Problems with supply shortages after panic buying?
Most UK construction sites are back open for business, albeit with slightly different rules and regulations to help reduce the risks caused by COVID-19. Sites may be back open, but it seems the resources are not back to what they once were. In fact, many have found key building materials to be in short supply.
Some materials seem to be considerably lesser in their numbers, others currently seem barely in existence. This is caused largely by manufacturers of these required materials making the choice to halt production in the early state of lockdown and now facing a scramble to catch up, whilst an increased demand grows.
Here are the materials that still seem to be in short supply:
• External timber items such as fence panels, posts and decking
• Plaster and plasterboard
• Bagged cement
• Paints and coatings for external use
• Landscaping items particularly those with long lead times.
But it is not just the materials themselves that are causing the holdup for a large variety of projects. There is also a shortage of wooden pallets, which are required to bring the materials onto site. A lot of pallets tend to come from Scotland where many of the manufactures have ceased activity and have not yet returned. There is a further strain on construction sites being able to make use of wooden pallets as many other industries also rely on them, such as the food industry.
What caused the material shortage?
The pandemic caused the material shortage in that various operations responsible for the distribution of builders materials were closed down during lockdown. This then meant many individuals and organisations were not able to collect the materials they needed. Also, as faced in other industries during the lockdown, panic buying was a problem, with some people panic buying plaster in particularly large quantities. Plaster is an example of a material that definitely has not fully recovered to its normal availability.
What is being done?
There has been a lot of talk around what is being done to address these shortages and have construction sites once again more able to operate on a bigger scale as they would have previously.
Caplehorn and Newcombe are co-chairs of a working group that was set up in mid-March by the Construction Leadership Council. They aim to address the supply of these shortages that are affecting the construction industry. The organisation has a Product Availability Group (PAG) that has convened weekly, giving the opportunity for representatives to come together and discuss the matter, including those from both small and large organisations as well as contractors, manufacturers and merchants. Hopefully, this may help to result in some new legislation that will help reduce the issues the construction industry is facing at this current time.
So it is fair to say that the construction industry has been hit as a result of the pandemic. Our best hope is that, in a short space of time as possible, these essential materials will become more widely available and eventually there will be no issues obtaining required materials anymore.