Rising workload, when combined with shorter lead in times, is making it difficult to secure fit out and finishing operatives according to reports from specialist contractors.

The latest NSCC State of Trade Survey for Q1 2014 has said that orders are 23 per cent up on the same time last year and that 71 per cent of specialists expect to see an increase during the next year, the highest result ever recorded by an NSCC survey.

Specialist contractors have been reporting that clients are leaving placing an order to the last minute and then asking for a site start within days, which means contractors have to mobilise with limited notice.

Angela Mansell, AIS FPDC President and a director at Manchester-based Mansell Finishes, said: “The supply chain needs to work more closely to tackle demands of increasing workload in order to avoid delays.

“Lead in times from order to start on-site have been getting shorter and clients need to be aware that you just can’t turn on a tap and get gangs of fixers and plasterers to start within days.”

As business begins to pick up,
albeit margins remain tight, specialists are reporting pressure on recruiting some trades.

In the interiors sector contractors report that labour is becoming a real issue as more work becomes available but prices are not moving up to suit what is becoming a labour shortage, some contractors are having to revise rates to remain competitive.”

The recession has also kept a lid on wages. Labour rates have hardly moved since 2008. There are some fears that the sector could see a return to labour leaving jobs and moving to contracts paying either higher rates or a lotalty bonus.

Paul Little, managing director of Birmingham-based Coen’s, said: “There are seasonal peaks in work which often means we have to find a lot of labour at short notice. When orders are not confirmed until the last minute it can and does create challenges.”