What’s the Problem? Industry Companies Continue to Grapple with Supply and Labor Issues

The ongoing pandemic and the strengthening delta variant continue to be major factors impacting the many facets of the construction industry. That’s according to the fourth in a series of Construction Inflation Alerts from the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) this year. These reports inform project owners, government officials and the public about cost increases and supply-chain disruptions.

“Although the overall economy has strengthened significantly in the past few months and appears to be headed for further growth, the construction industry has experienced a much more uneven recovery. Lagging demand for numerous types of nonresidential construction is keeping many contractors from passing on their added costs. The delta variant of COVID-19 has disrupted production and delivery of goods, labor availability and ownersʼ demand for projects,” the document reads.

Throughout the year, producers have announced price increases of a variety of materials, including glass and aluminum.

The report also breaks down recent supply-chain issues, explaining how delays at every stage with extended and uncertain delivery times are becoming an even bigger problem for contractors than price increases.

“Contractors have reported being told they cannot get bar joists for 11-12 months … Respondents to a survey conducted by AGC of California reported lead times of ‘16 weeks to unknown’ for items as diverse as lockers, glass, structural steel detailing, ductile iron fittings and other pipe material, insulation, aluminum extrusion, signal poles and airfield lighting.”

In addition to the supply chain issues, companies also continue to struggle with the labor shortage. PGT Innovations located in North Venice, Fla., for example, was facing a lack of drivers to complete its door and window products deliveries. To resolve the situation, the company took a unique approach and created an in-house driver certification training course for its existing employees.

“Trying to recruit qualified CDL Class-A drivers was proving to be quite difficult,” said Rachel Evans, vice president of human resources at PGT Innovations. “We saw the potential in our existing team member population and realized that we could offer a program to our own folks who were interested in taking their careers in a new direction.”

PGT Innovations brought in instructors from FleetForce Truck Driving School to teach the course at PGT’s Venice campus followed by driving instruction in a controlled parking lot, according to a press release.

“The need for CDL drivers right now can’t be overstated,” said Tra Williams, president of FleetForce Truck Driving School. “PGT Innovations recognized that they could fill this need and at the same time, invest in their team members’ futures. Through this CDL training, they are creating a path of upward mobility.”

Deliveries have been impacted via other methods, as well. According to the report from AGC, Asia and Europe reportedly cannot get enough containers or berths on containerships to send products to the U.S. COVID outbreaks caused shutdowns at two of the world’s largest containership ports in China, disrupting the flow of ships and containers in both directions.

“Ports are backed up, forcing ships to wait offshore for days before unloading. As many as 73 containerships, with several hundred thousand containers, were off the coast of California in mid-September, waiting for berths because the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach were jammed with containers that had yet to move inland,” according to the report.

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