It’s official. These are tough times for contractors. The 2020 Q4 report from the U.S. Chamber of Commercial Construction Index reveals that 71% of contractors surveyed reported at least one material shortage. 31% of respondents cited a lack of lumber, 11% said they experienced scarcity in steel. And while unemployment rates are high, it’s hard to find and keep employees while complying with COVID-19 requirements.
However, commercial construction has always been a challenging industry: contractors and builders have always had to balance customer bids against the ever-changing costs of materials. Yet, the shortages brought on by the 2020 pandemic have created a new level of scarcity that hasn’t been seen for generations. While running into some types of shortages is inevitable in this climate, there are many things contractors and builders can do to minimize the effect of insufficient supply.
Improve Construction Work Site Productivity
Before COVID-19, an inefficient worksite was less profitable and could eat at your bottom line. In today’s environment, inefficient worksites can bankrupt a company. Maximizing productivity on a job site requires management and supervisors to work at peak efficiency to control costs and stay on schedule.
One way to increase productivity is to get more work done with fewer shift changes. General contractors and subcontractors in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut should work with commercial building suppliers to map out work in logical sequences that maximize the efficiency of everyone working on the job.
Another way to improve productivity is to ensure all field workers know how to safely and adequately complete assigned tasks. This may require more upfront training off-site, but the investment will pay off when the team is together, ensuring all people on the site know what to do, and can complete their tasks efficiently without holding up other crew members.
Creating a good relationship with your commercial building supply distributor can also improve site productivity. For example, Metro regularly works with customers to review supply chain issues and delivery dates and suggest strategies to rework timelines or orders when materials are scarce.
Stay Nimble and Be Ready to Pivot
New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut have not experienced any real scarcity for decades. That’s why, for the past forty years, we’ve all heard that strict planning is a crucial part of any construction project. And thorough plans are still necessary to get the job done. However, today’s construction roadmaps also require contingencies to accommodate changing supply chains and price increases.
Value engineering can help builders pivot as circumstances change. Value engineering is a way to substitute materials and methods with less expensive or less scarce alternatives without sacrificing functionality or quality. Metro has always embraced value engineering, even before the stresses of the pandemic. Our team is committed to helping contractors and builders find the best options for their projects, lowering costs, or increasing profitability in the process.
Value Engineering Can Reduce Costs
Creating construction plans with built-in options and alternatives is a way to allow all team members to be aware of potential obstacles and react quickly without losing a lot of time. When you include your commercial building supply distributor in this kind of contingency planning, the distributor can help identify potential issues, explain which materials and brands are increasing prices or experiencing shortages, or warn you when suppliers are delivering inconsistently. When you work with Metro, we’ll help you find the most reliable suppliers and do our best to suggest viable alternatives when scarcities exist.
Build Contingencies into Contracts
The “new normal” has motivated many customers, contractors, and subcontractors in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut to change the terms in their contracts. Whether you are writing or signing contracts, make sure your team understands every aspect of these changing agreements, including:
- Penalties or process associated with delays
- Change order procedures, timing, and associated penalties
- Restrictions on types of materials used, and the process for substituting materials
- Site restrictions, including COVID-related requirements
- Insurance coverage, to make sure that you won’t be financially responsible for failures on the part of your client, your subcontractor, or your suppliers.
Work With a Proactive Building Supply Distributor
In the (almost) post-pandemic world, don’t take anything for granted: be proactive. Stay on top of every job. Monitor each project and timeline closely. Visit job sites early and work closely with project superintendents to discuss schedule, priorities, staffing, conflicts, and issues. Make sure all team members have the materials and labor they need to stay on track.
Your commercial building supply distributor should also understand how global changes will affect the kinds of materials you need on your job. As the situation changes in the U.S. and around the world, shifts in material availabilities will vary widely among manufacturers. A good building supply distributor like Metro will be proactive when helping you look for additional suppliers or resources.
It’s smart to continually review your material needs, and work with your building supply distributor to identify possible delays from manufacturers. For additional support and assistance, contact our skilled support staff today.
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