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Calls for industry-wide adoption of product traceability policy “growing too loud to ignore”

11 April 2023

DAME JUDITH Hackitt has once again called for product traceability to form part of regulatory measures designed to increase building standards and safety. Following on from the post-Grenfell Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety and the subsequent ‘Building a Safer Future’ report, Dame Judith has reiterated her recommendation for product identification to play a key role in the overall process.

Ross Matthews, head of sales at BSI Identify, commented: “This sends a further reminder to the building industry of the culture change needed to bring greater accountability to construction’s product specification and installation phases.”

Further, Matthews observed: “However, the building sector isn’t renowned for its ready embrace of practices designed to result in smarter and more efficient ways of working. Perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised, then, at the apparent reticence among some manufacturers to fully buy-in to the idea of product traceability, despite the undoubted clarity such a move brings to the supply chain as a whole.

Best Practice framework

Dame Judith’s latest statement on the importance of product identification in relation to Best Practice was given in her capacity as Chair of the International Building Quality Centre Working Group, which has created the Building Products Performance Good Practice Regulatory Framework.

Resulting from consultations with a coterie of global building products specialists, that framework provides a means for countries worldwide to assess and identity where its products-focused regulatory system could be improved.

Dame Judith has spoken of the “huge bearing” products have on a building’s safety performance. Although expecting the UK Government to follow the framework’s recommendations, Dame Judith has lamented the fact that measures designed to improve building protocols, such as product traceability, are not being adopted fast enough in general.

No more ‘building blind’

“Product traceability forms part of the framework’s assessment process,” continued Matthews, “which is good news for long-time advocates of the system as an example of Best Practice. In the UK, for too long we have been ‘building blind’, using products whose origins and performance remain a supply chain mystery. It’s a practice that fits with a ‘That’ll do’-style mindset that not only jeopardises structural integrity and building safety, but has left the UK with a property portfolio that’s among the least thermally efficient in Europe.”

According to Matthews, the fact that product identification hasn’t been enshrined in regulation shouldn’t deter manufacturers from adopting it, particularly so if doing the right thing by building owners and occupiers is a motivating factor.

“Why wouldn’t it be? In some ways, construction is a vocation as much as a profession. Many will have been driven to join the industry in order to make a positive difference to people’s lives and the environment.”

Regulators and competitors

Further, Matthews commented: “let’s be realistic. Profitable businesses are not driven by feats of altruism. Therefore, it's worth pointing out that early adopters of product traceability services will not only be one step ahead of the regulators, but they’ll also be stealing a march on somewhat less proactive competitors.”

Developers who have sensed the winds of change are already making product identification a requirement for building projects. This means traceability-compliant manufacturers will be more likely to circumnavigate the queue when it comes to ‘being in front’ of potential specifiers. It will also protect their assets from being swapped out at the installation stage.

In conclusion, Matthews stated: “There is much to recommend being on board with product identification before the regulators demand it. It will hallmark participating manufacturers as ambassadors of best building practice. From a reputational point of view, that’s an extremely good business process.”

*Further information is available online at https://identify.bsigroup.com/