Disruptions in the Construction Chain

March 2020 will always be remembered as a very disturbing time in our history. With many senses of uncertainty, coming to grips with the right amount of protection, along with the right amount of routine activity, has been a grind for many people. 


With the initial phase of warnings not stopping construction activity, we are informed to keep a keen eye on all potential active warning signs when it comes to our health. Along with that, disruptions in the construction chain will cause delays on a trickle effect and small setbacks can cause large scale postponements if the right steps aren’t taken. Here are a couple ways general contractors are conditioning themselves for the potential of a chain disruption. 

Order Soon and Stick to the Plan

Typically, many decisions are made concerning the finishes on products and a two to three-week lead time is enough time for information travel, but for the time we are in now, those decisions are needing to be expedited. The key is to not rush the decision on paint color or floor samples, but be attentive to the need in the meetings, ask the questions concerning the product you are discussing, and make a decisive decision of which to choose. With that in mind, sticking to the choice made is important because as products get delayed, a small order of extra flooring can potentially set a project back multiple weeks if the product is not in stock or the shipping company is crossing state lines. This is where small delays turn into large scale problems on a construction schedule.

Order Soon and Store on Site

Certain jobsites are large enough in scale and have space for additional pod storage units. These units are great to have because when the product is needed, it’s a quick trip to the storage pod on site to retrieve the needed article. Also, for invoicing purposes, this material stored on site can be billed to the owner immediately and proof of the material is easily accountable. With less outside trips to the supply house or back to a warehouse, the project can arguably be completed faster with the material in hand sooner. However, with positives come negatives, and these pods can get expensive and become cumbersome when budget and project storage space are limited.

Order Soon and Store Off Site

Larger material crates such as HVAC package units or sheetrock that cannot withstand the weather elements have the option to be purchased and stored off site in a local warehouse that is also within a quick driving distance to the jobsite. A general contractor must press their subcontractors to order the material they will need for the next four to six weeks to ensure the holdups don’t occur on their jobsite due to material shortage. Again, material stored off site can also be invoiced to the owner as long as safe and secure storage can be provided. 

Use Basic Materials

Certain projects have special and unique needs but also certain projects can be supplied with basic, simple, and quality products to meet the needs of the client. As lead times get longer, having the ability to adjust and differentiate between products that give you the “look and feel” and products that work solely for its main purpose is important. When items are not on the shelf like we are accustomed to seeing, or products have a longer lead time for shipping across state lines or national borders, we must adjust accordingly to get the project completed. 

Other delays in construction can come from meetings being postponed due to the threat of illness being spread. A large push for online meetings is currently being seen, however, as many of us know, certain meeting topics are best discussed in person. Contract negotiations that have customarily been done face to face will be required to take place in separate spaces. However, when a large group is involved, live streaming Town Hall meetings makes it difficult to have a question and answer discussion time without face to face contact. 

Overall, construction delays are imminent in the early part of uncertain times. As contractors and clients adjust to the industry’s availability, the stability of products and the knowledge and use of certain items will become the customary way. Ultimately, construction will go on and people will continue to build, modify, and add-on to enhance their way of living. Discuss these changes with your seasoned Design-Build General Contractor and ask how they will push your project forward and still give you the best quality performance. 

Goosie Kennedy is a Project Manager for D. R. Reynolds Company, Inc., a Design-Build General Contractor.

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