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The Manufacturer the Contractor and his Estimator. A short, shaggy tale about a long wagging story.

From your stone correspondent: From the pages of the Chandler and Bogart News.

The editor made it clear  “ Get me some real stories from real people and fast! We need to know what’s going on out there”

Ok I said. I get your drift. I’m going to need to go undercover. I’m going to need to go to Marble Town.

Ok he said. But be careful out there.

Disguised as a marble mason, covered in dust (actually  I couldn’t find any dust in my street, so I used self-raising flour), I entered the sleazy downtown world of Marble Town, with its steaming workshops, grimy streets and quartzite attitudes – hard and real. Where the marble people survived on cut to size, bespoke and dust.

The Kitchen manufacturer – Granite Street, Wild Northwest, Marble Town.

Me: How busy is the industry at the moment?

KM: Who wants to know?

Me: Well, I’m doing some research into the industry and….

KM: We are merrily up the proverbial creek right now, no staff, loads of work…. you looking?

Me: Well err no…I was just interested in how the industry was managing in a post Covid , post Brexit world.

KM: Drowning in work, staff off sick, its just a nightmare getting goods out. That sums up the industry in a nutshell!

Me: Oh I see- well it sounds good…. and bad…. all at the same time. I’m sorry.

KM: Are you OK? Your skin has gone all lumpy.

Me: Er no I’m fine, just a little flour rash.

It had started to rain and the self-raising flour was turning into pastry on my face.

I walked on past state of the art machinery, crammed into tiny workshops.  Dust clouds obscured Marble Town like a sea mist, as the rain bounced hard off the ground and I slowly turned into a walking pizza base – thick crust.

The Estimator: Numbers street, Drawing Avenue, Deep South, Marble Town.

 It was difficult travelling this far south. Civilisation slipped away like my dreams, where everything to keep me safe was just out of reach.

Me: Hi – just wondered how the world of the estimating was going? Are you busy?

Estimator: Now? Today? Yes, today I’m busy. But not yesterday.

Me: Oh I see. Has worked increased over the last 3 months?

Estimator: Yes. But if you’d asked me if it had increased over the last 6 months I would have said no, it hasn’t.

Me Oh.

Estimator: You see it has increased recently but overall, taking everything into consideration it hasn’t increased. Do you see what I mean?

Me: I think so. It hasn’t increased, but it has?

Estimator: Just like an estimate see. It starts as a huge piece of work – plans elevations, specifications, finishing schedules and then you dig around a bit and find there’s only one floor to price. Sometimes I don’t know why I bother…….

I was confused. Nothing seemed to add up in Numbers Street. I headed north to clear my head.

The Stone Contractor, The Summit Towers, Building Site Boulevard, Marble Town.

Me: Hi,…I’m not from Health and Safety or trading standards or the clients stone consultant.

St: Good…what about VAT or the Main Contractor?

Me: No, no, just here doing some research into how the contracting industry is going?

St: What’s left of it. Its harder and harder to make a living….excuse me do you mind not leaning on the new Range Rover, I only picked it up yesterday. Where was I? Oh yes, staff nowhere, contractors begging us for more labour. But where do you go, other than increasing the rates and complaining about the unreasonable behaviour of the Health and Safety inspector. I mean its hard enough to find the labour without having to make them safe as well.

Me: So your struggling.

St: Always struggling. I mean occasionally you get a touch, a bit of extra here and there, but mainly it’s a struggle, yeah.

Me: And the new car?

St: Well I ordered it a year ago and had to take delivery. As I said to the lads this morning, it’s a burden I have to drive round for three years now. We’ve all got to make sacrifices.

Me: Yes I guess so. And how do you think the industry will be in the next year?

St: Huh, you kidding me? There wont be one the rate we’re going. Construction needs 250,000 workers in the next 5 years. Where are they coming from? 

Listen blue eyes, current contracts negotiated before the labour shortage are a nightmare. Fixers can sense they’re in demand so they want more money. If they don’t get it they leave, chase the dosh. So you put their rates up and the job starts to lose money.

Transportation costs have gone through the roof. Stone is being delayed and material costs are rising.

But new contracts are a different story. We got cute. We price at higher rates to cover the men, we quote longer lead times to cover the supply chain. And the client – well they got no choice. What can I tell ya.

The sun came out and I started to bake….slowly.

St: Excuse me, you ok…you’re face is going all hard and flaky?

Me: No its ok, I have an allergic reaction to the sun – its called …pastry…er…pastryitus… quite rare.

St: Looks nasty.

Me: No I’ll be fine. Thanks for your time.

I headed home through the rough tough streets of Marble Town, unsure how I was going to get rid of the effects of “pastryitus”. I needed a cake slice and fast!

The Manufacturer the Contractor and his Estimator. The End.