Leeds-based Quantum Group is challenging the perception that quantity surveying services are only of benefit to main contractors in the construction industry by giving specialist sub-contractors, many of whom are smaller enterprises, easy access to its services.
Stephen Pilling, founder and director of Leeds-based Quantum Group, who is himself an RICS (Royal Institute of Quantity Surveyors) qualified quantity surveyor with 37 years’ experience, believes this perception is widespread amongst sub-contractors and he and his team are seeking to change this.
Despite the far-reaching benefits that quantity surveying services can deliver to any construction sub-contractor, the number of businesses accessing these services continues to be relatively low. Whilst main contractors routinely use the profession, with many employing their own quantity surveyors in-house, the 91,500 businesses of this type represent only around a quarter of ‘trades’ in the construction industry.
Data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in 2021 shows that there are nearly 242,000 companies registered in the UK that could be classed as ‘specialist subcontractors’. The range of trades and industry categories these companies fall into is extremely broad, ranging from ‘test drilling and boring’ and ‘construction of bridges and tunnels’ to ‘installation of electrical wiring and fitting’ and ‘plastering’.
This means there are opportunities for significant improvements in contract efficiency and profitability for a very large proportion of the construction sector, according to Stephen Pilling.
“The nature of the industry is such that contractors are, more often than not, ‘management companies’, albeit they do employ a few in-house trades,” said Stephen. “They serve a management function to deliver the built environment, whereas sub-contractors, what we class as the second and subsequent tiers, provide the actual trades and the work solutions.”
“So what we tend to find in the industry is that those guys who are providing the trades and are very proficient at what they do – technically adept and focused on getting the work done – perhaps neglect what’s required in relation to managing the project. They overlook financial efficiency and often don’t check if the project is in good health, which is important because it ultimately feeds the business income.”
The Quantum team believes it is necessary to disrupt the industry and change the way quantity surveying is perceived. Their long term goal is to develop a greater understanding of quantity surveying and, in doing so, giving many more construction sub-contractors the confidence to outsource their contract management requirements in the same way that they would appoint an external accountant to manage their business accounts.
Stephen continued: “As quantity surveyors, what we want to do is open ourselves up and make ourselves accessible to both contractors and sub-contractors. A lot of the time we find that sub-contractors in the industry don’t necessarily see quantity surveying as something that is accessible to them. They see it as something that only main contractors have as a resource.
“That’s why we are providing something that is accessible to them. They can outsource those skills that might not otherwise be available to them in-house and incorporate these into their own business model, and in their own management structure.”
The RICS highlights the significant role that sub-contractors make on its website. The organisation says that ‘almost all construction work involves sub-contracting, and it is not uncommon for the majority of the main contract works to be carried out by sub-contractors, with the main contractor taking a role in managing and controlling the sub-contractors’. It estimates that the value of works carried out by sub-contractors could be 85-90% of the total value of the main contract works.