by Krista Mund, Executive Vice President
Homebuilding supplies are in high demand and short supply - from the electricity feeding developments, to the 2x4s framing up the houses, to the appliances and fixtures equipping them. It’s a crisis that is not going away soon. HBA of F-M asked trade partners for their advice to builders, contractors and developers as the global pandemic advances.
Associated trade partners are dealing with the most volatile manufacturing environment we have ever encountered. Countries are mandating factory closings due to the virus and this has put a tremendous strain on inventory. Parts facilities are the hardest hit as a lot of manufacturers source inventory from the same location. In addition, we work with vendors that have made personnel cuts so responses to our inquiries are delayed.
A factory that is open today may be closed tomorrow due to a positive test resulting in the facility having to be sanitized and new safety measures put into place. Once the building is reopened, worker pods that had six associates in an area to assemble a product may now be down to two due to social distance guidelines. Productivity is typically then about 60 percent.
And on top of that, we now dealing with “alive” inventory versus what we could see on a screen and rely on. By “alive” I mean just that. I had this happen to me recently. I called a vendor to check stock on an item and within one minute their on-hand available inventory changed three times.
So how do we get through this?
It still amazes me how the public does not know how the pandemic has affected our trade. Contractors that have the first interaction with clients need to start this dialog with associate trade partners supporting the same message.
Most, if not all, vendors have product availability issues of some kind. Maybe it is just one common item in their product offering. This leads to a situation where brands may have to be mixed to complete the package.
3. Order early.
I will end with the obvious suggestion but add a note of caution. Yes, please work with your associate trade partners to order items well in advance. But keep in mind that lead times are constantly changing, and it is very difficult and overwhelming to keep up with every item offered by every vendor. An item listed last week with a 90-day lead time, might jump to 120 days today due to reasons detailed above.
Let’s all continue to be safe and healthy and work in unison to get through this together.
COVID-19 has affected the Cass County Electric Cooperative supply chain as well. What used to be weeks to receive materials and equipment now takes months. If you are planning a project, it’s imperative to contact CCEC as soon as possible, so we are aware of the project and materials necessary to get it completed.
My recommendation for builders is to be very organized and patient. From the sticks to the doors to the mill work, finalize those details early and get them ordered. From reading articles and talking with vendors, these issues won't be over anytime soon. We are in it for the long haul. Lumber and OSB are at record highs and availability is near zero. Mills are up to 2-3 months out right now. There is no end in sight according to our vendors either. These are challenging times for all of us, from the manufacturer, distributor, retailer, builder and homeowner.