As a motto by which to live life, the acronym KISS – “keep it simple, stupid!” – is as good a one as any to adopt. Avoiding unnecessary complication in life makes it easier to focus on what is important, and reduces the potential for confusion and mistakes.
Unfortunately, plenty of construction product manufacturers don’t think like that. Catalogues of product ranges often leave customers unsure as to the intended function of individual items – however easy the marketing departments of those companies think they have made it to understand.
Pick a board, any board
Take insulation: a company might have half a dozen or more boards that are foil faced on both sides. For many people, browsing products of apparently identical appearance, there is nothing to differentiate what those six or seven boards are designed to do – even though the application of each is very different.
The potential for that to create confusion in the supply chain can lead to all sorts of problems, from a day or two’s delay in getting the right product to site, through to - say - a building that can't be warrantied if the wrong product is unknowingly installed in a floor, wall or roof.
As designers, suppliers and contractors become more familiar with each other’s ways of working, and with the terminology used by manufacturers, then any associated risks should reduce. However, basic issues can still befall a project at any time.
Sticking with the example of roofs, a last minute change in the waterproofing specification might require a different insulation product. A supplier can run out of stock of a particular board, forcing alternatives to be considered in order to keep the construction schedule running to time.
Product substitutions, and associated lack of knowledge regarding the technical properties of different facings, are a significant contributor to the performance gap, the name given to the phenomenon of constructed buildings failing to meet the performance levels they were designed to achieve.
The performance gap is a serious issue for the construction industry to address if it wants to provide healthy and high quality buildings that will stand for decades and have the least possible impact on the environment.
Manufacturers can help the industry by introducing new products. Adding to existing catalogues does not sound like “keeping it simple” - unless more functions can be offered in a single product. That means a greater level of certainty, and simplicity, for specifiers, distributors and contractors.
In insulation terms, a multi-purpose board gives a construction project a reassuring element of flexibility. While nobody wants sudden or last minute changes that risk complicating on-site operations, knowing that spec alterations can be accommodated if necessary gives more confidence in the product being used.
That flexibility extends to stock control as well, meaning suppliers and distributors don’t need to balance quantities of different materials – hopefully meaning that product is available at the right time, in the right quantities.
The message is: simple
The focus on building performance and on-site practice is only going to increase in the coming years as more of the industry comes to terms with the performance gap. Product manufacturers, especially in insulation, have a role to play in rationalising existing ranges to make specification and construction easier, removing uncertainty and helping to speed up operations without compromising quality.