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Ability to adapt is vital as sector faces change

The key to success is often the ability to adapt. What was true for the dinosaurs long ago remains inescapably true for business today.

With so much change happening in our own sector, it is vital that we see and respond to the changes taking place around us. The important thing is to adapt quickly, and in human timescales rather than geological ones.

One of the most significant changes taking place in the building services sector is subtle and progressive, yet will be far-reaching and result in a complete reshaping of the industry.

I am talking about the convergence of the traditional building services trades. It has been happening for at least a decade, but recent developments have hastened the process.

The arrival of new materials and technologies is redefining the time-honoured skills required by our trades. For example, the emergence of plastics pipe means there is less reliance on traditional hot metal joining expertise.

The development of new technologies and approaches such as rainwater harvesting and solar energy, for example, opens up new sectors that cut across traditional boundaries and require a combination of skills from different disciplines.

The emergence of the heat pump as a major technology for both heating and cooling is arguably the most important development in a generation.

The skills required to install and service heat pumps cross conventional boundaries and training programmes. As the technology becomes mainstream, it could effectively redefine the trades that have traditionally catered for heating and cooling in buildings.

As well as new skills sets and trade definitions, this means a new training framework, new professional bodies and new assessment procedures. It also requires changes in the supply chain to ensure that the right mix of new and traditional products is available to support the change.

For our part, Wolseley is well positioned to manage this new “cross discipline” approach, with all sectors sharing a common logistics and business platform.

This is already resulting in ground-breaking new ways of working, as evidenced by the ‘total m&e offering’ now emerging and the ability to act as a one-stop supplier to major contractors.

Scott Craig is sales and marketing director of Pipe Center and Climate Center, which is the headline sponsor for the 2011 HVN Awards