Has the Supply Chain Changed for Good?

Has the Supply Chain Changed for Good?

Last updated on November 2nd, 2022

We’re over two-and-a-half years out from when COVID basically shut down the world, setting off global supply chain issues that have yet to return to normal. While price and supply are stabilizing for some construction materials, they’re increasing in volatility for others. This may be one time the pendulum will not swing both ways. Even though we have a grip on Covid (for the most part), several other factors that caused the supply chain to implode continue, and there’s no timeline for resolution.

The labor shortage (which is expected to worsen as U.S. infrastructure work gets underway); the war in Ukraine; China’s faltering economy; a huge increase in supply chain cybercrime; and regulations all have a role to play in the supply chain’s recovery. The outlook is literally changing month-to-month, with some estimating a return to normalcy by the end of 2023 or, maybe, 2024. This begs the question: by that time, won’t new approaches have taken root, forever changing how the supply chain works (or doesn’t work)?

Border States, a supply chain solutions company, reported in mid-September that while lead times are decreasing, they’re still “85% longer than pre-pandemic across all markets and products.” Similarly, port backlog is decreasing but it is not back to normal. For construction, categories that still require long lead times include distribution equipment (circuit breakers, load centers, panels, switches); EMT fittings (1/2”–4” compression and set screw connectors); wiring devices and wall plates; PVC and weatherproof boxes; fuses; meter sockets and hubs; ground rods, and automation products controls.

ConstructionDive.com reported in September: “The reduction in oil prices is slowly being reflected in materials like roofing products, but that remains an area of concern. Similarly, delivery costs are easing, but there is still a shortage of drivers…Our greatest challenges are anything that involves metal, wood or glass in construction.”

In October, FreightWaves.com reported that all major indices used to track supply chain performance show it’s improving, but still has a long way to go to get back to pre-pandemic levels. For example, “ship-position data and queuing lists showed 109 container vessels waiting off U.S. ports as of Sunday. That’s down from a high of over 150, but still far above the pre-COVID normal in the single digits.”

ForConstructionPros.com also reported in September, “Expect disruptions in the supply chain to improve but not fully return to normal in 2022. Lead times will come down for many products, especially those with fewer component parts and those manufactures in onshore or nearshore locations. However, expect labor shortages to persist in 2022, causing strains on manufacturing as well as the trucking and logistics sector. Also expect backlogs in ports and on cargo ships around the world as pent-up demand continues to outstrip the supply of containers, ships and port-space.”

In August, a Supply Chain Management Review article advises firms to “proactively address supply chain disruption; focus on building a diversified supply chain with enough slack to ride out uncertainty; build for continuity; invest in systems that enable smooth operations in periods of high labor turnover; and consider smart hedges. Make strategic decisions about where to hedge (e.g., pre-buying raw materials) and consider areas most susceptible to destabilization.”

Rather than risk an influx of projects and construction growth, some firms are opting for early-stage procurement over the Just in Time inventory strategy of the past. With early-stage procurement, all supplies and materials are purchased and stored at the start of a project, rather than in phases. This can impact everything from warehouse space and equipment to staffing, procurement, project timelines, budgets, insurance policies, and cash flow. As noted by Jason Earnhardt, Austin Commercial Supply Chain Manager, on Building Design + Construction, “We have essentially become our own in-house logistics company, all in the name of keeping our clients’ projects on track.”

While you’re working to keep client projects on track, please know you can count on RBT CPAs to keep your taxes, audits and accounting on track. We’ve served clients in and around the Hudson Valley for more than 50 years. We’re an Employer of Choice. And, we hold ourselves to the highest levels of professionalism and ethics. Give us a call today.