Project Challenges & Solutions Caused by Material Shortage & Delays  
Project Challenges & Solutions Caused by Material Shortage & Delays  

Have you heard lately, “this is the first (fill-in-the-blank) that we’ve had since COVID shut us down?” On August 4, these words were spoken when a group of general contractors, architects, specialty subcontractors, and construction consultants gathered at AIA Dallas. Everyone in attendance was happy to be in person to hear how some are dealing with the very current and real issues of material shortages and supply chain disruptions. 

Panelists at the roundtable included Ben Crawford AIA (Senior Principal, HOK), Steve Whitcraft (Preconstruction Team Leader, Turner Construction), Stephen Sacks (Principal, SLS Consultants), and Eliot Kahn (Construction Project Manager, Kahn Mechanical Contractors). George Watts (Senior Project Manager, SLS Consultants) moderated the discussion. 

Panelist agree procurement strategy needed

Preplanning, Preplanning, Preplanning  

The discussion started with a question about change in the way we work today versus pre-pandemic.  The first response stated that “the industry is used to hitting the ground running (once a project gets going) but now there are so many interruptions.” The need for “preplanning, preplanning, preplanning” has never been more important pushing everyone to engage earlier to help make critical decisions.  

This thought continued with another panelist emphasizing that collaboration is key and needs to be at a level above traditional delivery. “Plan with exchangeable parts so if one part is not available, you have back-up.” 

Another chimed in stating that as a subcontractor they want to get in as early as possible. “Flexibility is important to us and we can’t be stuck with one manufacturer.” He continued saying that working with the same manufacturer is beneficial, which everyone agreed if that manufacturer can deliver.

He emphasized his intent to “work with the supplier who answers the phone.” All were in agreement - “Pick the relationship that will help you.” 

Contractors react to procurement strategy

The architect’s view of their challenges was also addressed. As an example, “if you love the design of an elevator and design it into plans only to find out that that elevator is not available, you have to make design changes, communicate with the owner, and jump through a few other hoops to make it happen.”  

A solid, effective supplier relationship is critical today. The value of that relationship creates a significant difference in finding and securing needed construction materials. 

Procurement Strategy 

The roundtable continued with common themes including the fact that no one is immune from the challenges of supply chain issues and material shortages. Materials impact every stakeholder, both the GC and trades, developers, and suppliers, so it’s time to address the inefficiency. Open, honest discussions and an agreed-on procurement strategy are needed for delivery times and contingency plans, which need to come early in the project. 

There are also more ‘competitors’ helping each other out. If they have inventory that others can use, they are more likely today to help if possible. Inventory levels are quite low. You don’t want to depend on a competitor to help out so encouraging the clients to buy sooner than later.  

Throughout the discussion, “procurement strategy” came up often. Procurement strategy is very important for any project – work towards something repeatable to make it more predictable. Pre-alignment meeting is vital; culture change is important even if “always done it this way for years” is evident. 

“Affecting all trades and project stages” 

These challenges are echoed in the headlines and news stories across the US in trade and non-trade publications. News items like this will continue for the foreseeable future: 

  • “Unfortunately, cost increases are widespread, affecting all trades and project stages. It’s not only the main structural materials — glass, rebar, steel, lumber — but crucial smaller items such as screws, plates, fasteners, metal door frames, electrical panels, and much more.” TheSafetyMag.com 
  • Despite the ensuing fallout of rising inflation, contractors are relying upon their resourcefulness and adaptability to face supply chain and labor issues, rising costs and time delays. AZBigMedia.com 
  • The project is projected to cost $124 million, a price tag driven up by inflation, supply chain issues, and rising construction costs. ProvidenceJournal.com 
  • Experts said they don't anticipate a solution to major supply chain issues until the end of next year, which could mean an even longer pause on city projects. CBSNews.com 
  • There is NO “NEW NORMAL” in the global supply chain. There is a “NEW ABNORMAL.” ...Commercial construction companies must have a new focus on resilience, including having more options of procuring materials and spreading the risk by avoiding total reliance on isolated supply chains. ReadingEagle.com 

One Word: Communication 

Preplanning Material Management

Supply chain issues and material shortages require a focus on procurement strategy and preplanning, which can be boiled down into one word – communication. When that communication breaks down or is never established no one wins - the owner, the architect, the GC, the subs – they all lose. 

Companies at all phases of the project must be actively involved contributing to a more resilient supply chain and upgraded workflow through the use of technology.  

Effective use of technologies, such as StructShare, will help improve material management process visibility and standardize workflows to maximize efficiency and project savings. The results increase staff productivity, coordination with suppliers, invoice reconciliation, inventory tracking, and much more. Request a demo now to see how StructShare works for your business and unique needs.