By Dean Averies, Beard Oxford director- This article first appeared in Building Magazine online

We like to feature guest blogs from our clients in order to showcase their insights about the issues in their industry. Today Dean Averies, Oxford director at construction firm Beard, gives his view on the current materials shortage impacting the sector onsite and at a retail level.

Today the construction sector faces a crisis in materials shortages the likes of which I’ve not seen in my working lifetime.

The challenge being faced by the industry has been brought about by a ‘perfect storm’ whereby we’ve seen a drop in supply at the same time as a rise in demand leading to a devastating imbalance.

This is due in large part to the impact of coronavirus or course, as productivity in factories producing materials dropped across Europe and elsewhere. But there has also been Brexit-related issues at our ports and higher global demand resulting in cost increases and mega projects such as HS2 draining resources.

This has all resulted in extended lead-in times and the real threat of delays onsite if the current situation is not navigated skilfully.

Our response at Beard has been proactive, with increased communication including weekly senior management team meetings and regular supply chain meetings to gain a full understanding of the real time challenges they are facing. We are getting updates every day about what products are affected next and how that will impact the supply chain.

So, we have been introducing earlier procurement of packages, as we believe procurement schedules are a key tool to manage this rapidly evolving situation. In fact, what we have been doing increasingly is promoting two stage procurement to consultants and customers. This allows an overlap for design development and costing and the key is that it facilitates early ordering.

But really the industry as a whole should be taking steps to do things differently in order to mitigate against this burgeoning crisis, and I think one of the main things is to raise awareness about it.

Some customers are not aware of the situation, but once we’ve explained the reality of it they have been understanding. That allows for better planning and the potential to accommodate for longer lead-ins. I think the earlier the contractor is involved the better from that perspective, so that the customer, architect and design team are fully aware. That can only really come about if there is more collaboration, which is where we need to be if we’re going to be able to manage it through the second half of the year with our collective reputations intact.

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