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Delayed Reaction—COVID-19 Effects

September 4, 2020

The pandemic has played havoc on the schedules of many commercial roofing projects. In virtually all of these cases, the challenges have been caused by the impacts to material supply chain issues for roofing shingles, underlayment, roof insulation, and other roof system products. 

Distributors continued to meet contractor demand in the early months of 2020 until they depleted virtually all of their stock. As they placed orders for new inventory to be delivered, they began to receive news that several issues were resulting in shortages that are now being projected to be as long as six months for certain materials. As we worked with our distributors, two major issues seem to have collided to cause this havoc in what has been a relatively stable supply chain for decades:

Manufacturing Delays: Many manufacturers have endured multiple shut-downs due to COVID-19 detected in the workforces of their roofing product production facilities and/or stops further up in these manufacturer's “end-product” supply chains - if you can’t access a key ingredient of the product you are supposed to be manufacturing on a given day, production for that day has to be shut down or pivoted to a product whose raw materials are available but that may not have as much demand.

Shipping Delays: Even before the pandemic, trucking companies were short of qualified drivers. Add infection among some of the qualified truck drivers that had been typically available to a surge in freight to meet the seemingly insatiable (and in some cases unreasonable) human appetite for “essential” items, and the shipping industry was facing the perfect storm of low driver supply during an uneven spike in demand. In some cases, shipping companies prioritized consumer-oriented products over manufacturing items, leaving many truckloads of materials important to numerous construction-oriented businesses in limbo.

This combination of issues is a “warning bell” for owners not to delay decision-making on material selections and other decisions that may affect the start of projects. If you have any construction projects underway or planned, you should definitely talk with your contractor or subcontractor about what they will need to complete your job (and don’t currently have yet) and potentially have them verify (and ideally reserve) the materials that will be required for your project. Depending on the results of this process, owners may have to work with contractors in some “out of the box” ways to keep projects on schedule.

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