Globalisation and the Internet have made exposure to new products easier than ever, while locally, manufacturers continue to innovate and provide world-class products to the market, so do international brands offer an array of choice. Both locally produced and products from overseas come with their own risks and rewards – and there’s a place for each in the South African built environment. In this feature, we take a look at some of the points to consider when researching flooring for commercial projects.

Locally produced

Investing in the local economy is one of the major drawing points of buying home grown products. With dwindling job opportunities and high unemployment, buying local products can give South African manufacturers the financial injection they need to employ more local labourers, train people and boost the economy.

Another attractive benefit of dealing with local companies is the face-to-face engagement that is possible as well as being able to keep close tabs on the delivery process. It’s also convenient to travel to suppliers for development, management, specifications and site inspections. This goes hand in hand with shorter supply chains and therefore greater predictability with delivery times when needed.

Besides many local manufacturers investing in green production processes and facilities, less transport also results in some carbon emission savings, which can make a company and project slightly greener. If you are specifying a large number of the same product for a commercial development, you may find it easier to find a local supplier that can deliver the quantities you need on time and within budget.

Some things that should also be kept in mind when buying local products is variety, access to distinctive skills and scalability. Certain flooring products aren’t available locally and trying to find a suitable replacement isn’t always an easy route to follow. In these circumstances, it makes more sense to find a local distributor who imports products from overseas.

As most professionals in the built environment will know, some industries and geographies excel in certain products. Handmade and customised products aren’t always easy to replicate with local skills, which makes sourcing locally challenging.

Internationally sourced

Thanks to cheaper labour (in some countries), machine learning, robotics and innovation, and International group buying, the price of products found overseas can be lower than expected, which can put local distributors of these products at a distinct advantage. Many international manufacturers also offer one-of-a-kind products that aren’t replicable. Your local distributor will be able to assist with cost projections.

Distributors who are able to draw on a local pool of research and development initiatives makes the options for local projects greater. International companies may, in some cases, have leading production facilities, which can result in ultra-green products. Sometimes the carbon emission savings on a green product are offset by the carbon emissions from transporting the product back to local shores. With regards to carbon emissions though, one must always rather look at the lifecycle of the product – from how raw materials are sourced, the longevity of the product, maintaining the installation and the recyclability of the product. Transport only forms a very small part of the carbon emission cost of that product, whether it’s locally produced or internationally sourced.

Partnering with a local company that imports international brands can alleviate many issues associated with finding products from overseas (such as language and cultural barriers as well as import restrictions). A local partner will take everything from payment terms, tax implications and import administration.

If you are specifying a custom product to be developed and manufactured, then you need to be sure that language and cultural barriers won’t impact the product you require. What may be common practice in the local industry could seem absurd to an overseas manufacturer and everyday terms and lingo could similarly be lost on an overseas counterpart. Make sure the supplier understands your requirements and the context of your specifications.

As you can see, there are many things to consider with both local production and international sourcing. The route you choose will depend on your company, business goals, project requirements and clients. Be sure to obtain the right information from reputable sources, whatever route you decide to follow.

Specialised tip: Both locally produced and internationally sourced products come with their own risks and rewards – and there’s a place for each in the South African built environment.

Thanks and acknowledgement are given to www.kbacflooring.co.za, www.allbusiness.com and www.cips.org for some information contained in this article.