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Managing Supply Chain Challenges


For the past few years, supply chain has been at the forefront of manufacturers’ and distributors’ minds. Construction Managers’ (CM) needs for materials and supplies have increased, which is creating a demand that is straining the supply chain and increasing the costs of goods. Because materials are in such high demand, it is clear that CMs need to prioritize visibility and resiliency in their supply chain. No one can predict the next supply chain disruption, but engaging the right CM there are solutions with preventative action to help ease the potential struggle and streamline operations, keeping projects running smoothly.

Preconstruction Communication

Getting ahead of potential supply chain woes, starts with strategic planning with the CM’s preconstruction team. The preconstruction team starts the initial planning stages of any project. It is at this stage that the collective team develops schedules and budgets, validates drawings through constructability reviews, and makes determinations surrounding manpower before construction begins.

Properly planning for long-lead time materials can make or break a project schedule. Communication between the CM’s preconstruction team and the design team on the precise materials needed for the project will help the client and CM achieve a scheduled completion. The CM must identify the necessary materials and equipment for the job, paying special attention to the materials that may require early ordering. For example, if the lead time for switchgear is twelve (12) months and the construction duration is twelve (12) months, it is prudent to order the equipment 4 months before starting the project, or delay the project start date to align with the switchgear ship date. This is still a fluid situation, as a delay in releasing equipment by as little as a week, can have several weeks of schedule impacts. These procurement timelines can then be worked into the overall construction schedule and execution plan to increase efficiency and ensure proper delivery of all materials.

Some members of Hourigan’s preconstruction team gather for a meeting.

Supply Chain Collaboration

Opening communication among the channels and entities throughout the supply chain is key to keeping ahead. With a complex network of manufacturers, suppliers, and distributors, it can become difficult to adopt new initiatives to ease the effects of supply and demand. Encouraging regular communication between external and internal partners on the team’s strategy will gain supply chain visibility and in turn, will build the relationship between the customer and supplier.

Supplier Relationships

Anytime supply chain challenges arise, the CM typically already has a strategy in place to help beat any issues. In the latest issue of Civil Quarterly, a survey asked contractors to identify which strategies they considered to be most effective.

By far, according to the publication, the most valuable strategy to beat supply chain issues was the benefit of working with specific suppliers/distributors with whom the CM has built a relationship long before demand challenges. The majority of contractors (71%) cite this as a strategy that they currently employ. And most of those utilizing it (70%) rate it as either helpful or very helpful in helping them deal with the issues they face. Building these relationships will continue to grow through setbacks and successes. The importance of these relationships will continue long after the project is complete.

Pushing Ahead

Supply chain challenges can’t always be predicted, but taking preventative action can help mitigate disruptions to active projects. An effective CM takes preventative action to tackle potential supply chain issues head on through early procurement strategies, transparent communication, and strong supplier relationships. Anticipating these obstacles keeps project operations running as efficiently as possible. As evidenced by the data above, building relationships with industry partners remains a significant focus while streamlining operations.

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