Since the original recommendations in the Egan report 17 years ago, integrated supply chains are supposed to have developed at the heart of construction. Yet all these years on, much in the wood supply sector is still, alas, dictated by price and limited by knowledge.

Procurers’ attitudes to producers and suppliers of wood products have softened allowing more sophistication in the relationship, and more openness in communication between construction client and materials supplier.

Deeper understanding of the workings of the timber supply chain, and of timber’s benefits, however, are needed.

The launch of the Confederation of Timber Industries will go a long way towards bringing together all voices connected with the post-harvesting use of timber and wood-related products. The inclusion of our joinery, merchant and furniture sector customers, plus the trainers and educationalists who may eventually feed our industry with quality applicants, is welcome.

Having just taken part in the Builders’ Merchants Federation Malta conference, we’ve seen that they too are making sterling efforts to help suppliers understand their integral role in the merchant sector’s success.

The announcement of the September marriage of the UK Contractors Group with the National Specialist Contractors Council carries such integration another step forward.

Yet despite all this laudable togetherness, one common element is preventing further integration throughout the supply chain from forest to finished building, and thus affecting everyone’s business growth potential. That is the lack of human resources choosing to join any of our sectors.

Development of BIM (building information modelling) may to some extent address the need for Egan-style cross-disciplinary teams by substituting data for people with knowledge at the higher echelons of construction. But that alone is not the answer.

When it comes to the physical use of wood, the material we all rely on for a living, the numbers we have to recruit are thought provoking. Figures from the British Woodworking Federation show a need for recruiting 10 new carpenters and joiners every day for the next four years to address the sector’s skills gap. Our merchant customers too are much in need of new talent and starting to campaign for young people’s attention.

Major contractors are being encouraged to promote apprenticeships in their supply chains, but the responsibility – and cost – of taking on apprentices still lies with the myriad of sub-contractors.

The Federation of Master Builders estimate that their members need 42,000 new apprentices per year for the next five years. In 2013/14 they took on 16,000.

At the other end of the career ladder, according to estimates in the media, over 190 experienced workers are due to leave the construction sector every day for the next 10 years.

Whilst we eagerly await the hoped-for inflow of new talent via the various skills bodies, we must all play our part in managing the shorter-term recruitment challenge. In order to be able to achieve the depth of integration Egan envisaged, the wood supply chain needs to be more effective in promoting its availability as an attractive career choice.

Each link in the supply chain must understand its counterparts. Sharing knowledge more openly, between supplier and retailer, forester and furniture maker, will achieve much. So we must be prepared to listen, understand how each other’s business works, and welcome and utilise each other’s expertise for the benefit of everyone’s bottom line. And that, surely, was also Egan’s intent.