Overcoming Long Lead Times in Industrial Projects

Written by Tom Beres, Regional Vice President – Industrial

Overcoming Long Lead Times in Industrial Projects

Since the start of the pandemic, our country has battled supply chain issues, with everything from soap to flour in short supply. The first shortage that greatly impacted the construction industry was lumber, as prices skyrocketed to an all-time high. While this primarily affected the multi-family market, as supply chain disruptions continued, it wasn’t long before the industrial market started feeling the effects.

With raw material shortages and production maxed out, no U.S. region has gone untouched. In the Chicago area, we are experiencing shortages of precast, which now has a lead time of up to 18 months. In the Southeast, we are seeing a shortage of stone and cement needed for the concrete mixes. Nationally, we are seeing allocations of roofing and steel products.

Though we all hope to see an end to these challenges soon, the reality is that with lead times of more than a year, we will face this for some time still. This makes early and careful planning crucial during pre-construction and construction. It is important to be open and upfront with the client about challenges we expect to face and our plan to overcome them.

Adaptability is key to maintain a timely completion. We now approach the sequence of construction differently on many projects to ensure that the lack of availability of one material doesn’t delay the entire project. With a shortage of precast, we are seeing projects where all site work and paving, which is normally completed near the end of a project, is completed first. At other projects, we have erected the steel framing before the precast panels were installed. With a dramatic increase in steel prices, we have shifted from using ballasted roof systems to using adhered systems.

Our strong relationships with our subcontractors have also been an important factor in the success of our projects. We are often able to secure materials with a letter of intent before a contract is formally issued so that we can get them as early as possible.

At the end of the day, our clients can trust that we will get the job done. The current market conditions don’t make it easy, but our team is equipped to tackle challenges as they come.