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How a Business Answering Service Can Improve Your Construction Business

If you’re the owner of a construction company or a construction manager, you’ll be familiar with the challenge of balancing on-site responsibilities with the demands of runnin g a business. Small businesses often struggle to make the budget stretch to cover all the resources they need; effective prioritisation is key.

A business answering service may seem like a luxury, but here’s why we think it’s an essential investment that will deliver results and make life easier in the short and long term.

Never Miss a Call or Lose Important Details
Construction sites are noisy places and it’s often impossible to respond professionally to incoming calls or even to hear the phone ring. Answering a mobile phone on-site can also seriously compromise Health and Safety.

A business answering service allows calls to divert to different phone numbers or locations, be that a mobile phone, landline or voicemail. This process can be controlled manually — for example, if you are momentarily or unexpectedly unavailable — or you can set up scheduled calling, so calls divert between specific times, for instance, out of office hours.

Redirecting calls ensures customers always receive a professional response and are promptly connected to the most appropriate individual to handle their query. This not only avoids the dangerous use of mobile phones on-site, keeping staff safe, but it also improves customer experience. All of which is likely to lead to more business, repeat custom and an excellent company reputation.

Manage Peak Periods Efficiently

Most companies in the construction industry fall into the “SME” or Small to Medium Enterprise category. SMEs in the industry make up 20% of all of the UK’s SMEs. This means many construction companies lack the resources to set up a physical office or to hire a receptionist. As a result, construction managers, business owners or other senior staff members are left to juggle business calls with on-site duties. This may work during quiet times, but in peak periods calls will be missed or dropped and business will be lost.

A business answering service or virtual receptionist costs a fraction of employing a full-time staff member and ensures a consistent level of service. During peak times, the phone system can effectively and efficiently handle calls, meaning on-site work continues uninterrupted and customers aren’t left hanging.

Build and Maintain Positive Working Relationships Relationships

Small construction companies tend to rely on a network of professionals and partners to deliver the comprehensive service customers expect. SMEs often lack the budget to employ a team that can offer the breadth of experience required to complete projects satisfactorily. They make use of subcontractors, surveyors, suppliers and partners with
relevant trade experience to help them deliver results within agreed deadlines.

The success of such networks and partnerships relies on trust and reliability. If a subcontractor repeatedly struggles to make contact with your company to gain the necessary support, advice or approvals they need to keep a project moving, they will soon move on to a competitor. A business answering service ensures important calls are never missed and information reaches the appropriate person in a timely fashion. This
supports the development and maintenance of effective working relationships between professionals.

Enhance the Reputation of Your Company

In the UK, there is an unpleasant stereotype of builders and construction workers — they are often seen as unreliable “cowboys” who need to be avoided or carefully monitored.

The Federation of Master Builders estimates that such unscrupulous operators cost the UK economy £10bn a year.

SMEs in the construction industry must work hard to build a positive reputation and prove their worth. A crucial element of building trust with clients is to keep the lines of communication open. If a project falls behind, the worst thing you can do is hide away and leave the client to make up their mind about what’s going on. An answering service ensures clients always have a way to get in touch.

The system can also be used to signpost help and support when staff are unavailable to take a call — for example, sharing the details of a FAQ page or relevant information pages on the company website.

Construction companies do not deal in small-ticket items. They are not selling hair dryers or clothing. Clients have generally invested a significant sum of money — not to mention time and effort — in the project they have engaged your services to complete. They will be understandably frustrated and dissatisfied if they cannot get in touch and are denied
regular project updates.

How to Find the Right Business Answering Service

A business answering service has many benefits for construction companies, from improving customer service and enhancing company reputation to building business networks that will help your business thrive. But how do you choose the right one for your business

Choose a company with experience and a good reputation — How long has the business been in operation? Do they have positive testimonials on respected review sites like Trustpilot?

Make sure the service can scale with your business — You may not need the
most advanced features now, but next year, or the year after, who knows?

Avoid having to switch providers and learn a new system as the business grows by finding a service that offers more than you need currently.

Do they offer a payment plan that suits the budget? — Don’t pay for a host of features you’ll never use. Look for a provider that offers a variety of plans and choose the one that best suits your current business needs.

Is the provider UK based? — Choose a provider located in the same country as your business. You don’t want to be unable to reach customer service in a crisis because they operate in a different time zone.

Do they offer a free trial? — It’s difficult to judge a system until you’ve tried it.

Look for providers that allow you to try before you buy.

Look for added value — Can they offer additional services such as 0800
numbers, or live PAs that may add value to the service?

How easy is it to get up and running? —Is the signup process lengthy and
complex? Is there a long waiting period before you can “go live”?

Any new investment is daunting for an SME. However, a business answering service is relatively low-cost and low-commitment that could transform your business.

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Construction Site Safety Guide: 5 Things You Need to Know

Construction Site Safety Guide: 5 Things You Need to Know

Almost one construction worker is injured every day around the world when trying to perform their daily duties. It is a dangerous profession that comes with a lot of risks. However, this does not mean you cannot make sure you are safe when on the job. There are more than enough guidelines and regulations that you can follow to guarantee your safety as a construction worker. The following are directions you can follow to make sure of your safety.

  1. Use the Right Protective Gear
    It is essential to wear the right clothes for the job. As a construction worker, this mostly means you put on protective gear. Protective gear could be the difference between getting hurt or not. The following are examples where having the right type of dressing can make a huge difference.

• If you are involved in installing manufactured stone and natural stones such as quartz and granite, you are at risk of silica exposure. Therefore, you must wear breathing masks when installing such material to make your work does not affect your health.
• If you are working on a slippery surface, make sure to wear rubber footwear to prevent you from falling.
• Use a back brace in case you are lifting heavy objects. This way, you will prevent back pains, which could be fatal.

  1. Ensure You Are Safe Loading and Unloading Equipment
    It does not matter which construction site you working on; there is always a chance that a piece of equipment could roll over. This way, it is essential the ramps you use are cleared and straight. You should also make sure there is enough space between you and the equipment in case something goes wrong.
    A good example is when you are unloading stone slabs such as marble and granite. Natural stones are shipped in with wood supports, to prevent them from shifting positions inside the container. When the slabs arrive at the site, employees unloading them have to orderly remove the supports to prevent them from being trapped or crashed from unanticipated shifts of the stones.
    Make sure you get guidance when unloading the equipment. You could do this using help from a co-worker.
  2. Be Careful When Climbing on and off Equipment
    It is a common incident to fall off or gets stuck on a piece of equipment when trying to climb or alight. If such an event occurs, it can cause serious harm. Because of this, there are a few steps recommended for construction workers to avoid fatal injuries.

• When climbing on a piece of equipment, make sure your boots are free of mud.
• You should also ensure you are wearing gloves to make sure you have a decent grip when you grab on.
• It is also essential to have a three-point stance; this will prevent you from losing your footing at any given time.
• Make sure you never stretch to grab onto a handle or try to get on or off a piece of equipment when you are carrying something.
• Never jump off a piece of equipment; this is one of the most common ways construction workers get hurt.

  1. Be Mindful of Your Surrounding
    Construction sites are one of the busiest places you will find out there. You might be having a break, but some work could still be underway on the other side. Because of this, it is essential to be aware of your surroundings at all times.
    No one ever imagines that an accident can occur when they are taking some time off to catch their breath. But one moment of unawareness may lead to an individual getting hit on the head by a falling object or getting run over by a machine.
  2. Be Cautious When Climbing a Ladder or Stairs
    If you are a frequent climber of a ladder or stairs, then there are precautions you need to take to make sure of your safety.

• Make sure to inspect the ladder or stairs before you step on them.
• Check for weak links or broken parts.
• Make sure the ladders or stairs is clean, and never use a metal ladder when it is rainy, or the conditions are wet.
• Use aerial lifts, if available for they are a safer option compared to a ladder.
• When picking up your ladder, pick one that is three or four steps taller than the location you want to reach.
• Move the ladder as you work, never try to overreach, as it can easily lead to an accident.
• When climbing and descending, keep your hands free, keeping all the tools in the tool belt.

Final Thought
The above are safety tips that are meant to make sure everyone is safe in a construction site. While they might seem like common practices, they are still frequently ignored by most employees. Every worker needs to realize that accidents happen, and everything they do can potentially lead to an accident. Therefore, they need to be keen at all times.

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Go-ahead for £175m Cumbrian deep coal mine

Plans for the first deep coal mine to be built in the UK for decades will go ahead after the government decided not to intervene.

Mining facilities will be housed in domed structures to reduce their impact on the landscape

The £175m mine project to be known as Woodhouse Colliery got the thumbs up from the local council in May, but was called in by Government for further scrutiny.

Radical designs for surface infrastructure on a brownfield site near Whitehaven in West Cumbria will minimise any potential impact from noise, dust and light.

Construction phases are expected to start in early 2020 with deep coal mining starting 24 months later.

WCM will move mined coal via a buried 2.2km long conveyor to a train loading facility, with its own dedicated siding, on the Cumbria Coast railway line.

Once Woodhouse Colliery moves into the operational phase, the company plans to extract and process around 2.5 million tonnes of high-quality coal for use in the steel industry.

A spokesman for the minining firm said: “West Cumbria Mining is delighted that the Government has agreed with Cumbria County Council’s unanimous decision to approve the planning application for the project.

“WCM can now start the process of delivering on its plan to build one of the most modern mines in the world.”

The buildings have been designed to look very different to mining sites of the past and are low level, buried or visually screened to reduce impacts to an absolute minimum.

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Government pumps £30m into modular house builder

The Government has handed Yorkshire-based ilke Homes £30m to drive up factory housing production.

Each home that rolls off the production line is fully accredited by Britain’s major insurers and lenders

Homes England’s cash injection will be used to turbo-charge production at the firm’s Knaresborough production facility.

It will allow the house builder to hire more local people and scale up capacity by 150% from 2,000 to 5,000 homes a year.

This will make ilke Homes a top 10 house builder.

Funding will see production scaled up from two to eight homes per day bringing down costs

Due to the build quality and airtightness, ilke’s homes are 20% more energy-efficient than traditionally built new builds and create 90% less waste.

Ilke Homes has begun rolling out zero-carbon homes across the country, as the race to net-zero continues to stimulate improved sustainability in the construction industry.

Housing minister Esther McVey said:“The North of England has the potential to lead the world in the modern methods of construction that are transforming home building.

“An industry that when matured would be worth £40bn a year and provide up to 80,000 jobs. We need to fully embrace this.

“This £30m investment in ilke Homes is a significant step forwards in the development of the ‘Construction Corridor’ – a new hub in the North that is front and centre of building the homes we need.

“It’s vital we invest in new technology to get Britain building. Homes built using modern methods can be of higher quality, greener and built to last.”

Back in May, ilke Homes agreed the UK’s largest ever modular housing deal with Places for People for 750 homes.

Recently, ilke Homes launched an onsite academy dedicated to training up a new generation of engineers to manufacture modular homes.

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Heathrow expansion to pilot component tracking system

Heathrow Airport will use cutting-edge technology to track in real-time millions of components destined for its major runway expansion project.

New Siemens system will enable real-time tracking of components needs to deliver three runway expansion

The airport operator said the new tracking system would transform the way that major infrastructure is delivered in the UK.

Its four logistic hub sites, which will be selected from a shortlist of bidders next year, will be hooked-up to the new centralised system to keep the incredibly complex expansion project moving.

This will allow a network of separate offsite construction centres to work in unison throughout construction.

The technology is being introduced by Siemens Digital Logistics, which pitched the system as part of the Heathrow Innovation Partners process.

This saw more than 150 supply chain businesses submit ideas on how expansion could be delivered more efficiently and affordably.

Now Siemens Digital Logistics has been selected as one of the businesses that will see its idea become integral to the airport’s offsite strategy.

Since 2017, the airport has been looking for communities keen to become Logistics Hubs, construction centres that pre-assemble parts of the expanded airport offsite before transporting them to west London in consolidated loads just as they are needed.

Emma Gilthorpe, Executive Director of Heathrow Expansion said: “Expansion secured the overwhelming support of MPs across the country because it was clear that the project would deliver for every region in the UK.

“This announcement sees two exciting opportunities coming together, as we green light a ground-breaking solution from an Innovation Partner with the final step in our search for Expansion Logistics Hubs.”

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Belgian plasterboard giant to build £140m Bristol factory

Belgian construction material group Etex is planning to build a £140m plasterboard factory in Bristol.

New factory will be built next to the existing plant in Bristol Port

Etex Building Performance, the dry construction arm of the group, will develop an advanced plasterboard manufacturing facility for its Siniat brand at the Royal Portbury Dock in Bristol Port, adding significantly to its production capacity in the UK.

A brownfield industrial site has been secured close to its existing plant, maximising its ability to import raw materials sustainably along the Bristol Channel.

Subject to planning Etex hopes to start production in 2022 and once operating at capacity, the new plant will double its Bristol-based production of certain plasterboard products.

The company’s two existing plants at Bristol and Ferrybridge will continue to operate.

The investment is Etex’s largest single capital investment to date in the UK which boasts Europe’s largest plasterboard market.

The new facility will serve Siniat’s customers across the UK, including projects in the residential, commercial and renovation sectors, and will manufacture the company’s full plasterboard product range.

Neil Ash, head of Etex Building Performance (North West Europe), said: “This commitment to the UK construction market will not only provide our customers with better service and reliability of supply, it will also enable us to capitalise on a growing plasterboard market as clients recognise the productivity benefits that lightweight construction offers.

“Investing in this added capacity also strengthens our ability to develop superior building material systems for our UK customers, helping to create high-performing buildings that meet the needs of the people who use them.”

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ENGIE Chosen for £60million Rotherham Council contract

Energy and services specialist ENGIE has been appointed to provide a £60million repairs and maintenance service on behalf of Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council.

The contract, which begins on 1st April 2020, will see ENGIE provide responsive repairs, adaptations, void works and estate management services to 9,800 homes across the south of the borough. In addition, ENGIE will also provide gas, mechanical and electrical maintenance work and a number of capital improvement schemes across the wider Rotherham area.

The contract will begin with an initial duration of five years, which would be extended to a further five years dependent on high performance.

It is expected that the work programme will create more than 100 apprenticeships for local people, over the ten-year period, as well as 40 new jobs and more than 90 work experience placements for young people. ENGIE has also committed to a number of engagement opportunities with local schools, colleges and universities.

Martin Smithurst, Divisional Chief Operating Officer at ENGIE UK, said: “We are very pleased to have been chosen to form this exciting partnership with Rotherham Council. We have a proven track record of providing an excellent repairs and maintenance service, as well as helping our partners address their housing, social value and climate emergency-related priorities, and I’m sure that this programme will be no different.

“ENGIE has a long history of working within the borough, so it’s great that we can continue to do that through this partnership. We look forward to working with our partners for many more years to come to create, improve and maintain homes and places across Rotherham.”

Councillor Dominic Beck, Cabinet Member for Housing at Rotherham Council, said: “The repairs and maintenance delivery providers we appoint are extremely important and I am confident we have recruited an excellent partner in ENGIE with a strong track record.

“We are delighted to award one of the Council’s housing repairs and maintenance contracts to a company that has shown they have the highest standards of service delivery which in turn will mean our tenants enjoy high-quality accommodation. Another key factor in the tender process was that the successful companies must demonstrate how they will add social value to the community.

“We want to work with companies that give back to the communities that they work in, who promote a borough where people can grow, flourish and prosper, and strengthen the skills of the local workforce and support people into jobs.”

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Building an Intelligent Workplace

Today, smart buildings are becoming more dynamic and tailored to individual requirements, specifically within the office space. The ability to work remotely from just about anywhere has put pressure on building owners to provide a desirable environment and service. With the traditional set up no longer enough, the workspace is enduring dramatic changes and altering the nature of work and what we once knew as ‘the office’. And with Gartner predicting that the greatest source of competitive advantage for 30% of organisation’s over the next few years will be their ability to creatively exploit the digital workplace, the pressure is on for businesses and building owners alike to invest their time and resources into the latest technologies.

Employee Expectations

Office expectations are changing. We are now seeing an increasing number of employees working outside of the office and customising their workspace to meet their needs. Current research reveals that millennials would be willing to take a pay cut to work in a nicer office, likewise would also consider quitting over the fact that their workplace is either outdated or inefficient. In light of this, it is increasingly important for employers to keep up with the rapidly changing demand of employees in order to stay competitive when attracting and retaining talent.

The office is now expected to be a work-life experience; and keeping up with the digital culture plays a large part in this change, as does flexibility in terms of workflow and the physical space. Designed to foster creativity and create a healthier work environment, workspaces are now becoming more ‘aware’ through an ecosystem that allows buildings to dynamically adjust to the requirements of users who are both temporary and permanent, through the convergence of IT and Operational Technology (OT) such as building management systems, energy and space management. There is an expectation in place, and if existing or new companies don’t adapt, then they will fall behind.

Collaboration and Productivity

With 87% of employees worldwide still not engaged, and a lack of motivation and productivity proven to be linked to the office setting, companies need to rethink the role and purpose of the office and focus on providing a combination of streamlined communication and social collaboration.

Smart office design is blurring the lines between the traditional formal-informal setup, with more ad-hoc social spaces and areas designated specifically for socials or team building. Many companies are leading the way, revolutionising the way that offices function with shared office facilities and hot desks on a part-time or multi-lease basis. With desk layouts developed by algorithms instead of designers and spaces that can adapt to employees’ priorities and needs, companies are responding to the demand for mobility and flexible consumption in the modern digital workspace. By configuring open and closed spaces through noise-absorbing fabrics and glass doors, buildings are providing the privacy that comes from individual offices within an open plan setup, meaning that staff no longer need to be confined by physical walls.

Real-time collaboration has also become an extremely essential technology for offices, and it is IoT that defines it; fixed, portable and wearable devices are integrated into the design and interact with each other through a cloud-based network. Examples of this include fixed AV screens which can be controlled through a users phone, wafer-thin sensors that can detect occupancy, and indoor wayfinding platforms that help employees navigate office floor plans via smartphone. The scalable and robust solutions that IoT offers can enhance business efficiency, and most importantly, employee productivity.

Sustainability

With sustainability the hot-button topic, businesses are constantly working to meet the demands of a growing ecologically conscious marketplace. And with 72% of office workers revealing that a sustainable environment is important to them, embracing this move has become a competitive necessity. Through clever environmental design which optimises space, consumption and resources, smart offices can reduce the overall environmental impact and save money and resources along the way. From autonomous energy systems that shut off heating and lighting when rooms are vacant to systems that monitor and optimise the use of water and electricity, these offices can identify their most wasteful aspects and also lessen the pressure on the national grid. For new companies, integrating green from the beginning is the way to go, and for existing buildings, embedding strategic energy management as part of the business strategy will drive strategic business advantage as well as attract new employees, clients and business partners.

Making the Business Case

Smart buildings in themselves are a new revenue stream. But the cost of IoT implementation is frequently perceived as a barrier to its adoption and development, despite the cost-benefit analysis in the majority of cases presenting significant financial savings. Many smart offices are built from the ground, so existing workplaces need to be retrofitted. And although there is an upfront investment or cost to retrofit an existing building, once installed, additions such as optimised lighting make running these spaces much more cost-effective to the building owner. As a result, offering lower fees to the customer for an enhanced experience will be able to make the offer even more appealing.

Conclusion

People are the largest investment of an organisation, and as new technologies evolve to make their lives easier, safer and more comfortable it is important to look at which technologies will create the biggest impact to your office. The efficient, ease of use and cost-effective nature of what defines a smart office is what will drive both it’s growth and normality in the workspace. IoT is forcing its way into our business lives, and rather than waiting for the fad to pass by, it is imperative that companies keep up with the trend and innovate their working space, or they will risk falling behind.

Nick Sacke, Head of IoT and Products, Comms365

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