Worktop Fabricators Federation – one year on

The Worktop Fabricators Federation looks back on its first year and prepares for a post-Covid future.

On the first anniversary of its launch, the Worktop Fabricators Federation announces an ambitious agenda to champion professionalism and develop industry training in a post-Covid world, says General Secretary Chris Pateman.

WFF enters its second year with a higher unprompted brand awareness, a solid reputation and the committed support of the industry’s leading suppliers. 

As a fast-maturing industry association, our 2021-22 programme includes developing industry training in line with the growing ‘competency’ agenda, positioning ourselves as a proactive and critical friend to the HSE, and developing compelling quality messages for the consumer and trade customer.

The WFF was launched on 1 March 2020 at the KBB exhibition in Birmingham.  Within three weeks of the launch, the country was in lockdown. Showrooms were being told to furlough staff and there was no clear guidance from government about whether building sites could remain open or even whether people’s kitchens could be completed.

Rather than a nice-to-have focus on helping professional fabricators gain wider recognition, WFF became overnight the community by which fabricators shared survival tips – swapping intelligence and industry developments with one another.

Once we could re-open workshops, WFF members collaborated on industry-specific guidance for a covid-compliant return to work – and circulated that guidance free of charge as a service to the whole industry at the end of April via social media and Natural Stone Specialist magazine.

It is significant that fabricator membership has grown month on month in the face of such adversarial trading conditions. Perhaps more significant is that sponsorship has also grown – reflecting suppliers’ more strategic approach to the market and their understanding of the need to encourage and support the professionals whose margins sustain high-quality marketing messages and ongoing investment in first-class plant, machinery and health & safety. 

With year one behind us and a network of fabricator members now capable of serving the whole of England, we’re setting some ambitious plans for year two. Objectives include:

  • Develop industry competency qualifications/codes of practice for templating, handling/installing and workshop best practice
  • Build on increased awareness to drive additional member recruitment to 100+ fabricator businesses by year-end
  • Focus on Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to deliver nationwide coverage
  • Run regular member/sponsor meetings and workshops, both on-line and face-to-face, including AGM, training around dust management and a possible industry conference / trade show as circumstances allow
  • Create ‘use a professional fabricator’ consumer messaging and video
  • Position WFF as critical friend and catalyst for HSE best-practice guidance
  • Further encourage HSE to focus enforcement on back-of-van fabricators
  • Develop relationship and joint quality messaging with other like-minded industry associations
  • Set up regional membership groups once Covid restrictions permit.

Since its launch, the WFF’s mission to champion and defend professionalism, improve health & safety, defend margins and share best practice among fabricators and suppliers has grown membership from four to 24 fabricators and the number of sponsoring supplier organisations from six to 11. 

WFF insists only fabricators who employ their own staff, are registered for PAYE and VAT, operate from recognised premises using proprietary machinery and can provide evidence of up-to-date H&S policies and professional indemnity insurance will be considered for membership.