas, so these are areas where the BMF can add real value for them. Larger national companies are more likely to be set up to do a lot of what we can offer for themselves, the Health and Safety or HR services, for example. What these larger members are looking for from their trade association might be more to do with the lobbying work that we do with government.  

Once we understand that deeper segmentation, it will allow us to start to tailor everything that we do around some of those segments.  

We will also be looking at increasing what we offer to suppliers who, after all make up 35% of our memberships. This might be offering sales courses or other training that at the moment is more focussed on the merchant membership. We know that we need to pay attention to our supplier members as much as our merchant members and also we need to ensure our service members are happy too.  

Manufacturers want to join the BMF because of the networking opportunities but that’s only a part of it and we will be able to offer them real value if we target their needs more specifically. We’ve been talking a lot about Brexit and VAT on imported goods etc. and those are some big subjects that will have a serious effect on the businesses of our suppliers, which will in turn affect how they do business with our merchant members.  

The segmentation will form the biggest part of our new strategy going forward and underpinning that will be our commitment to expanding excellence with people which will bring it all to life. We are very committed to giving those working in the merchant industry proper, portable, marketable accreditation. Our training offer is very successful, and our aim is to build opportunities for everyone in this supply chain to carve out careers, allowing them to move from yard sales to outside sales or into management, wherever they have the drive and capacity to end up.  

If you do training, you have to be the best at it; we don’t want to play around with it, we want to be offering market-leading opportunities to build the future of the industry.  

A big part of the training success has been the ability to be more local to our members; our regional centres of excellence have been instrumental in this. They are going from strength to strength and we now have 21 with further two or three about to open. And they are all being used regularly and have really helped to open up the BMF benefits to the membership.  

The real major drive for us is going to be around building greater engagement with the BMF, especially from the merchant membership.   

Segmentation is going to be key to the success of the BMF moving forward as, if you want to get more people more engaged, you have to make sure you’re giving them what they want from you and we will find that out by this segmentation process.  

Training and youth recruitment will continue to be a major focus for us. In fact, the youth recruitment programme will be a key part for every segment, as that’s an issue which affects all our members, large and small.  


This article appeared in the November 2018 edition of Builders Merchants Journal (BMJ)  
As the merchant industry association, we want to ensure we get maximum engagement from our members. However, to get that we need to know exactly who they are and what they require from us.

How Health & Safety savvy are you?

20 November 2018
John Southall, CEO of Health and Safety Consultancy Southalls, the company that provides the BMF Safety Plus service, details the five key things that builders’ merchants should know

John SouthallBy necessity, builders’ merchants tend to be more savvy than most when it comes to health and safety practice – after all, the average merchant will be inspected typically every two years by an Environmental Health Officer.  There are also insurance company requirements, civil claims and customer feedback to keep merchants on their toes.  

But a lot has changed in recent years. From the introduction of new sentencing guidelines, regulatory updates, HSE priority topics, through to Brexit preparations, health and safety for builders’ merchants has been under the spotlight like never before.  

Here are five key things that every builders’ merchant should know about health and safety in the present day. 

1. HARSHER PENALTIES ON BUSINESSES


The ‘new’ sentencing guidelines introduced in February 2016 have revolutionised the way health and safety offences are prosecuted. Offending businesses are now much more likely to be receive substantial fines (based upon turnover), imprisonment of an individual, or insolvency of a business.  

New sentencing guidelines for gross negligence manslaughter also come into force in November 2018, increasing jail terms for gross negligence manslaughter in line with other manslaughter offences, i.e. to increase the term up to as much as 18 years.  

2. THE MOST COMMON TYPES OF INJURY AND ACCIDENTS


The most common accidents and injuries in merchants are still related to workplace transport movements.  These include forklift trucks or reversing vehicles striking customers or employees, and falls from height, typically staff falling from the back of flat-bed lorries. Injuries caused by falling stock, together with manual handling injuries and slips and trips are other common risk areas.  

An awareness of these key hazards and the risk management processes to control them is essential to help merchant owners focus attention, investment and training in the proper areas.  

3. RAISING THE BAR WITH STAFF WELFARE


Good merchant owners and managers are now taking extra care to ensure staff welfare in the following areas:  

Hard hats with chinstraps. For some years now we’ve been moving the industry forward, making working on the back of flat-bed lorries safer by encouraging the wearing of hard hats with chin straps when drivers access the lorry bed.  
Seatbelts on Forklift trucks.  A number of recent court cases have set a precedent stating the requirement to wear a seatbelt on a forklift falls under the general duty to your staff in The Health and Safety at Work etc Act and under the Management of Health and Safety Regulations. It is therefore no longer considered appropriate for a forklift truck driver to operate a forklift without wearing a seatbelt.  

4. PROMOTING A CULTURE CHANGE

Effective risk management in a merchant is influenced by the behaviour of individuals. Put simply, it’s not enough to provide safe equipment, systems and procedures if the culture doesn’t encourage healthy and safe working.  

Culture develops slowly over time and by acting safely workers can start to think safely.  

5. CLOUD-BASED TECHNOLOGY TO THE RESCUE


Faced with the challenges of warehouse logistics, materials handling and vehicle operation, health and safety compliance for builders’ merchants is a serious concern – but it can still be simple to manage. As we move into a digital age, increased reliance upon IT and cloud-based systems, allows a proactive approach to risk management to be achieved.  

Unlike traditional IT systems, cloud-based software is very scalable and affordable. You pay a subscription based on the number of users and you’ll always have access to the latest version of the software. As you add branches, your cloud software can grow with you.  

Cloud-based management software, like Southall’s user-friendly Safety Cloud, engages today’s workforce. It brings together all your health and safety documentation in one place and helps you manage it in a way that supports day-to-day operations, adding value to your business.  

Southalls specialise in helping builders merchants stay on top of their health and safety legal requirements, keeping their staff and customers safe, and their businesses compliant. For information about the BMF Safety Plus service or to discuss any health and safety matter, please get in touch with the Southalls team on 0345 257 4015 or hello@southalls.com   BMF members can also request the following BMF H&S Business Guides from Richard.Ellithorne@bmf.org.uk – Work at Height; Deliveries to Customer Sites; Workplace Transport; Material Storage and Handling; Saw Mills and Wood Working Machinery; Overarching Guide; Occupational Road Risk.  

Southalls are listed in The Times Top 200 list of legal advisors


This article appeared in the November edition of Builders' Merchants Journal (BMJ)
John Southall, CEO of Health and Safety Consultancy Southalls, the company that provides the BMF Safety Plus service, details the five key things that builders’ merchants should know.

Outstanding safety support for BMF members

Richard Ellithorneby Richard Ellithorne, BMF Membership Services Director
6 November 2018


The BMF represents and protects the interests of builders’ merchants in the UK. With that fact in mind, the BMF work with their partner Southalls to deliver safety support to its members.

Southalls is an award-winning health and safety consultancy with the most advanced cloud-based health and safety management software ‘Safety Cloud’.  Delivering safety expertise tailored to builders’ merchants for over a decade, Southalls 'impressive track record, testimonials and client retention, offers a compelling solution!

BMF Safety Plus service has been tailored to the needs of builders merchants and includes:

  • Initial merchant-specific health and safety gap analysis.

  • Tailored health and safety policy and site-specific risk assessments, built around critical safety concerns for builders’ merchants.

  • Six-monthly safety audits with actionable items delivered in online reports. Risk assessment amendments included.

  • Tailored e-Learning to cover requirements of a builders’ merchant with quizzes for staff to complete.

  • Assistance with accident investigations, including reporting under RIDDOR.

  • Competent person role (required under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations).

  • Liaison with the EHOs, conducted by our own ex- enforcement officers.

  • Monthly e-Newsletter keeping you up to speed on legislative changes.

  • Free telephone advice from our sector experts, with mobile number for your dedicated consultant AND

  • Safety Cloud.

 

Key Benefits of Safety Plus

  • Measurable reductions in accidents and associated lost days.

  • Reduced insurance premiums through improved risk reduction.

  • Improved compliance, improved company safety culture and increased delegation of safety duties, freeing up management time for business growth.

  • Reduced EHO inspection frequency and enforcement action through demonstrating an effective safety management system is in operation.

  • Access to our unique 1-day Key Person and Yard Foreman training courses.

 

Testimonials

“Since working with Southalls the H&S in our organisation has improved 10-fold. The new H&S systems and reports have been met with enthusiasm by every manager & employee. This has empowered managers to take responsibility in their own branches. This is beginning to bear fruit and improving their working environments. Personnel, in general, are really buying into H&S which can only be a positive outcome in reducing accidents in the workplace. I would recommend Southalls to all businesses no matter how big or small.” Alan Ladyman, Company Transport & H&S Manager, Kent Blaxill & Co Ltd

“We chose Southalls based on recommendations from many NBG Members – not one bad comment received. Our experience of dealing with them has been excellent – Whatever has been promised/ agreed has been strictly adhered to.” Phil Kruse, Director - PGR Timber and Builders Merchants

“We chose Southalls as they specialised in builders’ merchants. We have been very happy with the service provided. Having 6-month audits are invaluable as well as the audit reports, saying what we should do. It has also been very easy to make contact and get answers to questions.” Shanker Patel, Managing Director - Lords

3 easy ways to find out more about BMF Safety Plus

  • Call Southalls on 0345 257 4015 (quoting your BMF Member No.)
  • Email Southalls at hello@southalls.com (quoting your BMF Member No.)
  • Post the completed form below to: Southalls, Cranmore Place, Cranmore Drive, Solihull, West Midlands, B90 4RZ

 

Southalls are ilisted in The Times Top 200 list of legal advisors.

 

The BMF represents and protects the interests of builders’ merchants in the UK. With that fact in mind, the BMF work with their partner Southalls to deliver safety support to its members.

BMF introduces second generation Diploma in Merchant Management 

by BMF Training
30 October 2018

Since its introduction in 2013 the BMF Diploma in Merchanting has become one of the most popular courses for recently appointed or aspiring managers within our industry.  Now it is set to be even better.   

Over 320 candidates have successfully completed the original Diploma, developing skills that have helped them progress in their careers and benefit their employers’ business.  But even great courses can be improved and we are delighted to announce the launch of our new look, second generation BMF Diploma in Merchant Management.  

Like the first generation programme, the updated course is specifically designed to help merchants develop the talent they already have within their business.  It not only exposes students to modern managerial thinking and attitudes it also enables them to share ideas directly and learn from the experiences of colleagues within the industry, equipping them with the skills required to better manage their own branch or area of business.  

It has been designed from the ground up to be relevant to managers and supervisors working in the builders’ merchant industry today. The course covers a range of practical tasks including self management, managing others, managing processes and managing change.  Students will not only learn key managerial skills but also how to apply them in their day to day working life.   DipMM Structure Part A

Whilst some of the content has been updated, the principal changes relate to delivery of the course, which is designed to be far more flexible and learner centred.  

To start with there is a shorter timeframe to completion, the whole programme can be completed within 18 months, rather than the 2 years plus of the previous course.  However, it also enables learners to take a mid-point break, allowing them to reinforce their knowledge and skills through work practice, due to the new Diploma’s tiered structure.    

Part A can either be taken on its own leading to a Certificate in Merchant Management, or as a preliminary to Part B which then leads to the full Diploma.  This format also provides flexibility for those with varying degrees of experience.  Part A is ideal as an entry into merchanting for aspiring managers or those with little prior experience.  Part B could be completed on its own by more experienced managers.    

The key knowledge-based elements of the course are covered using distance learning materials and written assessments, with skills and behaviours developed and assessed during contact days with tutors.  The old format of having just one contact day to discuss each set subject proved overly rigid and restrictive.  The new approach gives tutors the flexibility to shape the programme as they go in order to meet the specific needs of individual tutorial or in-company student groups. 
DipMM Structure Part B
The overall Diploma in Merchant Management programme is designed to prepare students for the rigors of managing a merchant business.  Those who successfully complete it will have identified both their individual strengths and areas for personal development and growth.  Above all, they will have the confidence to be better managers.  

To find out more about the new BMF Diploma in Merchant Management or any aspect of BMF training click here or contact paige.godsell@bmf.org.uk or call Paige Godsell on 02456 854980.


This article appeared in the October 2018 edition of Builders Merchants Journal (BMJ)
Since its introduction in 2013 the BMF Diploma in Merchanting has become one of the most popular courses for recently appointed or aspiring managers within our industry. Now it is set to be even better.

Customers trust you with their data, but what happens if systems fail?  

RDS Global, the BMF’s cyber protection partner, offers timely advice.    
16 October 2018



Andy Flinn of RDS GlobalOnce again data protection – or the lack of it – is making headlines in the media. In the last month alone three major corporations admitted serious data breaches affecting thousands of customers.  

The credit card details of 380,000 British Airways customers were stolen from its website and app over a two-week period during August and September. Despite promising to compensate passengers for any losses, BA potentially faces a class-action lawsuit if it is found to have failed to protect their personal data.  

Hackers also gained access to the bank accounts and personal details of up to 800 UK ferry workers at Stena Line after they broke into the Scandinavian ferry giant’s systems via fraudulent emails.

While Dixons Carphone advised its customers that some 10 million records containing personal data may have been accessed during 2017 by hackers using sophisticated malware.  This breach did not involve financial details but the personal details stolen could easily lead to fraud.  

This is just the tip of a very large iceberg. Every industry, including the builders’ merchant supply chain, is being targeted. No business can afford to ignore the issue of cyber security nor the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that recently came into force to govern the way we hold, process, store and manage personal data.  

The implications to your business if a similar cyber break occurred could be monetary fines, penalties and regulatory audits at the very least.  If customers’ data is involved the knock-on effect from their loss of confidence in your brand leading them to take their custom elsewhere gives rise to a risk analysis that questions whether your business would be sustainable following such an event.  

As the company behind the BMF’s Cyber Audit Plus service, RDS Global can help to protect your business.  RDS is a one-stop shop to safeguard your business against various types of cyber-attacks, helping you to implement effective measures in an efficient way.  

When considering cyber security, three things are key: 

Consistency: Each cyber security measure should be consistently implemented across the board. For example, if you employ two factor authentications make sure that everyone uses this, from employees to administrators and upper management.  

Holism: Cyber security needs to be approached as a whole.There is no point in creating a highly robust and tightly secured perimeter when your data is inadequately protected from insider threats.  

Risk based approach: When formulating and implementing your security strategy it is vital to consider actual and potential risks the company faces, then conduct a thorough risk assessment to determine any current security vulnerabilities.  

RDS can assist you through the process and help you prepare and implement an action plan to minimise the risk, through the following steps.  

  • Assess your physical data security
  • Gauge employee awareness
  • Review and test outsider threat protection
  • Test your network security
  • Establish back up procedures

    The steps outlined are part of the technical requirements under General Data Protection Regulations, which in essence locks in Data Protection and Privacy for all individuals, both your employees within the business and your customer base outside.  

    For further information and advice on gaining appropriate Cyber and GDPR certifications call our IASME assessors on 0330 0538979 or drop an email to sales@rds.global.    


    This article appeared in the October 2018 edition of Professional Builders Merchant (PBM)
  • Your customers trust you with their data, but what happens if your systems fail? RDS Global, the BMF’s cyber protection partner, offers timely advice at a time when data protection - or lack of it - is making headlines in the media again

    Building excellence - the BMF's mission for members

    by John Newcomb, BMF CEO
    12 September 2018

    John NewcombOur members are at the heart of everything we do as a Federation and we are passionate about adding value to their businesses. This is why we have been working with the Board to evolve our vision, mission and strategic roadmap for the next three years.  

    Having achieved many milestones within our original strategic plan, and seen significant changes in the economic and political landscape during that time, we are now moving onto the next stage to strengthen the building materials supply industry - Building Excellence.   

    As part of this process we consulted with members to discover their policy priorities for the coming year.  Their responses will feed into the policy and public affairs briefings we will be giving to politicians during the main party conference season this autumn.  

    Over the past 18 months we have given far greater priority to political representation, at Westminster, in the devolved parliaments and major city authorities, to highlight the contribution played by our industry to the economic growth of the country. This will continue to be an important part of our strategy, as well as campaigning on the issues identified by members as being of greatest importance to them.  

    Regional view

    I spent much of the last month visiting members in different regions, talking to merchants and suppliers from the south of England to the lowlands of Scotland.  While there are regional variations, the overall trading picture following four months of exceptionally dry and warm weather has been pretty positive - a view reflected in the BMF’s Builders MerchantBuilding Index (BMBI) data for Q2.  After taking into account the extra trading day in Q2 2018 over the same period last year, the BMBI reports that merchants saw average daily sales growth of 5.5% year on year.  

    The BMBI, which uses point of sale tracking data collated and analysed by the research company GfK, has become the gold standard for merchant sales statistics nationally.  As part of our drive for Building Excellence, we aim to be the leading provider of all industry data.  The next step will be to work with GfK to drill down further to understand differences in regional trading conditions.  This valuable insight will be shared exclusively with members at BMF’s Regional Meetings.  

    Developing talent

    Attracting and developing talented people within the industry will continue to be one of our main strategic goals.  With the latest group of school-leavers and university graduates entering the job market, we are extremely encouraged that initiatives relating to apprenticeships and higher level qualifications undertaken to date are paying dividends.  

    Our 2018 Remuneration Survey found that apprentices nationally made up 7.45% of our total merchant workforce at 30 April 2018, up from 1.12% in 2017.  This is particularly interesting as it contrasts markedly from the apprenticeship trend across all UK industry, where the number of new starts fell dramatically following the introduction of the new apprenticeship funding system in May 2017.  

    The BMF has embraced the opportunities afforded by the new system.  There are roles within BMF members for GCSE achievers, A level students and graduates alike. Our challenge now is to build on the initial success and recruit within the merchanting sector greater numbers than ever, from Trade Supplier Level 2 starters to the highest achievers seeking post graduate Level 7 opportunities.  

    Find out how we plan to achieve these and other milestones at the BMF Members’ Day Conference on 27 September, where we will be outlining further elements of our strategic plan. Book your place at here


    This article appeared in the September 2018 edition of Builders Merchants News (BMN)
    Our members are at the heart of everything we do as a Federation and we are passionate about adding value to their businesses. This is why we have been working with the Board to evolve our vision, mission and strategic roadmap for the next three year

    Building a better future for our members

    by John Newcomb, BMF CEO
    23 October 2018


    John NewcombAt its annual Members’ Day Conference the BMF unveiled a bold new strategy for the next three years, designed to help members to build excellence within every aspect of their business.  

    The strategy was finalised following extensive research with members to find out what matters most to them right now. The result will see the BMF extend its widely-respected training and business services to help the Federation’s diverse membership gain, and retain, business advantage at a time when the challenges facing our industry have never been greater.  

    The BMF will also increase its focus on political campaigning, the third key area of support identified by the research and will concentrate its resources on the issues given the highest priority.  

    While this is the start of a new era for the BMF, we are not throwing the baby out with the bathwater. We are building on what has proved successful in the past to deliver tailored business services, together with training, development and apprenticeships. Importantly each element can be drawn together to create a personalised package of value added services to meet individual members’ needs more effectively and help every business type within the building supply industry to move forward with confidence.  

    This is evolution rather than revolution, but our new strategyencompasses our bold vision of the future. Our mission for the next three years is to help members to excel at providing materials and services, for building a better future. This is encapsulated in our new strapline, “Building Excellence”. 

    In recent years, under our previous strapline of “One Industry, One Voice”, we have helped to unify the building materials supply chain. With 655 merchants and suppliers now in membership, representing an 80% share of the sector, we have become the network, or glue, that sticks a disparate group of national and independent merchants together.  Now it is time to move forward together, with the BMF as the backbone of the industry, promoting the sector’s vital contribution to UK economic growth and leading all members towards a larger share of the future.  

    We will support merchants and supplier members, building their skills, their voice, their business and their prosperity, helping them to build excellence into every aspect of their business. At the same time, our closer relationship with the IOBM means they will complement our work as a trade body by helping our members’ employees to build sustainable careers within the building materials supply chain.  

    At the heart of our programme are three core political issues prioritised by our members:

    Employment opportunities – we will work to attract new talent to the industry, with a refreshed website, nationwide exhibition programme to reach potential apprentices, and industry ambassadors to spread the message in schools and colleges. 

    Post Brexit Trading issues
    – we will use our influence with government to ensure business is not disrupted by customs duty/dockside delays, changes to VAT practice or other procedures that hamper timber and other imports. 

    Housing demand and supply – we will campaign to simplify and speed up the planning process, to enable our members’ customers to build the homes that the country needs.  

    We are not only ambitious for our members. By 2020, our aim is to be regarded as the leading trade association in the building materials industry for merchants and suppliers, representing 90% of the merchant sector, with 800 merchants and suppliers in membership. We also aim to be recognised as the most professional trade organisation in the UK. By constantly building excellence into everything that we do, we can all achieve our goals.  

    Find out how the BMF can work with you to build a better future click here.


    This article appeared in the October 2018 edition of Builders Merchants News (BMN)
    John Newcomb, BMF CEO talks about the BMF's bold new strategy for the next three years, designed to help members to build excellence within every aspect of their business.

    Latest developments from the BMF

    An interview by Keystone with John Newcomb, BMF CEO
    8 October 2018


    John Newcomb2018 has been an important year as our new board of directors’ approach 12 months in office and have now completed a strategic review which was unveiled at our Members’ Day Conference last month. We have also recently announced the details of our bi-annual conference, to be held in Dubrovnik in June 2019.  

    Where does the BMF stand on Brexit?

    Firstly, because we represent members who voted for each outcome, leave and remain, we have adopted a completely apolitical stance on Brexit. Our role now, is to look for positive outcomes and protect our members from any negative effects that might arise post-Brexit.

    Advising members is obviously difficult until the trade arrangements are agreed but, in the meantime, we think it’s important for merchants focus on developing what they do best, which is, excellence in the supply and distribution of building materials. A really interesting development however is our new link with The European Association of National Builders Associations and Manufacturers (Ufemat). I was asked to take on the presidency for two years, a role which helps shape the strategy of the European Association.  

    There is a fear from Ufemat members of what will happen post-brexit and I think that’s why they feel having a British guy heading up the organisation is a statement of their intent that they don’t want to lose those connections and relationships with our European partners.  

    Chris Hayward who runs NMBS is currently heading up Euro-Mat which is the European buying organisation, so the irony is you’ll have two heads of the two big European organisations both Brits, during Brexit.  My first conference as Ufemat president will be in Lisbon this month, and the exciting thing as president is that I get to run the 2020 conference in the UK which is a really positive link to our European partners.  

    What led to your success and drives your enthusiasm in the industry?

    I’ve always been driven by a desire to succeed in whatever role I’ve been in, starting originally as a graduate trainee in JCB.  My roles have naturally progressed, right up from product manager and eventually to managing director, I think you’re shaped by your childhood, so I guess it’s partly my working class background that’s driven me to succeed.  

    I guess I’ve come full circle, starting with JCB, before moving into consumer marketing where I worked for Kingfisher in retail before moving on to marketing product brands like Russell Hobbs. Then 6 years ago the circle was completed, and I was back in the construction industry.  

    The manufacture and distribution of building materials is worth around £56 billion, so BMF members are responsible for around a third of the estimated £150 billion UK construction market.  

    It’s a fantastic industry to work in and I think the Government are starting to understand that a strong construction industry is important for a strong economy, but it’s still one of those industries where we can talk ourselves very easily into recession. Because it’s obviously very male-orientated we need to be mindful of diversity and inclusion, which is currently a big topic within our sector.  

    What are the BMF doing to attract young people to the industry?  

    We are passionate about bringing young people into the industry and are taking an active approach to promote it. Firstly, we have our own dedicated website merchant-recruitment.co.uk, so this is a great resource for anyone considering a career.  The site includes video clips, featuring a range of job roles and gives a flavour of what it’s like to work in the industry.

    BMF also participate annually in Apprenticeship Week, so again we have lots of kids from schools and colleges that come along that can talk to people/ members about what it’s like to work within the industry.

    It is also great to see larger merchants like Travis Perkins taking stands at career fairs. I think one of the things we do very well, is a group called ‘Young Merchants,’ it’s open to both merchants and suppliers aged between 21-40. This is the age group who will be running the industry in 15 -20 years’ time. Currently about 80 strong, the group will have its first dedicated conference on 11 October, where some senior figures in the industry, including David Kilburn from MKM, Peter Hindle and Andrew Harrison from Travis, will be talking about their careers.  

    We’ve got Sheri Hughes, Diversity and Inclusion Director of Page Group, the biggest recruitment consultant in the world, and our Keynote Speaker is Architect and TV Presenter, George Clarke who is passionate about developing young people in the construction industry.  

    The Young Merchant group meet twice a year, plus an overseas trip to broaden and develop their experience in the industry, by seeing what merchanting and manufacturing is like in other countries. There’s a great social and networking element to it as well, going out for a meal, and having a few drinks in the evening as a group.  

    What role do industry events play for merchants?

    I believe in them passionately and we now run around 60 events annually, with almost every event open to both suppliers and merchants, because we believe both parts of the supply chain are equally important.  

    The events range in size, from a round table discussion of 15 people, to an all industry conference where we have 465 delegates. The most important thing is that we are providing networking opportunities for suppliers and merchants to talk about each other’s businesses, share best practices and its particularly relevant now because we have a number of material shortages in the industry, such as timber, roof tiles, insulation and it’s very easy for one to blame the other.  

    What’s next for the BMF?

    We have just released our new five-year strategic road map, setting out very clearly where we want to go. We’ve come a long way over the last six years, doubling membership to 655 from 324, since I joined the BMF. The key now, is not to rest on our laurels, there is plenty of growth within the market and opportunities to add new suppliers and merchants.    

    As the leading trade body in the sector we want to drive awareness of changes in areas such as technology and the need for diversity in the sector.  This year for example, we hosted our very first technology forum which was a big success. I think we’ve got a great future, but we are conscious of not being complacent, never being arrogant about where we are, but always looking to grow.  

    Do you believe in the role of an institute such as IOBM?

    The IOBM haven’t finally voted on the merger, but I absolutely believe in the role of this institute, if you look at professions like marketing, accountancy and plumbing and heating, there tends to be chartered institutes.

    Part of my long term plan is to look for chartered status at the institute, but I think we have to get the basics right first of all, because the institute is a brand really without a physical presence in the market and it needs to be relooked at, reconstructed and remarketed to increasingly engage younger merchants and suppliers. I think this industry warrants having its own institute and I think it’s right that it should be part of the trade association.  

    The progress at BMF has been impressive and a testament to your leadership.

    It’s all down to the support of our members at the end of the day, the organisation is built around that relationship. Too many trade associations forget that it’s the membership that keeps them in a job, but hopefully my team don’t have that view. We are also building a strong team by bringing quite a lot of young people into the organisation with new and fresh ideas, and it’s obviously important we practice what we preach!  


    This article is adapted from the supplement by Keystone which appeared in the September 2018 edition of BMN  
    John Newcomb, BMF CEO talks about the latest developments at the BMF, including the recent strategic review which was unveiled at the Members’ Day Conference at St George's Park last month.

    Remuneration Report shows apprenticeships’ upward curve

    By Richard Ellithorne, BMF Membership Services Director
    25 September 2018  


    Richard EllithorneThe BMF’s annual Remuneration Survey covering the 12 months ending April 2018 provides some interesting insights into the merchant industry. One of the most positive is a huge leap in the number of apprentices employed.  

    The BMF has undertaken its annual Remuneration Report, showing salaries, wages and benefits paid to builders’ merchants’ employees for a number of years. Most of the financial information is shared exclusively with BMF members.  However, two years ago three new questions were added to provide greater insight into gender diversity, youth recruitment and employee churn rates.  With a second year of data to hand we are now able to track progress in these areas.  

    The greatest change is seen in the number of apprentices employed by builders merchants. Nationally, apprentices made up 7.45% of the total merchant workforce at 30 April 2018, a significant increase from 1.12% reported in 2017.  This is particularly interesting as it contrasts markedly from the apprenticeship trend across all UK industry, where the number of new starts fell dramatically following the introduction of the new apprenticeship funding system in May 2017.  

    Whilst some found the new funding system challenging, the BMF embraced the opportunities it has afforded.  Firstly, by forming an accredited Apprenticeship Training Agency and launching BMF Apprenticeship Plus, which removes potential administrative hurdles making it easy for BMF members to take on apprentices in any job role.  In addition, along with the Electrical Distributors Association, the BMF championed the development of a new, industry specific Trade Supplier Apprenticeship Standard - the first developed by our industry for our industry. Launched earlier this year, it is already on course to become the merchant sector’s primary Level 2 qualification.  

    We have not analysed why merchant apprenticeship numbers have risen so dramatically, but the increase in the number of relevant apprenticeship standards coupled with BMF’s administrative support services may well be a factor in encouraging more merchants to recruit apprentices and upskill staff.  

    Diversity in merchanting  

    The 2017 survey uncovered a wide disparity between the number of men and women working in the merchant sector, an 85:15 male:female employment ratio. The 2018 data results showed a small improvement to a ratio of 81:19 male:female. This was largely driven by the results in London and the South East, where women now account for around 25% of merchant employees.   

    Before we start celebrating, we should bear in mind that women currently make up 47% of the total UK workforce.   

    Women are significantly under-represented in the construction industry as a whole, yet it is still surprising that the gender gap is so great in merchanting, which is essentially a service industry. One possible reason is that many women don’t imagine themselves in any aspect of construction in the first place, so don’t apply for jobs in merchanting.  It is down to the industry to make itself more attractive to a wider cross section of the population, possibly by offering more flexible contracts.  This is an area that we will be looking at closely again next year.

    Employee churn  

    The survey also considered employee churn rates for the second consecutive year.  The BMF’s 2018 national figure of 20% leaving their job during the year is higher than the 18.7% reported in 2017, but remains lower than the UK’s all-industry average labour turnover rate of 23%. [*Source: Labour turnover rates 2017 published by XpertHR]  

    Employee churn can be seen as a positive indicator. Voluntary labour turnover rates can be a reflection of growing confidence in both the UK’s economic performance and employers’ optimism in recruitment.  However, if the churn level becomes too great it can lead to skills shortages, which is why we need to encourage more young people, both male and female, into the industry.  In particular, we must do more to change women’s perceptions about the industry.  The BMF is doing this in our Youth Employment campaign, which features a number of female role models, but more action throughout the industry is clearly necessary.  

    The BMF’s Remuneration Report is one of many business reports and services provided to members, who include both merchants and their suppliers.

    To find out more about the full benefits of membership and how to join the BMF click here, email: info@bmf.org.uk or phone us on 02476 854980.    


    This article appeared in the September 2018 edition of Builders Merchants Journal (BMJ)
    Richard Ellithorne, BMF Membership Services Director talks about the BMF’s annual Remuneration Survey covering the 12 months ending April 2018 provides some interesting insights into the merchant industry. One of the most positive is a huge leap in t

    Learning in action

    18 September 2018
    by BMF Training & Events



    Mastermerchant champions, Chandlers Building Supplies accept their trophyOne of the quickest ways to learn more about yourself and the team around you is to be thrown in at the deep end. Which is just what the BMF’s annual Mastermerchant Challenge is designed to simulate.   

    Mastermerchant is a fun event with a serious purpose as the competition helps colleagues learn more about each other’s strengths and skills and what can be accomplished through teamwork.  

    The 2018 competition, held over a weekend in the Lake District, involved a range of challenges that tested the communication and problem-solving ability and physical perseverance of teams drawn from builders merchants and suppliers across the country.   For the second year running, “The Merchants of Menace” – otherwise known as Pierre Krause, Trevor Mudd, Kayleigh Sinclair and Sean Sinclair - from Chandlers Building Supplies emerged as the overall winners, with Alumasc taking the Super Supplier Award as the top performing supplier, their team comprising Pete Wainer, Wayne Willmott, Damascus Msumba and Pete Hickman.  

    But this really is a competition where everyone attending wins as they not only develop their problem-solving skills – by playing to the strengths of every team member – they also build stronger bonds with members of their own team and make new friends from across the country.  Which explains why so many participants can’t wait to do it all again.  

    The weekend event is organised by management development company Stephen Lee Associates, who specialise in helping both teams and individuals to unlock their potential to help achieve organisational goals, as Stephen himself explains: “It’s easy to work hard, but sometimes you need to step back to really see whether team members are being effective as well as industrious. Mastermerchant is essentially a programme of enjoyable challenges where teams quickly learn to observe the way they work together and begin to spot improvements that can be made in their method and approach to these tasks.”  

    Michelle Moulds of Beers Timber & Building Supplies, who took part for the first time says she will take valuable lessons back to her day job.   “We were thrown in with another merchant for our very first challenge to work as a team of eight on the ghyll scramble. We learned to develop trust and how to work with new people unexpectedly. We developed relationships with suppliers and with other merchants and see them not as competition but as allies for information sharing and teamwork in the future.”  

    On one of the hottest weekends of the year, the teams were thankful that many of the tasks involved getting wet – if only to cool down.  

    Congratulating the winners and all those taking part BMF CEO John Newcomb said: “Whatever the weather – sunshine or storm clouds - this is a fantastic teambuilding event and I’m delighted that so many teams from merchant and supplier members take part every year. I would also like to thank IOBM for their sponsorship this year and, of course Stephen Lee Associates for devising such an ingenious range of challenges.”  

    To find out more about next year’s Mastermerchant challenge please contact June Upton at june.upton@bmf.org.uk or any aspect of BMF training, contact Paige Godsell at paige.godsell@bmf.org.uk or call 02456 854980. BMF training ranges from formal Apprenticeships and sector-specific Diplomas, Degrees and a Masters Degrees in Merchant Leadership and Strategy, to on-line product knowledge and other specialist skills training.  


    Pictured: Mastermerchant champions, Chandlers Building Supplies accept their trophy L-R: Peter Hindle MBE (BMF Chairman), team members Pierre Krause, Kayleigh Sinclair, Trevor Mudd & Sean Sinclair, and Allan Durning (IoBM President)  


    This article appeared in the September 2018 edition of Professional Builders Merchant (PBM)
    One of the quickest ways to learn more about yourself and the team around you is to be thrown in at the deep end. Which is just what the BMF’s annual Mastermerchant Challenge is designed to simulate.

    Metro Mayors want more devolution 

    Brett AmphlettBy Brett Amphlett, BMF Policy & Public Affairs Manager
    4 September 2018  


    At this time of the annual party political conferences, leaving aside Brexit, the single most pressing problem for government is the need to boost output, employment and educational achievement in poorer performing regions, compared to London and the South East - the so-called ‘productivity puzzle’.   

    The Mayors  

    Away from London, the BMF likes to keep track of regional policy. Central to this is devolution of powers and funds to cities, especially the eight with a directly-elected Metro Mayor:  

    • Ben Houchen - Tees Valley - Conservative
    • Dan Jarvis MP - Sheffield City Region - Labour
    • Andy Burnham - Greater Manchester - Labour
    • Steve Rotheram - Liverpool City Region - Labour
    • Andy Street - West Midlands - Conservative
    • James Palmer - Cambridgeshire and Peterborough - Conservative
    • Sadiq Khan - London - Labour
    • Tim Bowles - West of England - Conservative. 

    These regions account for nearly 42% of all economic growth, covering 21 million residents.  

    Brett Amphlett, BMF Policy and Public Affairs’ Manager, explains current thinking and highlights what might be next below:  

    The debate  

    The BMF sometimes advances its members’ interests via think tanks. This summer, we were delighted to discuss further devolution in England with some of those involved. The first occasion was thanks to Devo Connect, who organised a debate in the House of Commons to answer the question: where next for English devolution?  

    Jim McMahon, Labour MP for Oldham West, is Party Spokesperson on Devolution and Cities. James Palmer was directly elected as Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough in May 2017. In a spirited debate, topics included:  

    • the North is a victim of a disinterested government in London that neither understands nor has strong roots in northern town and cities
    • over-reliance on Council Tax and business tax to pay for investment in public services
    • the devolution genie is out of the bottle and there can be no going back
    • policy must play to England’s strengths and reflect regional identity
    • Westminster makes devolved areas fight each other for funding and patronage
    • current policy is only decentralisation, not real devolution.  

    Most of the participants agreed that some form of fiscal devolution was the next logical step.  

    The BMF posed a conundrum for politicians. In September and October, the Party Conferences take place. In November, the Chancellor of the Exchequer reveals his Budget. In December, it is Christmas so the question was “what single thing did each speaker want for Xmas from London?”  

    Intriguingly, only James Palmer answered. He wants control of Apprenticeship Levy funds that employers do not spend, and skills policy for 16-19 year olds.  

    The agenda  

    The second occasion was when Cllr Sir Richard Leese appeared at Warwick Business School in the Shard by London Bridge Station. At an invitation-only Centre for Cities event, the BMF joined Sir Richard, Leader of Manchester City Council, to discuss the urban revival of his city over the last 25 years. Cllr Leese has met the BMF several times after their first encounter in June 2009 at the Greenbuild Expo in the G-Mex.  

    For a Labour politician, he was generous to praise two Conservatives who did a lot to help revive northern cities: Michael Heseltine in the 1980s and George Osborne in the 2010s.  

    The BMF asked Sir Richard the same question “What do you want for Manchester as a Xmas present from Whitehall?” He responded "full devolution of the post-16 skills budget and flexibility to use surplus Apprenticeship Levy if not spent by employers."   

    The scale  

    These occasions echo views given to the BMF by Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, when he visited the BMF office in Coventry. Improving skills is a huge challenge, and Mr Street wants funding and flexibility to make apprenticeships succeed. As Andy develops a Local Industrial Strategy, he aims to bring government and employers together to improve skills in the West Midlands. His biggest priority for his second year as Mayor is to help people gain skills to get well-paid jobs. 

    Official figures obtained by the BMF show the West Midlands has a shortage of skilled workers. The proportion of highly-skilled people in the region is about 15% below the England average. One in every eight people in the West Midlands have no qualifications.  

    Mayor Street’s view chimes with the BMF’s. Parents must be encouraged that university is not always the right choice for their child. Without proper careers guidance, the risk is that young people are channelled into a career that may prove to be the wrong choice. Students leave university with no guarantee of a job and a £40,000 student loan to repay. They could instead join a business like those of our members, that offers meaningful jobs and rewarding careers for people of all ages.  

    Next steps 

    Devolution for housing and planning, education and skills, and transport and infrastructure, is happening. BMF members would be foolish not to make the most of what devolution offers the housing and home improvement markets the BMF serves.  

    That is why John Newcomb and Brett Amphlett are at the Party Conferences to lobby mayors and local authority leaders to explain the role, value and importance of merchants and manufacturers - and the Federation itself - to deliver for local communities.   

    For more information please contact Brett Amphlett at brett.amphlett@bmf.org.uk.    


    This article appeared in the autumn 2018 edition of One Voice  
    Metro Mayors want more devolution by Brett Amphlett, BMF Policy & Public Affairs Manager. At this time of the annual party political conferences, leaving aside Brexit, the single most pressing problem for government is the need to boost output, empl

    Five key things builders’ merchants should know about health and safety

    John SouthallBy John Southall, CEO at Southalls (BMF Safety Plus Service providers)
    28 August 2018  


    By necessity, builders merchants tend to be more savvy than most when it comes to health and safety practice – after all, the average merchant will be inspected typically every 2 years by an Environmental Health Officer and left with a report of legal contraventions to remedy or best practice recommendations. In addition to insurance company requirements, civil claims and customer feedback to keep you on your toes.

    But this approach is reactive not proactive and over the past couple of years, a lot has changed. From the introduction of new sentencing guidelines in February 2016, the consultation for updated manslaughter sentencing guidelines, regulatory updates, HSE priority topics, through to Brexit preparations, health and safety for builders merchants has been under the spotlight like never before.  

    Here are five key things that every merchant builder should know about health and safety in the present day.  

    1. HARSHER PENALTIES ON BUSINESSES


    The ‘new’ Sentencing guidelines introduced in February 2016 have revolutionised the way health and safety offences are prosecuted and the resultant fines. Offending businesses are now much more likely to be receive substantial fines (based upon turnover), imprisonment of an individual, or insolvency of a business.  

    Sentencing guidelines for gross negligence manslaughter have also been reviewed with a proposal to increase jail terms for gross negligence manslaughter in line with other manslaughter offences i.e. to increase the term up to as much as 18 years.  

    With these harsher penalties affecting all businesses, this brings into sharp focus, the requirement to properly manage health and safety and compliance in the workplace and not merely pay lip service.  

    2. THE MOST COMMON TYPES OF INJURY AND ACCIDENTS

    Between 2016 and 2017, 137 workers were killed, with top risks being: struck by a moving vehicle (31 per cent); falls from a height (25 per cent); and being struck by a moving object (20 per cent).  

    The most common accidents and injuries in merchants are still related to workplace transport movements i.e. forklift trucks or reversing vehicles striking customers or employees. Further to these falls from height, typically staff falling from the back of flat-bed lorries or falling stock are common place in addition to manual handing injuries and slips and trips.  

    An awareness of these key hazards and the risk management processes to control them is essential to help merchant owners focus attention, investment and training in the proper areas.  

    3. RAISING THE BAR WITH STAFF WELFARE

    The bar is rising. More and more builders merchants are going beyond meeting the minimum legal requirements and looking to achieve best practice standards. Focusing not just on the obvious safety hazards but looking further into staff health and welfare.  

    Good merchant owners and managers are now taking extra care to ensure staff welfare in the following areas:  

    Hard hats with chin straps
    As mentioned above, accidents involving drivers falling from the back of lorries still causes concern for merchants. For some years now, we’ve been moving the industry forward, making working on the back of flat-bed lorries safer by encouraging the wearing of hard hats with chin straps when drivers access the lorry bed.  

    Seatbelts on forklift trucks
    It was once adequate to determine forklift truck seatbelt wearing dependent upon a risk assessment and ultimately risk of overturn. Whilst there has been no specific law published stating seatbelts must be worn on forklift trucks, recent events have changed things. A number of recent court cases have set a precedent stating the requirements falls under the general duty to your staff in The Health and Safety at Work etc Act and under the Management of Health and Safety Regulations. It is therefore no longer considered appropriate for a forklift truck driver to operate a forklift without wearing a seatbelt.  

    Consider sun safety in warmer months
    If employees are working outside in the warmer months, exposure to the sun’s UV rays can potentially result in burns or an increased risk of skin cancer. Some merchants are now providing a stock of sunscreen (minimum factor 20) and advising yard staff and drivers to use it.  

    Update essential first-aid equipment
    Having a qualified first-aider and fully-equipped first aid kit is mandatory, but providing an automated external defibrillator (AED) can be potentially lifesaving. We are starting to see merchants introduce these into branches and already we know of one life that has been saved!

    4. PROMOTING A CULTURE CHANGE

    Effective risk management in a merchant is influenced by the behaviour of individuals. The root cause of accidents can often be traced back to unsafe behaviours. Put simply, it’s not enough to provide safe equipment, systems and procedures if the culture doesn’t encourage healthy and safe working.  

    The challenge is how to develop a positive safety culture. Culture develops slowly over time and requires 3 key elements:  

    Implementing working practices and rules for effectively controlling hazards
    Management leading by example with a positive attitude towards risk management and compliance
    The capacity to learn from accidents, near misses and safety performance indicators and bring about continual improvement.  

    By acting safely workers can start to think safely.  

    5. CLOUD – BASED TECHNOLOGY TO THE RESCUE

    As we move into a digital age, increased reliance upon IT and cloud-based systems, allows a proactive approach to risk management to be achieved.  

    Unlike traditional IT systems, cloud-based software is very scalable and affordable. Your software provider manages all the hosting and maintenance of the underlying infrastructure, so you can focus on getting the most out of the technology for your merchant. This means there are no large upfront hardware or licensing costs. Instead, you pay a subscription based on the number of users and you’ll always have access to the latest version of the software. As you add branches, your cloud software can grow with you, just add more users as and when you need.  

    Cloud-based management software frees up merchants to adopt a modern proactive approach to health and safety. Its built-in support for mobile technology makes it ideal for connecting and engaging today’s workforce. It brings together all your health and safety documentation in one place and helps you manage it in a way that supports day-to-day operations, adding value to your business.  

    To discover how Southalls can transform safety standards across your business, book a free consultation with one of our sector specialists. You can also find out more about Southalls tailored solutions for Builders Merchants here.  


    To read more about BMF Safety Plus Service click here
    John Southall, CEO at Southalls, BMF Plus Service Provider talks about how , by necessity, builders merchants tend to be more savvy than most when it comes to health and safety

    The Government's Clean Air Zone plans - a breath of fresh air?  

    by Richard Ellithorne, Membership Services Director
    21 August 2018


    Richard EllithorneLast year the Government published plans to tackle roadside nitrogen dioxide concentrations, which included a requirement for Birmingham, Nottingham, Derby, Leeds and Southampton City Councils to introduce Clean Air Zones from January 2020. The Councils are required to submit a full business case by 15 September 2018 after local consultations this summer.  

    Essentially, the new zones are designed to improve air quality as quickly as possible to comply with the law. In cities where charging is applied, only vehicles that meet current emissions standards – Euro 4 for petrol. Euro 6 for diesel – will not have to pay a daily charge.  Hybrid, electric and LPG engine vehicles will also not have to pay.  

    Clean Air Zones (CAZ) are a particular problem for merchants as, unlike buses, coaches and taxis, merchants have little or no choice but to use diesel HGVs to move heavy materials.  Electric vehicles are not yet a realistic option, though this may change in the future.   

    The BMF has been focussing its campaign to minimise the impact on businesses that do not have Euro VI/6 diesel HGVs, and in some cities, vans.  Lobbying of government ministers and a number of councils tis underway to persuade them not to penalise members unfairly.  The BMF puts the case for more time to enable members to make the necessary operational changes, together with discounts or temporary exemptions for SMEs based in or near a new CAZ, plus funding or tax changes to help replace old lorries, trucks and vans with cleaner, greener models.”  

    In June, Leeds and Birmingham City Councils unveiled their formal public consultations – which the BMF along with other bodies such as the Freight Transport Association are studying closely to assemble their responses.   The presumption is that older polluting HGVs are likely to face £50-£100 daily charges, and in some instances LGV’s will pay £12.50.  

    However, there is some positive news.  It seems that Leeds has listened to the concerns that the BMF expressed.  The proposed boundary of the city’s CAZ has been adjusted and remains a category B, which means that van users will not be affected.  The charge for older HGVs entering the zone will be £50 a day, half that of London.  

    Birmingham’s planned CAZ is also smaller than anticipated, covering the areas inside the Middle Ring Road, but will apply to all private and commercial vehicles.  

    Meanwhile, Southampton is consulting on a city-wide Category B CAZ, which again exempts vans, charging non-compliant HGVs up to £100 a day to enter.  

    The BMF hopes to have more news in time for the BMF Members’ Day Annual Conference on 27 September.  

    Transport Manager CPC  

    BMF Transport Plus providers, Prompt Services, report that the Senior Traffic Commissioner has started a review of the Statutory Guidance and Directions documents which set out how the laws and regulations surrounding operator licensing are interpreted.  

    The most significant expected change is to the requirements of transport managers to maintain their professional knowledge.  Most builders merchants operate on a restricted licence and restricted operator licence holders will be required to demonstrate they have done so by undertaking two days of Certificate of Professional Competence refresher training every five years.    

    Direct Vision Standard

    Transport for London (TfL) is pressing ahead with the introduction of a Direct Vision Standard (DVS) for HGVs to improve safety for vulnerable road users, such as cyclists. The proposed DVS will use a star system to rate HGVs from 0 (lowest) to 5 (highest) based on how much the driver can see directly through their cab windows, as opposed to indirectly through cameras or mirrors.   

    The DVS is due to come into force next year and TfL has now released details of the star ratings for Euro VI HGVs.  However, HGV owners must contact their vehicle’s manufacturer for find out the rating for their particular model.  

    Further work is being carried out on ratings for Euro V and Euro iV vehicles, and we await more information from TfL on these older models.   This article was produced with assistance from Prompt Services, who provide BMF’s Transport Plus service.  

    If you would like to book a FREE transport health check, or to find out more about how BMF Transport Plus could benefit your business, please contact Prompt Training at sales@prompttraining.co.uk or 01773 850428, quoting your BMF membership number.  
    BMF Membership Services Director Richard Ellithorne talks about The Government’s Clean Air Zone plans - a breath of fresh air? Last year the Government published plans to tackle roadside nitrogen dioxide concentrations...

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