No one needs to tell you that a year past the global shut-downs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chains in almost every industry are more than a little stressed. Of course, the construction industry has been especially affected. Contractors are looking to source lumber and millwork, only to find empty shelves. So how can we respond to the situation and make choices in the future that help reduce the chances of this kind of thing happening again? While we certainly could not have predicted a pandemic, there are some ways those in the construction industry could help reduce its impact on current and future jobs.
Good News: No Shortage of Lumber
Contrary to what many may think, there is lumber available; however, to be able to utilize what’s available, builders will need to be more specific and cautious about their needs — as opposed to using generic sizes or ordering more than what’s truly needed, only to pick through it for what is truly needed on the job site. Not only has the prominence of this kind of vague ordering led to waste in the past, but it has now become completely impossible to perpetuate.
Simple Solution: Greater Partnership
By applying the principle of value engineering, what appeared to be impossible – to-fill an order – can become a reality in only a week! The key is to have a more in-depth conversation with your supplier. When you do, you might be surprised how much lead times are lessened, while quality actually improves. Essentially, the way this happens is by being more specific, thereby allowing your supplier to source the particular pieces that your project requires from their current inventory. By establishing more of a partnership with your supplier, you’ll be able to provide materials for jobs that your competitors have to turn down.
The Reality: High Demand & Low Availability
When you combine the facts that the construction industry is currently booming with new projects on the rise with the supply-chain-related delays, you have a good, old-fashioned, supply-and-demand conundrum. From dimensional construction lumber to hardwoods, there are many reasons for the backlogs. From staffing shortages at plantations and ports to hold-ups at ports due to COVID-related restrictions, there’s plenty of lumber available yet essentially a shortage. From Los Angeles to the Chesapeake Bay, shipping containers are waiting at ports to be unloaded — many of them containing lumber purchased months ago. But even domestic species are facing supply-chain challenges, due to COVID-related delays thanks to various protocols.
The Challenge: Moving Lumber
As you’ve been reading, perhaps you’ve had an “aha moment,” realizing that it’s not the lumber supply that’s the problem: it’s moving it. In fact, many lumber yards have continued to mill new material on a daily basis and many even have stockpiles available! This is where value engineering and that partnership with your supplier comes in. Maybe it seems a bit old-fashioned, but it’s time to take advantage of the frugal habit of looking for ways to use materials actually available to us. Maybe it’s time to re-think the all-too-common practice of ordering more than what’s required, rounding up sizes, and putting in orders for long and wide boards even when those sizes aren’t required.
Continue reading with Part 2.