It’s been 45 years since George Challinor, the Operations Director at Bracknell Roofing, started his career in the construction industry, with the last 40 years in roofing. He talks to RCI about the landmark changes in that time, as well as offering a pearl of wisdom that has served him well since 1972.
It seems like it’s been the blink of an eye since I left school and started life as a Trainee Quantity Surveyor. After becoming a qualified QS, I joined Marley Contact Services and then Bracknell Roofing’s Nottingham branch back in mid-1986 – which isn’t bad, considering that I told myself I’d move on within a couple of years!
To say things have changed is an understatement. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t yearn for the ‘good old days’ – although it’s true that I could write a book on all the things I’ve seen in that time – but not all the changes have been for the better.
RCI asked me to pick out three of the biggest changes I’ve seen, and the first has to be dry fix.
When I think back to a time before dry fix, I shudder because our industry wasted so much time visiting and revisiting jobs because of the problems caused by traditional mortar fixings.
It’s been a slow evolution from the original dry verge fix as manufacturers continually improved their products and widened the scope to include ridge, hip and valley details. It’s also come of age, and product design and performance are about to be covered by a new dedicated British Standard. It does make me laugh when I talk to young contractors who’ve never known anything but dry fix and think that using mortar is something out of the Stone Age.
The use of dry fix has also gone hand in hand with the speed at which the whole industry now works – and roofers are the lynchpin for the construction of new houses because they’re under more pressure than ever to get the lid on developments so that housebuilders can get the other trades in and working safely. And that’s been another huge leap forward in the last few decades.
This is the highest priority of all issues in the workplace. Roofers work at heights in challenging conditions, and they have the right to work in a safe environment so that they can return home safely at the end of each day to their loved ones.
We have come a long way since I started in the industry. Some of my experiences from the early days beggar belief when compared with the very high standards in place today. However, thankfully, things started to improve soon after I joined the industry, and I think it’s fair to say that all sides of the industry have welcomed health and safety with open arms.
At Bracknell Roofing, I work with a team of more than 30 managers across England, overseeing around 300 roofers on site every day, and we’re proud of the fact that we have robust systems in place that go above and beyond – such as the fact that we’re in the process of ensuring that we have a NEBOSH-trained manager in place at every one of our branches. Our best practice ensures the safety of everyone who works for Bracknell Roofing and extends to cover everyone else onsite, giving a ‘belt-and-braces’ approach on top of what main contractors and housebuilders already have in place.
The third and final thing that has dramatically changed the lot of roofers (and everyone else) has been the mobile phone and more latterly the smartphone. It’s almost unimaginable now that there was a time when we had no contact with teams of roofers during the day. And if they did need to get in touch, they’d have to go and find a phone box to call the office.
Now that the world is at roofers’ fingertips, as well as the ability to have constant communications, there are a wealth of apps and online materials for any eventuality – from checking the status of deliveries to researching the fine print of standards or guarantees.
Whilst dry fix, health and safety, and the mobile phone have changed the industry for the better, the one thing that is still as important today as it was when I started is relationships.
The contacts on my phone are like a who’s who in the construction and housebuilding industry. That’s not me bragging but more to do with the fact that I’ve worked with a lot of good people over the years, and these relationships are pivotal to ensuring that contracts are delivered on time, on budget, to a high standard, and with as little disruption or as few problems as possible.
Forging good relationships is the key piece of advice that I’ve learned in my time in this industry, which I have loved and has served me well.
This article was first published in the January 2018 edition of RCI magazine.