New division will use £3m software system to set up just-in-time deliveries to sites.
Top five housebuilder Wilson Connolly is to bypass builders merchants by setting up its own internal merchant with an on-line ordering facility.

The new division, called, will deliver goods direct to sites in packs ready for immediate use at each step of the building process.

The company has spent £3m on a software package to support the scheme and set up a distribution centre in Cambridge. A second distribution facility is planned for the West Midlands.

Managing director John Tutte said the system was designed to cut costs, save time and reduce damages.

He said the emphasis would be on delivering packages of linked items rather than one-off goods. “The system will automatically pick the doors plus the ironmongery associated with it, rather than the old way where you got the doors one day and the ironmongery a week later,” he said.

The venture is the latest in a series of initiatives to increase efficiency. The firm recently bought timber-frame manufacture Prestoplan to sidestep shortages of bricklayers and carpenters. Tutte said rates for these trades rose by up to 25% in the South-east last year.

This led to “lost” production of more than 100 homes. To combat this problem, Wilcon plans to double the number of timber-frame houses built to 1880, 40% of the 4700 homes it expects to construct this year.

Tutte announced pre-tax profit of £60.1m, a rise of 35%, on turnover up 23% to £469m in the year to 31 December 1999. The firm sold 4700 homes, 14 fewer than the previous year, but increased the average selling price 24%. The order book was up 45% on the same time last year.

Wilcon said it had a landbank of 17 000 plots, representing £1.9bn of sales. Wilcon recently appointed Asda and Wal-Mart Group chief executive Allan Leighton as deputy chairman. Analysts say his presence on the housebuilder’s board has given greater confidence to investors about the company’s future.