What makes the design and construction industry so vibrant – what gives us our strength – is that we all bring different backgrounds, experiences, perspectives, and skills to the collective table. But no matter how diverse we are as professionals, there is one challenge we have all faced: disruptions, interruptions, and missing links in the supply chain. It is an ongoing issue for the home industry. What are we facing – and how can we leverage our innovation and ingenuity to find solutions?
Kinks in the Home Industry Supply Chain
One of the big supply chain issues we are facing is delays in stock and materials from overseas, particularly China. In the early months of the pandemic, for example, designers were faced with wait times as long as eight to twelve weeks or more for custom cabinetry, countertops, fixtures, appliances, etc.
Construction professionals, too, feel the pinch as materials such as wood, steel, plaster, electrical equipment, light fixtures, cement, cementitious products, HVAC equipment, etc. are also making their way from tier 2 and tier 3 suppliers much more slowly. Transportation has also been a challenge; finding enough drivers to handle freight and cargo on the roads can be difficult, depending on your area and the overall job market. When unemployment is low, good drivers are hard to find.
Running low on materials before or during a project means a lengthy wait, and, to add insult to injury, you are probably going to be paying more. In June 2020, for example, raw material prices increased by 2.2 percent due to supply chain disruptions.
Further, because of the pandemic, warehouses must comply with strict guidelines in terms of social distancing and enhanced cleaning processes. This often means fewer people on shift, which leads to additional slowdowns in the supply chain.
There are also ingrained supply chain issues in the home industry. One big factor is that it tends to involve a complex network of suppliers with many more links than some other supply chains. In construction and design, professionals routinely work with different teams for different projects – architects, engineers, contractors, designers, etc. They may do a project and never work together again. Each is sourcing materials according to their role, and it needs to come together in a seamless, coordinated way. With more links, there are more chances for slowdowns and stoppages.
Tackling Home Industry Supply Chain Challenges
So, let’s solve a perennial problem in a paragraph! Ok, we can’t do that, but we can focus on some key strategies that can help us overcome supply chain challenges:
- Prioritize supply chain – and risk management. Pre-pandemic, many companies often kicked the can down the road. As we have seen, we cannot afford to be reactive. Take a proactive stance, manage expectations, coordinate efforts well in advance, and keep communication flowing.
- Look into expanding your supply chain. For example, if you currently rely on foreign materials and products, explore domestic and, if possible, local sources. Disruptions at this level can be more easily countered.
- Contingency plan. If there is a disruption to your current supply chain, what are you going to do? Shut down? Fail to meet client expectations? No, you are going to go to Plan B, C, or Z. This is where expanding your reach comes in. Think regionalization, localization, and segmentation.
- Use technology to generate good data. Your suppliers need an accurate forecast to fulfill orders. This will also help you avoid issues around under-delivering, as well as holding on to too much product.
- Build strong relationships and a solid network. Clear communication, transparency, and relationship-building are critical in preventing supply chain disruptions.
At Home Artisans of Indiana, we are committed to building better businesses together. We know we can’t solve the supply chain problem with one article – or with one set of ideas, one method of thinking, or one strategy. We can, however, work collaboratively to alleviate supply chain challenges in our community of professionals. Let’s put our heads together; visit HAOI to learn more.