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Making the difference

Ian Beveridge says the steel construction sector deserves more recognition

Tata Steel has reorganised its sales and marketing organisation with the previous product led approach being replaced by sector focused teams. Sales and Marketing Director for the Construction Structures sector, Ian Beveridge, talks to Nick Barrett about the benefits this will bring to customers and the rest of the construction supply chain.

Tata Steel has a long history of supporting the UK construction supply chain, which is widely acknowledged as the most sophisticated and developed in the world. This didn’t happen by accident, but was the result of consistent effort and investment over many years, by the UK’s leading steel producer, going back to the days of British Steel, through Corus and now Tata Steel, and its partners in the British Constructional Steelwork Association and the Steel Construction Institute.

Ian Beveridge says he is keen for the contribution of Tata Steel and its customers in this success story to continue and he would also like to see them get rightful recognition. “UK construction has benefited greatly from the improvements made in the steel construction supply chain. The delivery of the major venues for the London 2012 Olympics is a fantastic example of UK construction at its best, and steel played a big part in that. We need to shout louder about the key role steel plays in many major construction projects and the genuinely world class capability of the steel supply chain in the UK, from outstanding designers through product manufacturing and distribution and then on to fabrication and erection on site.

“As the Construction Structures Sector within Tata Steel in Europe we now need to improve our product and service offerings as well as expand our customer base or we will always be vulnerable to changing market circumstances. We still need to maintain and improve our traditional relationships with our key steelwork contractor customers, which have been built up over many years, but we also need to develop new ways of working together and sharing joint strategies and objectives.”

The new customer focus in Tata Steel is all about ‘Together we make the Difference’. This is supported by the new sector based organisation that puts Mr Beveridge at the head of structural sections, tubes and plate sales to the construction sector. Tata Steel is the only European steel producer to have aligned itself in this way, where production and supply chain activities are aligned to respond to the requirements of specific market sectors.

Dedicated market sector teams now give customers single point access to all of the company’s products as well as its technical and research and development resources. “Our vision is to use the strength and depth of our product and service offering to make Tata Steel a brand that is recognised as good to do business with. We know we do a lot of things right but we accept that we can do more, and that means we have to make some changes.

“We want to help to develop our customer’s businesses as well if we can and we have a strong desire to ensure that our success also leads to further success for our key customers. Mutually advantageous relationships are what we need to foster.”

The refocused Tata Steel aims to be agile and close to its customers. Trust and cooperation is the best way to describe how various parts of the company such as production, distribution and sales and marketing are now working together for the benefit of the company as well as its customers.

Understandably, Mr Beveridge does have some concerns about the levels of steel imports now penetrating the UK market at prices any domestic producer would struggle to match. Price is always going to be a key factor in the buying decision but he feels the service elements of what Tata Steel has to offer are sometimes under valued. “We need to recover the cost of the services we provide such as added value processing, exact timed multi-product deliveries as well as the ongoing investment we make in product quality and market development,” Mr Beveridge said, “These can often make the difference in terms of a project being successfully delivered or not.”

Customer surveys already reveal the level of service provided as a key element in decisions to do business with Tata Steel. A recent survey showed good results on a range of key indicators such as product quality, health and safety performance, delivery, lead times, ease of doing business with, help with problem solving and provision of technical support and advisory services.

Relationships with the BCSA and its members are close, as can be seen in the ongoing joint market development strategy that has a number of staff seconded from Tata Steel to BCSA to work together on some of the key issues for the sector such as sustainability and Eurocode developments. The strategy is now half way through its initial five-year period, and is working well despite the difficult circumstances in the construction market.

The new Tata Steel strategy and organisation has been explained at various industry forums and is now being discussed with customers on an individual basis. Mr Beveridge concludes: “The message is that we want to focus on how we are going to succeed and grow together. If we collectively get it right, then when the economy is back to full health there will be great opportunities for the whole steel construction supply chain.”

East of Scotland born Ian Beveridge is a committed steel man but admits that he came into the industry by accident: “I have always had metal in my veins. I joined the steel sector by accident initially working for a small local stockholder for ten years, which is where I learned the trading dynamics of the steel business. We had little cash, minimal stock and only a few customers to start with and built a very successful business from the ground up.”

His next move was to the steel distribution group ASD, running its Edinburgh depot and eventually, following various regional appointments, becoming Managing Director. ASD had a substantial UK position, as did the Corus Distribution business where again after several key positions he became Managing Director, which means he has managed two of the biggest distribution businesses in the UK. “I joined Corus in 2004, so I had a good insight into the customer view of the company. I also knew that customers highly value both the continuity and reliability of supply provided by Corus, and now Tata Steel in Europe.”

Mr Beveridge greatly admires the achievements of the UK construction industry and is proud of the contribution made by Tata Steel and its customers on leading projects throughout the UK like the London Olympics. “There is huge value in these projects of national significance, and a host of others over the years, but there seems to be little recognition of the part the steel construction supply chain plays. The value is there but it is concealed. It is our own fault perhaps for allowing that to happen, but we do need to address it, urgently and quickly.”

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