Knauf Insulation Comment: Q2 2021

Neil Hargreaves, Managing Director Knauf Insulation is BMBI’s Expert for Mineral Wool Insulation.

Last quarter I wrote about market challenges in the face of soaring demand for construction materials. That demand is still sky-high, as evidenced by the latest BMBI figures, but the same figures show a levelling off compared with previous months. Industry forecasts suggest that’s not because the economy has finished bouncing back. Rather, supply issues have become stronger headwinds.

Merchants face difficulties sourcing many materials, and unfortunately insulation isn’t immune. The causes have been described as a perfect storm of disruption – with lockdowns, the Suez blockage and Brexit among them. Now we can add the UK’s haulier shortage to the list of reasons we’re experiencing some turbulence, even for materials where stocks remain abundant.

The problem is acute, with the Road Haulage Association estimating a current shortfall of 100,000 HGV drivers in the UK, combining a historic deficit with a more recent exodus from the industry. Government is taking action to deal with the backlog, including fast-tracking new driving licenses, but there are no quick fixes and we should anticipate continuing disruption for some time to come.

So what can be done to reduce the risk of sites shutting down? As ever, part of the answer lies in effective partnerships. Merchants, their suppliers and customers need to work together to make more efficient use of the HGV capacity that is available. Equal measures of collaboration, creativity and patience will be required to optimise ordering and delivery schedules, with close communication throughout.

At Knauf Insulation, we’ve further optimised the compression of a range of products, meaning we can fit 15% more product per roll and 25% more slabs per pallet on average, reducing the number of lorry movements we need. That won’t be an option for every manufacturer, but it’s a timely reminder that there’s always more that can be done.

As the saying goes, it’s an ill wind that blows no good. If haulage constraints result in more efficient use of distribution networks and fewer road miles, we’ll cut construction’s carbon emissions. A necessary, positive and permanent change for when the wind is at our backs once more.

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