Cost overrides all other considerations in choosing a life safety system as the economic downturn continues to bite, finds Morley-IAS survey

1st December 2009

Independent accreditation to become more important in product and supplier choice

The tough economic climate has had a dramatic impact on the life safety industry, with customers putting off systems replacement and instead settling for limited refurbishment or adopting a ‘make do and mend' maintenance approach to their existing system. And this is likely to continue, as fewer than 20% have yet to witness any ‘green shoots of recovery'.

These were among the main findings of the latest survey of fire safety systems integrators, designers and maintenance providers undertaken on behalf of Morley-IAS at a recent industry seminar.

More than two-thirds of respondents confirmed that their business has seen a decrease in life safety projects over the previous 12 months, with fewer than 10% achieving a sales increase over the same period.

"In looking more closely at where this is having the greatest impact, the survey found that 56% have seen customers putting replacement projects and upgrades on hold," says Keith Minster, sales manager, UK & Ireland. "At the same time, more than one quarter reported that maintenance schedules have similarly been cut, with many users undertaking the minimum possible in meeting their legal obligations.

"This reinforces the findings of our survey earlier this year, which reported that more than 90% of businesses in the supply chain were under greater pressure from customers to help cut premises costs."


Third party accreditation

In a series of further findings, the survey confirmed that the issue of independent accreditation of both fire safety equipment and its installation will move up the buying agenda as the economy starts to recover:

• Currently, for 24% of respondents, cost dominates over every other consideration in choosing a life safety system in the case of all customers, with a further 36% confirming that this applies to the majority of customers
• An overwhelming 75% do not expect to see evidence of recovery from the latest recession for another 6-12 months
• Emphasising the dominance of price in current purchasing decisions, only 29% of customers see independent supplier or product accreditation as essential, with 24% seeing it as not at all important.
• Market awareness regarding the options of Open, Managed or Closed protocol is even lower, with 58% confirming that only a minority of customers understand the importance of the right choice of system protocol
• However, the end-user view of independent endorsement is set to change, as a unanimous 100% of respondents believe that third- party accreditation will become a more important issue over the next two years.

"There is no doubt that cost overrides other priorities as the economic downturn continues to bite across the broader building industry," says Minster. "Yet the consequences of getting it wrong are especially severe in the context of a life safety system, putting even more pressure on the ‘responsible person'.

"As a result, with recovery on the horizon and with growing regulatory pressures, it is clear that independent accreditation will become a key priority for end users looking to make the right systems choice."