A smarter approach to buying kitchens and bathrooms

The way in which landlords approach the purchasing and installation of kitchens and bathrooms will have a major effect on the effectiveness of their asset management strategy.

As well as having significant cost implications, choices made can impact on your organisation’s wider environmental sustainability goals, the quality of life for tenants and customer satisfaction.

Narinder Chahal, head of procurement at East of England based Flagship Group, believes the key to success lies in ensuring this critical area of spend is part of a smarter approach to procurement…

Plan ahead – whether you have the capacity in-house and only require supply or require supply & installation, this is a major area of spend and one where a programme setting out a cycle of replacements should be in place. I’m always surprised at the number of organisations that are fairly reactive and do not have a contract register in place. You need to put contracts onto one document and review it on a monthly basis. That will certainly help you to forward plan your spend activities.

If procurement capacity is an issue, get help – many housing associations do not have dedicated procurement departments but they are very much geared up towards exercising some element of control and can therefore be reluctant to source outside support. But it should not be seen as relinquishing control. A good procurement consultancy will not only save you money, it will give you greater control in the long run, leading to enhanced efficiencies and better use of resources.

Don’t let suppliers take your custom for granted – I spent many years working in procurement and supply chain management in the private sector, including in the United States where I had clients that were multinational corporations such as Boeing, Lockheed and Chrysler. In the private sector, quality of service and delivery are taken as a given – the expectation is that suppliers will demonstrate how they want to work with you and your business to show they are striving for continuous improvement in order to provide better products and service.

The social housing sector is very different and compliance, quality and delivery seem to be the main concerns. I think there are lessons to be learned from the private sector. Don’t simply stick with the same suppliers because that’s what you’ve always done – question whether you are getting value for money and ensure those relationships are mutually beneficial.

There’s strength in numbers – I can’t stress enough the need to aggregate and leverage spend wherever possible, particularly around a high value, low volume category like kitchens and bathrooms. Flagship has a repairs and maintenance arm, RFT Services, which not only serves our own 22,500 homes but also housing associations, local authorities and businesses across the East of England. But even our relatively high volume of spend is a drop in the ocean compared with the leverage PfH can exercise through the combined spend of its members (which is one of the reasons why we’ll be using the new kitchens and bathrooms framework!).

I’ve been involved in developing the framework as a member of the PfH product group. As well as covering kitchens and bathrooms it offers a wider range of options: supply only, supply and install, and install only. I think that more defined scope will appeal to landlords of every shape and size.

Narinder Chahal is head of procurement at Flagship Group.

He is a member of the product group for PfH’s new kitchens and bathrooms framework, which is made up of representatives from the social housing sector. The group has helped to shape the framework to ensure it meets members’ needs.

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