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Wholesaler plays important role in the prefab business in Europe

Prefab is a hot topic in the whole construction sector and is seen as one of the ways to cope with the increasing demand for quick delivery of projects, but also with the growing labour shortage in the sector. The usage of prefab among plumbers and HVAC installers is already quite high in some of the European countries. Others are still lagging behind. However, they all have in common that a large share of the installers buy the prefab products from the wholesalers they work with. As a part of the European Mechanical Installation Monitor, in Q2 2020 we focused on investigating the topic of prefab usage among plumbers ad HVAC installers in Europe.

European Mechanical Installation Monitor Q2 2020 – USP Marketing Consultancy

Penetration of prefab in the installation sector is already quite high

A The trend in the whole construction sector is that the share of projects containing some form of prefab is increasing. Architects already see such an increase and expect it to continue in the coming years as well (28% of the projects contained some form of prefab in 2019, and 32% was expected for 2020*). On a European level, three quarters of the general contractors have already worked on projects with some form of prefab, and already 32% of all projects the contractors worked on contained some form of prefab in 2018.**

The current survey among HVAC installers and plumbers shows a high penetration of prefab products and solution in the installation market as well. On a European level, 56% of the installers use prefab products and almost 39% of the projects the prefab users have worked on contain some form of prefab. The numbers differ per country (the highest share of prefab users can be found in Germany – 72%, and the lowest in France – 32%) and also per company size, but generally it is clear that working with prefab and searching for efficiency and time savings in projects is not something new for the installation sector. 

Buying prefab products at the wholesaler is the most popular way to deal with prefab

Currently, wholesalers seem to play a significant role in the delivery of prefab products to installers. It could be expected that their role would increase if the market shows higher interest in combinations of prefabricated elements that differ per installation type. The availability of different types of products at the wholesalers would make it possible to offer solutions which are more complex and go beyond the products of one manufacturer (for example sanitary and electricity products).

Self-prefabrication or preassembly is also important in some countries like the Netherlands and Poland. Buying prefab products from manufacturers is mainly done in Germany, the UK and France. Overall in all countries, installers need to get more technical information about the prefab solutions offered by manufacturers. Trainings are also often requested by installers, as well as lowering of the prices of the prefab products, which are considered to be costly at this moment.

The usage of prefab is set to grow in the coming years

Some countries already observed a growth in the use of prefab products in the last 2 years. Especially Dutch and Belgian installers have noticed this trend quite clearly.

Plumbers and HVAC installers from all countries (except France) generally expect the usage of prefab to increase even more in the coming 2-3 years. One of the reasons would be the increased use of such products in multifamily houses and 1-2 family houses, which are considered to be the main growth areas of prefab. Other reasons are related to the well-recognised advantages of prefab such as time saving, cost saving, lower failure costs and faster delivery of projects, which are getting more and more important in times of short turnaround of projects and lack of craftsmen. Those advantages clearly outweigh the constraints, and therefore it could be expected that the usage of prefab products and solutions in the installation sector will continue to grow in the coming years.