Construction Product Availability: 30 March 2022

Statement from John Newcomb, CEO of the Builders Merchants Federation and Peter Caplehorn, CEO of the Construction Products Association, co-chairs of the Construction Leadership Council’s Product Availability working group.

While current demand remains strong there are the first signs of a slight softening and shift in the balance of demand, with some regions reporting a decline in the level of retail sales for DIY and home improvement project, but compensated by higher volumes of trade sales.

The supply picture remains stable in terms of full production with good stocks and availability of most products. As previously reported, supply challenges continue to affect bricks, aircrete blocks, roof tiles, gas boilers, plastic drainage and other plastic products dependent on polymers, and some electrical products particularly those using semi-conductors.

Price inflation remains the major concern. There are reports that some suppliers are only willing to hold quotes for tender prices for 24 hours. The resulting uncertainty is leading some contractors to pause before entering fixed-price or long-term contracts.

As highlighted in previous statements, the volatility of energy prices has begun impacting the market. Some manufacturers of energy-intensive products are now warning of surcharges linked to energy costs. This issue is not limited to the UK; the cost of energy is impacting manufacturers across Europe, with reports of cement plants in Spain closing due to the latest increases. However, UK manufacturers are managing stocks and the supply chain to enable continued supply.

UK brick and block stocks have also increased slightly during the quieter winter months but as the market accelerates in the spring it will be essential for builders to plan ahead and work with manufacturers to ensure timelines of availability.

The boiler market has been impacted by unprecedented demand coupled with supply chain challenges for steel, cardboard, plastics and electronic components. While availability will remain constrained over the summer months, manufacturers remain hopeful that the supply and demand will normalise by the end of the year.

Regarding plastic products, there are reports in some areas of shortages of raw materials that could lead to spikes in prices, but indications are hopeful that such matters may be sorted later in the spring.

Paints and coatings continue to be affected by ongoing raw material shortages recently exacerbated by further lockdowns in China and by the war in Ukraine. This is likely to affect prices, and possibly the availability of some products over the coming months.

After a turbulent 12-18 months, timber presents a positive picture with stable prices and plenty of stock in the UK, along with fewer problems reported with the ports and haulage. We note, however, that the market for MDF (medium density fibreboard) has seen marked price increases due to the soaring cost of oil derivatives which are key components in MDF resins and the melamine surfaces applied to such panels for use in kitchen and bathroom furniture.

Looking ahead, the war in Ukraine and the resulting sanctions on Russia and Belarus are likely to constrain the supply of pallets, birch plywood and OSB (oriented strand board). These countries are major suppliers of pallet wood and manufactured pallets, as well as large producers of the components of the resins used in wood-based panel manufacture including OSB. Russia is also one of the main sources of birch plywood, used in a variety of applications from transport and shop fitting to furniture and die cutting.

Other product areas that may be affected by the Russian invasion include ceramic tiles and sanitaryware, as Ukraine is a main source of supply for kaolin used in their manufacture. As reported previously, this group is also actively monitoring the indirect impact of sanctions on Russian steel, including heavy plates, coil and slab intended as upstream products for the EU market. Any shortages on the continent could have a knock-on effect on the UK market.

The war is already impacting the global shipping industry. Many countries have banned ships associated in any way to Russia. More widely, shipping lines are suspending or changing bookings because of sanctioned cargo, and congestion at ports is increasing owing to more stringent customs checks. In addition, Ukrainian and Russian nationals account for 15% of the global shipping workforce; with President Zelensky calling for all Ukrainians to return to fight, a severe workforce shortage could soon become apparent.

The Product Availability Group will now meet every three weeks to respond to changing conditions arising from price inflation and the war in Ukraine.

Manufacturers and trade associations provide updates on their own areas. The latest include:



Construction Product Availability Update 8 March 2022

Construction Product Availability: 8 March 2022

Statement from John Newcomb, CEO of the Builders Merchants Federation and Peter Caplehorn, CEO of the Construction Products Association, co-chairs of the Construction Leadership Council’s Product Availability working group

A mild winter has helped to maintain higher than average levels of construction during the first two months of the year, with strong sales in all product categories.

There are good stocks and availability of most products but, as reported in a previous statement (18 January 2022), supply challenges continue to affect bricks, aircrete blocks, roof tiles, steel lintels, cable trays and trunking, manhole covers, gas boilers and some electrical products, particularly those using semi-conductors and microchips. If strong demand and consumer sentiment continues, these shortages and extended lead times are likely to persist to some degree at least into the spring.

Price inflation, largely caused by a shortage of raw materials, rising energy, freight, and labour costs, is of greater concern than availability. Price increases of 5-10% have been announced by many manufacturers so far this year, and energy-intensive products have increased by as much as 20%. Such inflation is proving a root cause of serious difficulties for contractors.

Other ongoing issues include labour shortages, which are impacting all corners of the industry and show few signs of abating. Road haulage, however, has improved slightly, as Government has worked with industry over the past months to lessen the shortage of HGV drivers. In another area, for products produced in China and South East Asia, transport delays continue and costs remain elevated, with shipping rates still eight to nine times higher than pre-Covid levels and air cargo rates seven times higher.

The worldwide condemnation and imposition of sanctions on Russia and Belarus in response to Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine will likely have enormous implications and an impact on global trade, particularly on commodities, for years to come. The effect of the war on the building material supply in the UK is still to be determined. The region including Russia, Ukraine and Belarus accounted for only 1.25% of building products imported into the UK last year. However, there are likely to be higher levels of direct and indirect exposure to some product components either through raw materials such as aluminium, copper, bitumen, and pig-iron and iron ore used in the manufacture of steel, or through higher prices in more-exposed European markets. In addition, sanctions against individuals with links to the regime in Russia and firms with Russian ownership may affect the UK supply chain.

Individual firms and other organisations are also taking steps that will have implications for the supply of building materials from Russia and Ukraine. For example, the European Federation of Building Material Distributors (UFEMAT) has called on members to place an embargo on importing all Russian building materials until the war in Ukraine comes to an end.

Other supply chain risks cited by analysts highlight that Russia supplies one fifth of the world’s nickel exports (used in the production of lithium-ion batteries, for example). Perhaps more directly relevant to construction, a key input used in the production of semi-conductors is neon, much of which currently comes from both Ukraine and Russia. Alternative sources may require long term investments prior to being able to supply the global market.

Chip manufacturers currently hold an excess of two to four weeks’ additional inventory, but any prolonged supply disruption caused by military action in Ukraine will severely impact the production of semiconductors and products dependent on them.

Russia is also a major supplier of crude oil and gas. While the UK imports just 4% of gas from Russia, UK prices follow the European market and have doubled since the start of the year. Should sanctions be applied to energy products, replacing gas from Russia globally will lead to even greater price volatility for energy intensive products.

The Construction Leadership Council will be liaising with government to identify areas impacted by sanctions and the knock-on effect to UK construction.

Construction Product Availability Update 18 January 2022

Construction Product Availability: 18 January 2022

Statement from John Newcomb, CEO of the Builders Merchants Federation and Peter Caplehorn, CEO of the Construction Products Association, co-chairs of the Construction Leadership Council’s Product Availability working group

While sales remain strong, a gradual improvement in supply has been helped by the seasonal reduction in demand particularly in domestic repair, maintenance and improvement (RMI) over the Christmas period.  Going into the new year there are relatively good stocks and availability of most products, including timber where prices have also fallen from their peak.

However, as reported in previous statements supply challenges continue to affect bricks and aircrete blocks, roof tiles, steel lintels, manhole covers, plastic drainage products and certain sealants, coatings and paints.

In addition, a shortage of semi-conductors is constraining the availability of boilers at a time when demand is exceptionally high. Semi-conductors are important components for many advanced construction products including lighting and fire protection systems, kitchen white goods and air-source heat pumps. Although PAG has not seen direct evidence that a shortage of chips is affecting production, we will be increasing market surveillance to spot any early signs of market disruption.

Rising energy costs and price inflation continue to cause concern, with the latest forecasts anticipating 2022 price inflation from 7-10+%, with multiple increases expected for some products.

The impact of Omicron has been limited, with an overall level of absence across UK industry at 5% or less during the past month, though some sectors, such as haulage, have been hit harder than others.  Absence due to Covid remains a risk over the winter period but appears unlikely to cause major disruption at current levels.

Looking more closely at current and future challenges:

  • A global shortage means that semi-conductors are on allocation. Due to the size of their orders, there is a natural bias in the system towards automotive and electronics firms, which may cause issues for manufacturers of boilers and building related electrical systems.
  • The high level of demand means that a shortfall in the domestic production of bricks, which is already at full capacity, will continue throughout 2022 until three new UK brickmaking plants come on stream in 2023 and 2024, boosting UK annual capacity by about 150m bricks per year. Imports largely from the EU and potentially beyond will be required to meet current demand.
  • Demand for roof tiles remains high with lead times averaging 24 weeks and rising to 41 weeks for some profiles. Additionally, clay tiles are subject to price increases due to rising energy costs.
  • Raw material supply for plastic products has stabilised over the last quarter, leading to improvement in product supply. Order backlogs are not growing but are unlikely to be cleared until the second quarter of this year.
  • Delays and volatile prices for global shipping look set to continue at least until Q3 2022. China is home to seven of the top 10 container ports, which have a sustained ‘zero’ policy with regard to Covid outbreaks, leading to shutdowns and delays that have worsened global bottlenecks. Furthermore, with the Beijing Winter Olympics taking place in February, factories will be closed in 64 northern Chinese cities to improve air quality. This will almost certainly affect some construction products, which will have a knock-on effect of levels of inventory later in 2022.
  • While the issues previously affecting timber and cement availability have eased, they have not been fully resolved, and longer lead times may return as the volume of demand increases later in the year.

We continue to stress the importance of maintaining open lines of communication throughout the supply chain and encourage all sectors to continue to work closely and collaboratively to manage challenges and plan future work.

Construction Product Availability Update 21 December 2021

Construction Product Availability: 21 December 2021

Statement from John Newcomb, CEO of the Builders Merchants Federation and Peter Caplehorn, CEO of the Construction Products Association, co-chairs of the Construction Leadership Council’s Product Availability working group

We are currently seeing an improvement in the supply situation across all regions in the UK, which has taken some pressure off prices.  However, this is largely due to a seasonal decline in activity.  While much has been done to ameliorate the issues seen earlier in the year, there remain challenges in relation to UK production capacity for some products, and in relation to the operation of the logistics and shipping sectors.

We anticipate the return of pressure on supply chains to deliver products as construction activity remains strong next year, with longer lead times and further price increases anticipated.  Furthermore, despite precautions being taken at merchants and manufacturers, the rapid increase in cases of Omicron is likely to impact production and operations into the New Year.

The uncertainty around delivery and price has a disproportionate impact on SME builders working mainly on domestic repair, maintenance and improvement projects, where clients want price certainty before the project begins.  It is, therefore, essential to maintain open lines of communication throughout the supply chain. We encourage all sectors to continue to work closely and collaboratively to manage challenges and plan future work.

Looking more closely at current and future challenges:

  • Bricks and blocks remain in short supply for the reasons outlined in our last statement (29 November). Demand is expected to be strong well into 2022, so imports may be necessary to a make up a shortfall in UK production until new production lines come on stream in 2023/24.
  • While there are few issues with cement stocks at the moment, merchants are being asked to not to deplete stocks in their yards in preparation for the annual winter round of maintenance shut-downs. Manufacturers have committed to produce as much as they physically can, but supplies will typically decrease during this time. Also, as flagged in the November statement, manufacturers have raised concerns that rising energy costs will likely lead to price inflation.
  • Demand for roof tiles remains high, with lead times averaging 24 weeks.
  • Supplies of many timber products have returned to more normal levels and prices have fallen from highs, particularly for structural timber, however tongue & groove remains in short supply. Looking ahead, continuing congestion both here and at Scandinavian ports may lead to reduced supplies and higher prices in Q1 2022.
  • Pressures on global shipping, including delays and volatile prices, look set to continue well into 2022. In addition to ongoing disruption stemming from China’s sustained ‘zero’ policy with regard to Covid-19 outbreaks, performance issues at Felixstowe have led some major shipping lines to divert vessels headed there from Asia to other, smaller ports in the UK.
  • The logistics sector reports recent progress with government providing additional training opportunities and grants to get more HGV drivers on the roads. With driver wage increases and flexibility in working making the industry more attractive, we are hopeful that driver shortages will have less impact on our sector in 2022.
Construction Product Availability Update 29 November 2021

Construction Product Availability: 29 November 2021

Statement from John Newcomb, CEO of the Builders Merchants Federation and Peter Caplehorn, CEO of the Construction Products Association, co-chairs of the Construction Leadership Council’s Product Availability working group

While the market is no longer experiencing the extremely high levels of demand seen earlier in the year, and UK manufacturers remain at full production capacity, demand continues to outstrip supply for certain products, particularly those being imported.  Still the current picture is more positive than seen in recent months, with improved availability of most products across most regions.  There are, of course, exceptions, with ongoing challenges in the supply of bricks, blocks and roofing products, where timber battens have overtaken concrete roof tiles as the most difficult to obtain, and certain electro-technical products.

Residential repair, maintenance and improvement activity remains robust with most SME builders reporting full order books well into 2022.  That said, the sector has recently seen a small but noticeable slowing.  This is thought to be partly as a consequence of delayed projects and increased costs and lead times (highlighted in previous PAG statements), and partly down to seasonality.  This softening has in fact helped improve some stocks, such as cement, held by manufacturers and merchants.

Activity across the infrastructure, commercial and new housebuilding sectors continues unabated, however, and will likely remain so into the first half of 2022.  Reports from larger housebuilders and contractors suggest that while a variety of product shortages persist, the situation for most remains manageable.

More specifically, as also reported last month, brick supply presents a longer-term issue, and imported products are helping to meet a shortfall in current UK capacity until new lines come on stream in 2023 and 2024.  The Brick Development Association suggests that with demand expected to remain high, lead times will be an issue for the coming year.  For builders to ensure that they get the bricks they need, particularly if they are seeking non-stock bricks, they will have to work more closely with the brickmakers to ensure availability and to mitigate delays in delivery.  While this may require flexibility around choice and specification, quantities should be sufficient to meet demand.

Consistently high demand over the past 18 months has also made it difficult for block manufacturers to build the level of stocks required to maintain regular supply throughout the year.  Manufacturers are seeking to build stocks over the coming winter months while building sites are typically less active.  Nonetheless, demand from new housebuilding is expected to put supply of blocks under pressure in early 2022.

Stocks of timber – a largely imported product – have seen some improvement, though prices remain volatile.  Market reports reveal significant delays at ports both here and abroad, having a knock-on effect upstream to the Scandinavian mills where production has been forced to slow.  This suggests that supplies may remain uneven into early 2022.

In the electrotechnical sector, products with electronic components and those made from steel, such as cable trays remain in short supply, while twin and earth cable has become more problematic.  Product pricing continues to be challenge, particularly for medium sized contractors working on tight fixed price contracts.

Reported constraints relating to a shortage of HGV drivers have lessened for the time being, though the pre-Christmas period may cause further pressure. However, imports, particularly from the Far East, continue to be affected by long lead times, delays at ports and high container costs.

Uncertainty is now cited as a broad area of concern.  Examples include the uncertainty around inflation and the pricing of products, particularly in relation to steel, cement, bricks, blocks, glass and ceramic tiles, which are all impacted by rising energy costs.  Uncertainty around potential spikes in the number of Covid cases over the winter having an adverse effect on product availability.  The impact of full Border controls that come into force at the end of this year is a further unknown, as is the implementation of the new UK CA Mark and UK Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation & Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) regulations.

In response to this, the CLC will work with the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy to build on the industry-wide perspective of the PAG and the data it can access, using horizon scanning to identify medium term problems affecting materials and product availability that can be mitigated by an agreed, planned response.

As always, open lines of communication throughout the supply chain remain essential, and we encourage all sectors to continue to work closely and collaboratively to manage challenges and plan future work.

You can access the FIS Toolkit on Managing Shortages (which provides a backdrop and links to available price index sources) here.

Construction Product Availability Update 24 August 2021

Statement from John Newcomb, CEO of the Builders Merchants Federation and Peter Caplehorn, CEO of the Construction Products Association, co-chairs of the Construction Leadership Council’s Product Availability working

Although the overall supply situation has not changed substantially, there has been a temporary easing this month, most probably due to a combination of the holiday period and some domestic customers delaying or cancelling projects due to higher costs or cost uncertainty.

Timber, cement, roofing products, bricks, blocks, insulation, steel and cable management systems remain the products in shortest supply, while global shortages of semi-conductors are a cause for concern in the lighting and appliance sectors. Although product and material price inflation has slowed, indications are that it will be 2022 before prices stabilise, with some manufacturers still to implement double digit price increases to recover current and future cost inflation.

Haulage, however, and the lack of availability of drivers, are now the major concerns affecting distribution with some suppliers asking builders merchants to collect their orders as they cannot get enough drivers to complete deliveries. Regional distribution is a particular issue, with some finding challenges arranging deliveries to Scotland and the South West of England.

The problem is not limited to our sector, and with similar haulage issues affecting a wider distribution network there is no short-term fix. The Department for Transport is engaging with the freight sector and hauliers to look at both interim and longer-term solutions, which require collaboration between government and the sector.

Container shipping continues to affect imports. Key ports in China are suffering reduced capacity due to Covid, but the backlog extends beyond China throughout distribution centres worldwide. This is forecast to continue through the peak Christmas season into early 2022. With capacity at a premium, container prices remain high; however, these rates are not sustainable in the long term and when demand signals change, we are likely to see prices reduce.

Looking forward, the group discussed the requirement for aggregates and other key products when HS2 demand is at its peak in 2022/23. Projected volumes are being shared with industry trade bodies, key suppliers and the CLC Product Availability Group to help provide greater clarity and confidence about the industry’s ability to deliver HS2 as well as all other projects. This is a particular concern for smaller builders, who have struggled to compete for supply during the current period of extraordinary demand.

Construction Product Availability Update 22 July 2021

Statement from John Newcomb, CEO of the Builders Merchants Federation and Peter Caplehorn, CEO of the Construction Products Association, co-chairs of the Construction Leadership Council’s Product Availability working group

The basic trends of the last six months remain, with global demand far in excess of supply leading to product shortages, rapid and sustained price inflation, long lead times and uncertainty regarding deliveries.  It is also clear that the global shipping industry is far from recovered from the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic, with congested shipping routes, container cancellations and higher costs still evident.

The products most affected are those used in housebuilding and domestic repair maintenance and improvement (RMI), including roofing products, timber, insulation, landscaping products, blocks, sealants/PVA, PIR Insulation, kitchen carcassing and products that use plastic, e.g. drainage, some windows and bagged cement.

Bagged cement is particularly hard hit due to ongoing unprecedented demand but both bagged and bulk cement are on allocation; there are regional variations to this with some areas affected more than others. All UK kilns are operating but it may be a while before stocks return to normal. With high demand continuing, extended delivery times are expected to remain until the end of the year.

The high level of housing starts has caused a bow wave of demand for plastic pipes for groundworks and drainage. Some manufacturers are currently on allocation, but the expectation is that supply issues will be resolved by the end of Q3.

Demand for wood and wood products remains very strong and timber supply will continue to tighten into Q3, following the Scandinavian holiday and maintenance season in July, continuing the upward pressure on prices.  There are some indications that the situation may start to improve after this as global demand is beginning to ease.

Within infrastructure and commercial construction, steel and aluminium are both experiencing significant supply disruption and price inflation.

There is also concern around the availability of steel cabling management systems which could continue into early 2022 and engineering services business are advised to plan ahead.

Overall, prices for products and materials have increased by a reported 10-15%, consistent with the Office of National Statistics figure for May of 10.2% overall with 12.8% for those most commonly used in RMI.  Specific products, especially timber, has seen increases of 20-50% for most products and over 100% for OSB and other sheet materials. For the first time we have had reports that some merchants are destocking certain products that are no longer economic.

Labour, or rather the lack of it, is a rising concern.  All regions report hauliers/HGV/LGV drivers are in short supply and very difficult to recruit, which is contributing to longer delivery times particularly away from major transport routes and urban areas.  We continue to support the Road Haulage Association in its discussions with the Department of Transport to address the shortage.  We are now receiving reports of other vacancies being hard to fill, from relatively unskilled roles, such as yard operatives, to experienced bricklayers.

These labour shortages are being exacerbated by the growing number of non-symptomatic drivers, tradespeople, merchant and manufacturing staff required to self-isolate after coming into contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19. This will further stretch the supply chain.

Looking forward, housebuilders are managing current builds to completion but there are indications that smaller, regional developers may be forced to delay starting work on new sites until they have more certainty around product availability and lead times.

The demand for home improvement and RMI work remains strong but most work in this area is covered by JCT contracts which have no facility for any flexibility on material costs, leading to fears that we will see business failures arising from unsustainable contracts.  This is now being investigated and may require a change in contractual positions.

Alongside pricing, stability and accuracy of supply remains the overarching concern and regular, accurate and transparent communication throughout the supply chain to the end client is deemed vital by all.  It is important that all parties recognise the extent of the extraordinary challenges we are currently experiencing and adopt a flexible and collaborative approach to finding solutions.

Additional reports:

Steel Cabling Management Systems


Construction Product Availability Update 23 June 2021

Statement from John Newcomb, CEO of the Builders Merchants Federation and Peter Caplehorn, CEO of the Construction Products Association, co-chairs of the Construction Leadership Council’s Product Availability working group

The overall product availability picture has not changed this month. Demand both in the UK and globally continues to dramatically outstrip supply and shows few signs of slowing during the seasonally busy summer months.

In the UK, record sales of building materials coupled with strong pre-orders and full pipelines of work are all putting enormous pressure on the supply chain which, in some sectors, has not fully recovered from the impact of Covid. This suggests the unprecedented challenges around a number of key product areas, particularly imported products and materials, will likely persist into the second half of 2021.

Timber, roof tiles and some steel products continue to be in short supply, as is bagged cement which may have been impacted by some manufacturers undertaking overdue preventative maintenance.  Paints, sealants and chemical products, continue to be affected by raw material shortages, with paints additionally affected by a shortage of packaging, particularly metal cans. The situation with insulation boards has also become tighter, with PIR becoming harder to obtain and contractors actively seeking alternatives. Plasterboard has been subject to extended lead times with one major manufacturer indicating their products going on allocation.  Some regions are also reporting delayed deliveries of bricks and blocks.

Electrical products have been affected by raw material shortages, particularly steel products and semi-conductors, since Autumn 2020.  These issues are now compounded by the shipping backlog in China’s Pearl River Delta, with hundreds of container ships waiting for berths to become available. The Electrical Contractors Association and their Scottish counterpart, SELECT, are warning that the blockage already surpasses that of the Suez Canal earlier this year and is likely to lead to extended delays for electro-technical products.

The availability of hauliers is a particular issue raised within the group over the past months and it is clear that this is now a critical nationwide problem causing delays and impacting project programmes.  The UK has lost 15,000 European drivers this year due to Brexit, and 30,000 UK driver tests due to Covid, which has exacerbated the driver shortage.   The CLC’s Product Availability Group is supporting the Road Haulage Association in its discussions with the Department for Transport to address the shortage.

Inevitably, all of this is feeding into price inflation, and the expectation is that high demand coupled with tight supply will sustain elevated prices throughout the year.

As we emphasised last month, forward planning and ongoing communication throughout the supply chain is essential to assist with reliable delivery dates and to manage expectations about any shortages or allocations.

Allocation systems should be as transparent as possible, so all customers can be seen to be treated fairly and provided with both the information and the products they require to plan and complete projects in a timely manner.

Builders and contractors should also maintain open communications with their customers regarding lead times, possible product substitutions and early notice of potential price increases.


Construction Product Availability Update 28 April 2021

Statement from John Newcomb, CEO of the Builders Merchants Federation and Peter Caplehorn, CEO of the Construction Products Association, co-chairs of the Construction Leadership Council’s Product Availability working group

Construction activity continues to be strong across the UK, with government statistics and industry surveys indicating this is primarily led by the new housing, housing RMI and infrastructure sectors.  Evidence suggests a positive pipeline of work ahead, including a high level of contracts awarded during the first quarter.  With full order books, the current level of active demand across the entire construction industry will continue to put increasing pressure on the product supply chain.

In general, products are available but lead times have lengthened.  Current demand is such that it is proving difficult for manufacturers and suppliers to build up stock levels.

The worst affected product areas continue to be timber, roof tiles and roofing membranes. There is unlikely to be any improvement in timber supplies this year with little or no timber currently coming into the UK that is not already pre-sold and global demand outstripping supply.  However, the supply of roofing products is expected to improve in the second half.

Raw material shortages, stemming from global demand and other external factors such as factory closures outside the UK, continue to constrain production of PE and PP plastics, PIR insulation, paints, adhesives and other coatings, and also packaging for other product groups.

Global demand also continues to impact prices and delivery times on structural steel, internal steel products and galvanised steel. Evidence suggests that some steel products may suffer continued shortages into the second half of the year.

Pent up demand for landscaping products over the spring and summer may place an additional burden on supplies, but demand will continue to be met with longer lead times where needed.

Accurate forecasting can help alleviate availability issues. The CPA’s latest forecast was published this week and the BMF will publish their latest forecasts in May.

The CLC’s key advice is to plan in advance, work closely with your supply chain and communicate your requirements early with suppliers, distributors and builders merchants.  Collaborative, ongoing communication throughout the whole supply chain is essential.

The Product Availability Group is also exploring further solutions to alleviate other bottle necks in the supply chain such as logistics and transport, including the ability to accept deliveries outside of normal opening hours.

Construction Product Availability Update 15 April 2021

Statement from John Newcomb, CEO Builders Merchants Federation and Peter Caplehorn, CEO Construction Products Association, co-chairs of CLC Product Availability work group.

Demand for construction products remains high both in the UK and globally and is set to continue throughout 2021 in every sector.  Unfortunately, this means the availability issues we are currently experiencing are likely to worsen before they improve.

While supplies of plaster and plasterboard are much improved on last year, almost every other product group is experiencing longer lead times and, as a consequence, higher prices.

Plastics (PE and PP), cement and aggregates have joined existing lists of products in short supply, including timber, steel, roof tiles, bricks and imported products such as screws, fixing, plumbing items, sanitaryware, shower enclosures, electrical products and appliances.

Prior to the temporary blockage of the Suez Canal, we were seeing a slight lowering of both container costs and delivery times of these imported goods.  We anticipate that this will continue once the effect of the temporary closure works through.

Imports of timber will be an issue for the foreseeable future. Not enough timber is being produced to meet world demand.  Added to this, other countries are prepared to pay more to secure their supply, pushing the UK lower down the pecking order.

Steel is also experiencing strong global demand. While supply and demand are likely rebalance within the next few months, global dynamics will continue to drive prices up.

Raw material shortages constraining polymer supplies are causing production problems for plastics (lower ground drainage etc).  Coatings manufacturers are also experiencing raw material shortages beyond their control, at a time when demand is particularly high.  These issues will continue for at least 2-3 months.

All users should plan for increased demand and longer delays, keep open lines of communication with their suppliers and order early for future projects.

The CLC’s product availability group will continue to monitor the situation. The CPA and the BMF – who jointly chair the group – produce quarterly forecasts on market activity which is helping manufacturers to plan output.