It’s not just the sometimes months-long lead time waiting game that the supply chain disruption has caused. Designers are reporting headaches at every turn when it comes to product selection, specification, ordering and delivery. We’re talking domestic price gauging, damaged deliveries, hold ups and ghost fees coming out of customs, not to mention the line modifications—aesthetically and monetarily—that can happen three to four times over along the way (leaving you with a product you never wanted in the first place).
Clients seem to be at a point of acceptance with added storage fees in order to have product in stock and at their fingertips. But designers are having a hard time drafting contracts that can outline these possible time sucks, leaving many feeling improperly compensated.
“Supply chain disruption and material price volatility have affected most of our current projects that have been under construction,” reported Christophe Laverne, principal with HKIT Architects, a Oakland, Calif.-based firm with three main practice areas: K-12 education, affordable housing and senior living. They’ve seen a shipping backlog that has still not recovered and categories such as window, flooring and lounge furniture have particular difficulty due to shortages, with some items being delayed up to a year.
“Furniture manufactured in Eastern Europe experiences significant delays due to the war and materials from China encounter large delays and/or price increases due to supply chain issues. The general contractors we work with are anticipating the demand by placing orders early, or proposing alternative materials in favor of products with shorter lead times. Regardless, schedules have been impacted,” he explained.
Dealing with Sourcing Shifts
To avoid the scramble of reviewing submittals early and/or responding to field questions faster, HKIT has added more staff to handle construction administration. On the flip (manufacturing) side, Kevin O’Meara, vice president, integrated supply chain for Shaw Industries said that the company has been able to move labor concentrations around from plant to plant where the need is highest in order to make customer response time as quick as possible.
“Vertical integration is critical. Try to control your own destiny as much as you can,” he advised, as Shaw continues to invest in and grow their domestic manufacturing base. But they’ve also maintained a solid network of global suppliers by implementing systems that allows each side to communicate more effectively, which in turn has helped to protect the supply of various raw materials coming into Shaw plants. It’s allowed them to launch a quick-ship program set to hit 110 SKUs by this month (October) with just a two-week lead time.
Some have suggested the shipping problem be approached from a community standpoint. Denise Alexis, founder and principal interior design at Desi9n1-1 advocates for a container-sharing system, possibly overseen by ASID or IIDA, that would allow designers to more efficiently order from overseas. “I would source more from overseas if we could do bulk orders,” she said. “Hospitality contractors are ordering ahead and storing product so that they have it on time, but that’s not a sustainable formula for the future. Let’s figure out a better way for vendors to communicate with the design community in regards to what they need, and use blockchain technology to mobilize these unique and sustainable pieces we're missing out on," Alexis urged.
In that spirit, we'd like to keep this conversation going. Check our social media pages on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram to sound off on the problems you have experienced with both domestic and global product and material sourcing and what solutions have worked for you and your firm or business. Also stay tuned for a follow-up to this article where we’ll speak to experts on how to properly structure contracts that will get you paid fairly for the extra time many of you are spending on unforeseen issues such as coordinating delivery dates, combatting damaged products, discontinuation of certain collections, value engineering and beyond.
Let’s get you back some foresight and, most importantly, shake off some stress.