In today’s market, keeping on top of long-lead items can be difficult. From the type of material to the skilled trade that it requires, hitting a deadline that requires a specific material or trade may take longer than in prior years.
Long-lead items may include MEP equipment, roofing material, lighting fixtures, doors, and frames, but in the past year it’s grown to nearly every material on a project.
“Identifying critical material lead times is now at the forefront of many, if not all projects,” says Adam Windler, project manager at Meyer Najem. “Supply chain issues have caused many manufacturers to extend their typical lead times; sometimes two or three times longer.”
One example of this increase in lead times is from the impact of labor shortages relating to concrete. Many concrete suppliers are 2+ weeks out, making it difficult to schedule pouring concrete due to the many variables, including weather. Project teams are now scheduling concrete pours weeks, sometime months, in advance.
Whether it’s material shortage, a skilled trade needed, or the impact of the pandemic, long-lead items have many impacts on the construction industry and an owner’s perspective on project deadlines. Prices of materials used in construction have jumped 12.9% since March 2020, according to the Associated General Contractors of America. This represents some of the highest increases in the 35-year history of tracking this data.
“It’s critical to the success of a project to get an early release from clients for material procurement,” says Windler. “Successfully identifying long-lead items and having the green light from clients to get material on-order early allows us as the project manager to more accurately schedule our subcontractors and projects in the long run.”
If not planned correctly, projects can easily spiral out of control. To help you prepare and strategize for your next project, working with a project manager who has a forward approach with their strategies can keep long-lead items on track to keep your project on schedule.
“We’ve recognized that this is reality and are moving in the direction of thinking forward in different ways than we have before to satisfy the needs of owners,” says Jonathan Haggarty, project executive at Meyer Najem. “If anyone thinks that they can build a project like they did a few years ago, they are working in the wrong direction.”
The most successful teams are the ones that think outside the box, working creatively to make actuality a reality.
One of the widespread issues in the industry is roofing. “We’ve had projects that needed to be strategized in unique ways to move the project forward. In some cases, getting temporary materials to enclose buildings, allowing for the project to continue as scheduled,” says Haggarty.
On new projects we are always looking at the market to see what products are relatively available for the needs of the client. However, at the end of the day it all becomes an issue of actively communicating to keep owners, designers, and subcontractors well informed about what issues are at hand and focused on creative solutions to allow for on-time project delivery.
Long-Lead Item Example
Meyer Najem recently finished a fire station on the west side of Indianapolis, Indiana. The project was somewhat the perfect storm, being released prior to the market fluctuation on roofing insulation.
As the project manager, we worked with the fire department and designer to switch from Poly-Iso Insulation to EPS Insulation on the building flat roof. In conjunction with this, we invested resources in purchasing and installing Firestone V-Force Vapor Barrier for the Gable Roofs. Both mechanisms allowed for the project to proceed with interior finishes.
Unfortunately, the market continued to trend in the wrong direction for the balance of the needed insulation. Our team worked diligently again with all parties to come up with a secondary solution to get new and available insulation on site and installed prior to winter. We had to also place synthetic felt over the insulation while we awaited the nail base and shingle materials at a future date.
Without these changes and investments among all team members, the job would have come to a complete halt on the inside of the building due to having no thermal envelope within the two gable roof areas. These protective and forward-thinking strategies have helped keep the project on the original completion date for the fire department, which is critical for their hiring and service to the community.