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Construction industry also facing delays in goods and services just like the rest of us

Published: Sep. 23, 2021 at 6:28 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - We’ve all been there.

Back in the early days of the pandemic it was no toilet paper or disinfecting wipes.

Now it can be anything from a shortage of big plastic cups and lids at convenience stores to waiting months to get an appliance, car or garage door.

But if it makes you feel any better (and it probably won’t) the business world that supplies you with your goods and services is having problems with its supply chain as well...which is why their delays lead to your delays.

Take the construction industry.

“In today’s world general contractors are constantly having to figure out what are the lead times and what material shortages they have,” said Megan Short, the Executive Director for the Springfield Contractors Association. “But the reality is most of it is coming back to manpower shortages.”

“It’s been a strange period of time,” added Andrew Baird, the President of Conco, who knows all about labor shortages. Baird oversees a diverse company that offers concrete and aggregate materials for construction projects all over the Ozarks. But just like the general public he has to deal with finding enough workers as well as supply chain problems such as parts for his work fleet.

“That’s true for the repair of trucks and equipment,” Baird said. “All the components that you expect to get the next day are now as far as I can tell just not in the country. People need to think about whether relying totally on things coming from overseas in containers is the best way of handling every product.”

In Baird’s case the problems lead to falling behind in getting jobs completed. But the biggest obstacle still goes back to manpower like finding employees with commercial driver’s licenses to drive Conco’s concrete mixer trucks.

“Normally you’d have a trickle of interest but there was no interest this year,” Baird said. “And it doesn’t get any easier when you fall behind because these aren’t the type of things where you can catch up really quickly. But people are just doing the best they can.”

“The shortages a lot of times come down to one tiny little piece,” Short added. “We all have been hearing about the steel shortages. But even when you’re talking about concrete it’s not necessarily that there’s a shortage of the stuff to make it. It’s that (because of the steel shortage) we don’t have rebar, the stuff you need to reinforce it. Or we don’t have the people to come out and pour it. We recently had a paint shortage because some plants that made the raw materials shut down. So we have to dig down to find out where the problem is. Let’s talk to the supplier and then talk to the supplier’s supplier. Is it because that plant was shut down the entire time for COVID or because something has happened since then that’s keeping them from getting caught up?”

So with all that going on, what should all of us frustrated customers do when it comes to construction projects?

“You need to plan for extensions,” Short said. “Be in constant communication with people. Just because they had it in stock one day doesn’t mean it’s going to be in stock the next day. You may go from ‘sure we can deliver today’ to ‘it may be six months before we can have it.’ We’re basically trying to put together an estimate using a crystal ball to figure out what’s going to be happening in four-to-six months and that’s difficult right now. We’re all recognizing that it’s probably never going to be the exact same as it was and we never expect that every day will be the same.”

“I hope people for their own mental health can find some patience,” Baird added. “Impatience will never lead to anything but frustration because the construction process slows down when you don’t have enough people and you can’t do as many things at once where multiple crews are working.”

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