‘Enormous’ materials supply chain pressure continues

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The pressure on the building materials and products supply chain remains “enormous” as demand in the UK and globally continues to outstrip supply, according to the Construction Leadership Council (CLC).

John Newcomb, CEO of the Builders Merchants Federation, and Peter Caplehorn, CEO of the Construction Products Association, co-chairs of the Construction Leadership Council’s (CLC) Product Availability working group, warned that there were few signs that there continued to be “unprecedented challenges” around a number of key product areas including timber, roof tiles and some steel products.

They said that demand was unlikely to slow down during the busy summer months, which would continue to keep supply constrained.

Supplies of bagged cement are also under pressure, which the CLC said may have been impacted by some manufacturers undertaking “overdue preventative maintenance”. 

Paints, sealants and chemical products, also continue to be affected by raw material shortages, with paints additionally affected by a shortage of packaging, particularly metal cans.

Meanwhile, the situation with insulation boards has also become tighter, with PIR becoming harder to obtain and contractors seeking alternatives. Plasterboard has been subject to extended lead times with one major manufacturer indicating their products going on allocation. Some regions are also reporting delayed deliveries of bricks and blocks, the CLC said.

Electrical products have been affected by raw material shortages, particularly steel products and semi-conductors, since autumn 2020. The CLC said the issues were now compounded by a shipping backlog in China’s Pearl River Delta, with hundreds of container ships waiting for berths to become available.

And the CLC warned that another problem is the availability of hauliers, which is becoming a “critical nationwide problem” in the UK, causing delays and impacting project programmes.  

In their statement, Newcomb and Caplehorn said: “The UK has lost 15,000 European drivers this year due to Brexit, and 30,000 UK driver tests due to covid, which has exacerbated the driver shortage. The CLC’s Product Availability Group is supporting the Road Haulage Association in its discussions with the Department for Transport to address the shortage.”

They added that all of the problems with supply were feeding into price inflation, and the expectation is that high demand coupled with tight supply “will sustain elevated prices throughout the year”.

They advised construction firms to plan in advance and urged good communication throughout the supply chain to assist with reliable delivery dates and to manage expectations about shortages or allocations.

They said: “Builders and contractors should also maintain open communications with their customers regarding lead times, possible product substitutions and early notice of potential price increases.”

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