Brett Smyth, general manager of IDEAL Industries EMEA, discusses the challenges and opportunities the company has responded to in 2021 and predictions for 2022.
While 2020 will always be remembered as a year when everything suddenly stopped for a while, 2021 has been a year characterised by frenetic activity as we responded to substantial and rapid demand as the world came out of hibernation. Sites that were paused due to the pandemic were on catch-up programmes to complete, if not on time, then at least something close to on budget, which meant even tighter deadlines for electrical contractors.
Against that backdrop, contracting companies were still battling staff shortages due to COVID-19 and self-isolation regimes, alongside the loss of skilled EU operatives, which made catching up even harder. As a company that has always invested in product development that aims to enable faster, easier and more consistent electrical installations, at IDEAL Industries, we saw demand for our products rocket. If 2020 was a roller coaster, then 2021 was a high-speed bullet train, and I am really proud of how our team has managed customer service and order fulfilment to keep pace with the market.
It seems likely that skill shortages will continue into 2022 and beyond, and our approach to this at IDEAL Industries is not only to provide products that allow faster and more consistent installation, such as our FT-45 Feed-Thru modular plug system for data terminations and our new Gen II Wire Termination Connectors, but also to contribute to nurturing the next generation of talent. Over the past year, we have extended our partnerships with FE colleges and sponsored social media influencer, Amy Barrett-Singh, as part of our commitment to supporting trainee electricians and encouraging greater diversity in the sector. With face-to-face meetings now returning, we hope to introduce product demos and business coaching into this developing academy initiative.
Supply chain challenges have been another characteristic of the electrical marketplace in 2021 and this also looks set to continue. At IDEAL Industries, we have excellent UK stockholding capabilities and have re-shored our packaging production to the UK to reduce lead times, control costs and cut our carbon footprint. We have also invested in stockholding in the Middle East to enable smaller orders and faster fulfilment from a dedicated facility in the region.
It is clear that 2022 will continue to be busy for the electrical contracting sector as people invest in their homes, kick start capex projects again and rise to the challenge of adapting commercial environments to agile working models. Our goal is to help customers deliver projects on time by ensuring good availability across our range through both traditional wholesale and trade retail channels.