Digital tools support construction firms facing Brexit-related supply chain delays

With Brexit high up on the agenda for many business, digital tools can help construction businesses grappling with Brexit-related supply chain delays, according to construction productivity software provider, PlanGrid. Firms in the UK are currently facing the second longest delays for deliveries since March 2015, with construction industry professionals citing the availability of resources as their biggest concern for the next 12 months.

While political uncertainty continues to impact the availability of materials, digital tools are supporting firms through improved workflow management, supplier relationships and productivity on-site.

Construction firms face delivery times that in February 2019 grew by the greatest margin since the previous August. Many construction businesses are stockpiling materials ahead of the UK’s departure from the EU, with sales in the construction products manufacturing sector rising in Q4 2018 by 27% for heavy-side materials and 50% for light-side materials. Meanwhile, businesses are facing the impact of stockpiling in other sectors, as manufacturers buy materials in advance.

“Construction firms have faced supply chain uncertainty for many months now, and unfortunately this is already impacting jobs in progress,” said Rob Elvidge, managing director – EMEA, PlanGrid. “Currently, as well as shortages in materials we’re seeing challenges for firms in securing transportation and warehouse storage, hindering efforts to buy supplies in advance. Even as we approach the end of March, it’s unclear when these supply chain issues will be resolved.”

Digital construction tools can help firms to place themselves in the best possible position amidst supply chain uncertainty. As well as enabling businesses to plan when materials will be needed, on-site digital tools can collect information about progress on jobs in real-time and deliver site-labour and materials reports to support timely purchases. In the event of delays to a project, digital platforms can also enable contractors to provide ongoing updates to both clients and subcontractors.

Construction firms can draw on digital tools to create more collaborative relationships with suppliers. By linking supplier portals and purchase order systems to individual jobs, construction businesses can authorise payments more quickly, as well as ensuring prompt payment for supplies. Businesses can also help to make deliveries as quick and hassle-free as possible by highlighting delivery locations on digital site-maps, along with any instructions for the supplier.

To ease the impact of shortages, it’s vital for firms to make the best use of the materials that they have. Mistakes remain a critical issue for UK construction firms, with 68% of industry professionals citing rework as the biggest source of unnecessary time for their business. Rework can also result in wasted materials, which can cause extensive delays and losses. Digital collaboration tools can help to ensure that the whole team is working from the latest plans, with responsibilities clearly assigned.

“Although supply chain uncertainty may continue for this month and beyond, firms can help to place themselves in the strongest position possible by using digital construction tools,” continued Elvidge. “Access to real-time information on jobs can support workflow management and planning in the procurement team. Fostering close relationships with suppliers, through prompt payments and easy collaboration, can help to secure materials when they are in short supply. And critically, using digital mobile technology on-site can reduce the amount of rework on a project. With materials already scarce and increasing in price, ensuring projects are built right the first time is becoming even more essential for protecting profit margins.”