Material shortages are one of the biggest challenges facing today’s construction industry. Forty-three out of 50 states are experiencing cement shortages, and drywall is being rationed due to shortages of every required ingredient.
A multitude of factors may prolong these shortages. For example, low river levels are making conditions difficult for shipping, and rising fuel prices combined with a lack of drivers pose challenges for overland transport.
With myriad supply chain interruptions and gaps in material availability, how can the construction industry respond to ensure projects are completed successfully?
The answer lies in minimizing the impact of these shortages where possible. Contractors can’t force the availability of more materials – but a proactive construction manager can find strategies to conserve the materials to hand and maximize the use of inbound shipments.
Read on as we show you how to deal with construction material shortages and push your projects forward.
Tips to Avoid the Construction Material Shortage
In order to understand how to avoid problems related to the construction material shortage, we need to discuss where these challenges come from. The construction material shortage has many roots– it’s not just one problem, but many minor issues that have snowballed into larger ones.
The primary source of the current material shortage began in 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down factories in China, Italy, and other locations worldwide.
When the US economy dipped in March of 2020, many construction projects were delayed and orders were canceled. Material suppliers lost workers to the virus– and many shut down per government instructions. To this day, many suppliers are still not back on track.
Climate change and extreme weather have also caused severe issues in the supply chain. The big freeze of 2021 seriously damaged many petrochemical plants and factories in Texas, impacting resin production for plastic construction products like pipes, insulation, doors, and windows. Extreme flooding in areas where raw materials like sand are extracted can cause significant scarcity, and elsewhere drought can prevent extraction firms from getting enough water to complete vital tasks.
The bottom line is that there is no easy solution– and no real end in sight. But despite these issues, there are strategies you can employ to lessen the impact of the construction material shortage on your projects.
Diversifying your supply chain gives you backup options when one supplier can’t deliver. Instead of relying on a single source for your construction materials, establish relationships with multiple reputable suppliers you trust. By doing so, you can ensure a more consistent and reliable flow of materials and have the flexibility to adapt to changing market conditions and unexpected disruptions.
Improve Communication and Planning
Effective communication and proactive planning are essential strategies to navigate material shortages on construction sites. Maintaining open and transparent lines of communication with your suppliers and subcontractors is paramount.
You can stay well-informed about potential material shortages and market fluctuations by fostering strong relationships and encouraging dialogue. This real-time awareness enables you to anticipate challenges, adjust timelines, and explore alternative materials or suppliers when necessary.
Integrating Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) software and Building Information Modeling (BIM) can significantly enhance your communication and planning efforts.
These technologies have revolutionized the construction industry by providing digital platforms for comprehensive project management. They allow for the creation of highly detailed and accurate 3D models, facilitating precise project planning and design.
By harnessing the power of BIM, you can identify potential issues, clashes, or inefficiencies early in a project, thereby reducing errors and the likelihood of material wastage.
Moreover, these software solutions enhance collaboration among all project stakeholders, streamlining the exchange of critical information.
As a result, you can mitigate the impact of material shortages by optimizing your material usage and adapting swiftly to any supply chain disruptions, ultimately enhancing your construction project's overall efficiency and resilience.
Pre-Order and Purchase in Bulk
There are some materials like lumber, concrete, and drywall that are essential parts of any construction project. Anticipate material shortages by pre-ordering these materials well in advance. Consider bulk purchasing arrangements with suppliers to secure larger quantities of materials at discounted prices.
Adopt Construction Technology
Planning ahead for building material shortages helps construction project managers work smarter, not harder. By embracing construction technology solutions that optimize construction processes and minimize material waste, you can conserve the materials you already have in case of a shortage.
Prefabrication is the process of making components of buildings off-site and transferring the partially assembled buildings to the job site for final installation. Prefabrication reduces the cost of materials because the raw materials are sourced and built off-site. This eliminates the need for traditional construction material sourcing and improves efficiency.
Prefabrication is made possible by advanced software, including BIM software and automated multi-trade layout, which helps improve the accuracy of the design, layout, and installation processes.
BIM & VDC Software
Using BIM and VDC software helps organize and visualize the design and planning process for construction projects. With real-time collaboration in a 3D model, experts from all trades can work together to identify potential clashes in design and resolve them upstream. The comprehensive 3D model acts as a single source of truth for the project, with highly detailed design notes.
Using a coordinated virtual model enables teams to plan for prefabrication, planning ahead for modular designs. In addition, automated multi-trade layout encourages teams to adopt BIM and VDC software because it directly brings the benefits of virtual design details into the field.
Automated Multi-Trade Layout
Dusty Robotics pioneered automated multi-trade layout, printing the coordinated BIM model directly on the construction site surface with 100% accuracy. The Dusty Robotics FieldPrinter® can print all trades' layout concurrently, print modular layout, and print additional information such as room labels, part numbers, and QR codes. With the Dusty Robotics FieldPrinter, crews can easily install prefabricated assemblies in a quicker and more efficient manner.
Using automated multi-trade layout also helps eliminate rework. Rework consumes unnecessary materials, budget, and time on construction projects, and reducing rework should be a main objective for construction project managers.
Turner Construction leveraged Dusty Robotics FieldPrinter to achieve an unprecedented five times increase in layout speed while maintaining an impeccable 100% accuracy rate. This eradicated the need for rework on Turner’s projects, ushering in a new era of efficiency and precision.
Accelerate Construction Schedules
Any material order delays increase the risk of unavailable materials. It’s critical to accelerate your schedule by leveraging technology like Dusty FieldPrinter.
Since layout is often a critical path activity, with the Dusty FieldPrinter, you can increase the float in your construction schedule, which can act as a buffer to absorb construction delays due to material delays or shortages.
Skanska, one of the world’s largest construction and development companies, harnessed the power of Dusty FieldPrinter to deliver a state-of-the-art healthcare facility a full three months ahead of schedule.
Moreover, the project came in $3 million dollars under budget, exemplifying how innovative solutions can drive both time and cost efficiencies in the construction industry.
Sometimes, you can swap out materials with substitutions that are more readily available. This goes hand-in-hand with diversifying your suppliers; the more options you have available, the easier it is to weather a construction material shortage.
Other times, using better tools, such as Dusty FieldPrinter, can help bridge supply gaps by using your resources more efficiently.
Prioritize Essential Projects
A key strategy in navigating material shortages is the prioritization of essential projects. By assessing the urgency and criticality of various construction jobs and tasks, allocating scarce materials to high-priority jobs and minimizing disruptions during construction material scarcity is easier.
The construction material shortage isn’t likely to go away any time soon. But if you embrace the digital transformation and start using technology to reduce inefficiency, it doesn’t have to negatively impact your construction business.
When you take advantage of multi-trade digital layout with Dusty Robotics FieldPrinter, you reduce the need for expensive rework and the dramatic increase in material that it requires. Get up to speed with innovative construction technology and contact Dusty to leverage multi-trade layout for your next construction project.