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Supply chained: How COVID tested the construction industry

Post by

Michael Grimwood

Business Development Manager UK

Supply chained: How COVID tested the construction industry

Supply chains in the construction industry were tested to their limit during the first wave of the pandemic. Although the industry was seen as an essential service, each of the contributing sectors had to adjust their processes to make sure their workforce could carry on operating safely. And that was always going to take time to map out and implement correctly.

Even when the right procedures were in place, manufacturers had to radically scale down the amount of people working in their factories and make sure they were following social distancing protocol. It was a time of significant upheaval, and inevitably construction sites across the country were starting to feel the pinch.

In some instances, contractors had to find materials from alternative sources and bear the brunt of heightened costs. And some suppliers had to close completely, so any orders that were already placed were taking months to reach their desired destination.

Materials the industry ordinarily takes for granted just weren’t readily available. Back in March and April, most major brick manufacturers stopped production. Mortar producers did the same, with major players CPI Mortar and Remix Dry Mortar closing up shop temporarily.

British Gypsum, the UK’s lead manufacturer of plasterboard quickly followed suit. And at the time, any spare plasterboards were understandably being prioritised for the Nightingale hospitals, so very little stock was being redistributed elsewhere.

Concrete and aggregates were at very short supply as many firms had no choice but to put some of their staff on the job retention scheme. Demand was starting to outweigh the amount of quarry drivers available to deliver the orders.

Now in the middle of our second national lockdown and with a vaccine still someway off, we can be sure supply chain disruptions won’t be disappearing in a hurry. And with January fast approaching, the uncertainty of a no deal with the European market only compounds the issue.

Construction Products Association chief executive Peter Caplehorn raised his concerns in a recent article with Construction News: “In addition to the potential for increased prices, the sector is concerned that a no-deal will result in further uncertainty over the availability of components, materials, and significant commodities.”

But despite all of these roadblocks hampering the industry’s progress, property is still being developed and we’re starting to see real cause for optimism.

Rather ironically, logistics has been the highest performing segment during the pandemic and is up 38 percent in terms of activity from this time last year. This is in large part down to online retailers like Amazon benefitting from lockdown and we’ll be reviewing where the planning challenges and opportunities that the logistics sector poses in our next blog.

 

Sources

https://www.constructionnews.co.uk/agenda/11-materials-and-products-in-most-short-supply-20-04-2020/

https://www.constructionnews.co.uk/brexit/no-deal-brexit-will-bring-large-scale-price-hikes-28-10-2020/

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