Meet Nigel, Head of Procurement at Devonshire Homes5 October 2021
Shortages of materials and sub-contractors are just some of the challenges the housing industry is currently facing as it navigates its way out of a global pandemic. Housebuilders across the UK are struggling to secure enough raw materials due to a global shortage stemming from the sheer demand for new build homes. Brexit also has its part to play, effecting the availability of a workforce. According to the Office for National Statistics, employment in the construction sector fell from 2.3m in 2017 to 2.1m at the end of 2020, representing a 4% fall in UK-born workers and a 42% fall in EU workers.
One man who tackles these challenges every day is Nigel Bowditch, Head of Procurement at Devonshire Homes. Despite the industry facing an enormous amount of pressure as demand for new homes continues to rise, Nigel enjoys working with his team to overcome hurdles, bringing customers the high-quality new build homes that Devonshire Homes is known for. We caught up with Nigel to see how he is getting on and what he thinks the future holds for the housing and construction industry:
Hi Nigel! Tell us about your background in the housing and construction industry…
Well, I’ve been in the industry for 29 years now! My dad was, and still is, in the trade as an electrician so I have always been interested in the building side of things. When I left school, I went to work in a builders’ merchant to gain sales experience. Then I made the transition from sales to buying which was quite an easy one really as it’s just going from poacher to gamekeeper. I spent six years as a Senior Buyer and Office Manager at a groundworks firm which was connected loosely to Devonshire Homes. That was when I met Guy Langworthy, a Director at Devonshire Homes, who asked if I was interested in joining the company. Starting at a groundworks company was great but I was keen to expand my experience and get involved with more materials. Housebuilding was always my goal so joining Devonshire Homes was a very easy decision to make. I’ve been here for 16 years now. As Head of Procurement for three years and before that I was the Procurement Manager for five years.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in the industry?
It’s an industry which I have always been interested in. I’m practically minded and the idea of getting into house building always appealed to me at school. I started to get involved with architecture and bits and bobs like that at school, it was a root into the industry, leading me into a job that I was keen to do.
What does your job role involve?
As Head of Procurement, I make sure we have the right quantity of materials and sub-contractors from a commercial point of view. I look after both and ensure we secure the best deal for the company with the help of my colleagues. I’m heavily involved with the build specification and with the technical side of things as well, making sure that all of the products we specify are technically going to work and in accordance with regulations. I also work closely with the teams on site as well, making sure they have got sufficient tradespeople and making sure those tradespeople are doing a good job in keeping up with the build programme.
What is a typical day like as Head of Procurement?
It all depends on what stage of the build we are at. If we have new sites coming up, I’m doing take-offs and quantifying materials. This includes sending enquiries to different people whether that be sub-contractors or a materials supplier. Currently, I’m dealing with day-to-day challenges which are caused by the shortage of materials.
What challenges are you currently facing after such a turbulent year?
It’s fair to say that we are currently in unprecedented times. Across the industry, there is a huge shortage of sub-contractors, materials coming through the docks and UK manufacturing materials and we are certainly feeling the effects. Every day is a challenge with different hurdles needing to be overcome daily and we are all working incredibly hard because of this. We need to make sure we’ve got products on site and the sub-contractors to install the products so that we can deliver our new homes in time with the build programme. It’s a challenge, but it will get better.
What stands out for you about Devonshire Homes as an employer?
One of the things that appealed to me about Devonshire Homes when I was asked to join was that they were a small, but ambitious housebuilder. It was ideal for me because I thought that if they have these growth ambitions, then I can grow with them which is what has happened. In a smaller team, you do get more of a say. I get heavily involved in the specification, the products we use within the plots and obviously the kitchens, the bathrooms, everything from the ground up. If a new product comes along, we talk about it, look at it and sometimes we use it and sometimes we don’t, but it’s nice that your voice is heard. Before I joined Devonshire Homes, I nearly went to another housebuilder, but I knew that I would be just a number and I don’t think I would have had much of a say on important decisions like I do at Devonshire Homes.
What benefits do you think you bring to the role and to Devonshire Homes?
I’m very much a people person and I do get on with most people. I build and value my relationships with both sub-contractors and suppliers, as well as my colleagues. I have a can-do attitude and I like to get on with people. I’m definitely not one to send aggressive emails. I’d rather ring up the person and have a chat which I do think gains respect.
Do you have any aims or goals that you would like to achieve as Head of Procurement?
I’d like to help grow the business, explore new products and new possibilities whether that be a new heating system, a new method of build or different contractors. Basically, continue to explore new avenues that will contribute to Devonshire Homes’ growth strategy and get us through this challenging time.