In the US, the construction industry is languishing, but one of the first people to know when the upswing comes will be Andrew Davis, managing director of British Distribution (BSD). His electronic surveillance system is on constant look-out for the earliest signs of recovery. The moment they appear, his desk-top screen in London will alert him to launch an attack.
Davis has used his EIS to create a vast up-to-the-minute databank of market intelligence. Its knowledge is constantly updated by his network of managers round the world who input their observations on local prices for all the products in BSD's market. 'It's judgmental stuff, but their guess is a lot better than mine sitting in London. We can use it to spot opportunities by tracking where prices are moving up or down. The US is one of the worst places for steel at the moment, but when the upswing comes, we'll be there.'
BSD, whose annual sales are around £1 billion, was formed in April 1989 in the wake of British Steel's privatisation. It was an amalgamation of the group's distribution operations, and the EIS was conceived to spearhead the company's new marketing-led approach. 'We used to compile this type of intelligence before, but it was not well-structured. The fact that we developed it within the EIS forced us to organise it properly, so now it is far more useful,' Davis says.