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Hush Acoustics: Weathering construction’s perfect storm

  • 9 Jun 2021

Strange times indeed for the construction industry. The rapid post-COVID bounce-back in commercial and public sector activity has coincided with a DIY and home improvement boom, the likes of which never seen, to exert unprecedented pressures on the building industry, explains Hush Acoustics

But tempting as it is simply to vent our frustrations, the most positive move we can make is to adapt quickly to get through this difficult set of circumstances while keeping building projects on schedule and within budget. 

The reality of market conditions – as of mid-May 2021 – means we will have to set ourselves new expectations on the cost of products and services, the availability of some items and lead times. 

That’s not to say we can’t do what we can to help our customers. In fact, Hush Acoustics is doing everything it can to ease the situation, for example, by ordering raw materials 12 weeks in advance to stay ahead as much as possible of the 6/8 week lead times.

We are also having regular meetings with haulage companies to fully understand the constantly changing transport issues, try to find ways to navigate around the problems they face and work with them to alleviate the pressures.

Hush

Material supply and price increases

From plasterboard to glass, roof tiles to shower enclosures – the construction industry has had to get used to many essential products being in short supply for well over 12 months. International trade complications like Brexit and even the Suez Canal incident have exacerbated the problems which have stemmed largely from a reduction in manufacturing output and record demand.

Take chipboard, for example, which is one of the key raw materials that Hush Acoustics uses for its acoustic flooring products like Hush-Panel 28. The price from suppliers has increased by around 30% in the past year, and lead times have increased from 5-7 days to 6-8 weeks.

The volatility of raw material prices means it has become impossible for suppliers to honour quotes for the usual 30 days without the risk of losing money on customer orders. This is, unfortunately, why quotes from Hush Acoustics are now only valid for seven days.

Our prices are based on the current supply costs for raw materials. Like many manufacturers, we are getting hit with weekly price increase notifications across all raw materials at the moment and, as much as we continue to absorb as much of these as we can to keep our costs competitive, some price increases have to be passed on. 

This is why we urge customers to place orders for materials as soon as they know they need it to secure stock and the prices quoted!

Transport under pressure

Another current challenge faced by the construction industry is with transporting products to customers. Delays resulting from new trade arrangements with the EU and Northern Ireland may have grabbed the national headlines, but we also seeing more general difficulties unfolding for deliveries across the UK.

The rapid economic bounce-back is undoubtedly one reason for this as demand for products on construction sites and from businesses of all kinds is putting a strain on haulage companies. This is understandable given that capacity is not unlimited and there are only so many vehicles and drivers to go around. 

The problem with this ‘demand outstripping supply’ situation is that it drives up delivery costs further, as well as timescales.

It is situation that’s largely out of our hands and means our usual delivery time of 1-2 days has increased to as much as 5-7 days as a result. 

Manufacturing output still lagging 

Another big impact of the pandemic was the reduction in workforce numbers in many areas of the economy, either through the furlough scheme or permanent redundancies.

This was, of course, a vital step for many businesses to survive and be in a position to bounce-back strongly as demand fell through the floor almost overnight in March 2020.

We are still seeing the effects of this as some businesses have not been able to bring their full workforce back for one reason or another, while others who reduced their headcount are yet to re-recruit fully.

This situation is amplified by the fact that social distancing measures remain in place in many factories to maintain safety and this is very likely to affect productivity. 

For example, where a production line once had ten operatives working in close proximity, there may only be six or seven now – that could mean output is only at 60%-70%. The result is reduced product supply which again drives up prices to the customer.

Managing the challenges

This perfect storm that’s affecting the construction industry will pass but, in the meantime, there are two important steps to take in order to maintain productivity on site and keep projects on schedule:

  1. Set realistic customer expectations – your competitors will be in the same boat so there is no need to make promises you can’t fulfil
  2. Order as soon as you can to secure the product at the lowest price

In addition, talk to your supplier about alternative products if the one that you need is not available currently or prohibitively costly. 

Hush Acoustics can advise on alternative approaches to acoustic insulation to ensure customers can deliver to the spec in a slightly different way. For example, as chipboard is in such short supply, it may be sensible to choose an alternative material in combination with other insulating products that still achieves the aims to reduce airborne, impact and flanking sound transmission.

For help and advice in this area and any aspect of acoustic insulation for domestic, commercial and public building projects, visit www.hushacoustics.co.uk.

Hush Acoustics,
44 Canal Street,
South Sefton,
Liverpool,
Merseyside,
United Kingdom,
L20 8QU

Phone: 0151 933 2026
Fax: 0151 944 1146

Visit Hush Acoustics' website

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