Knauf Insulation Comment: Q3 2021

Amid the uncertainty of last March, most of us would have pounced on any positive sign that construction was bouncing back. After a 2021 dominated by supply challenges caused in large part by insatiable demand, we’re reminded of the risks of “too much of a good thing”.

Merchants don’t need me to spell out the difficulties they’ve faced in sourcing construction materials of almost every type – insulation included. And not just imported products, but those made here in the UK too.

Nor do they need another lengthy explanation of the causes. Take one part voracious demand (witness this year’s BMBI data), add a post-lockdown backlog and a touch of logistics disruption, and you’ve got a recipe for trouble. In this case, a just-in-time supply chain knocked out of tune.

As I said last quarter, merchants and their partners are having to use equal measures of collaboration, creativity and patience to navigate this challenging time. But what about the mid to long-term picture? Because unfortunately, all indications suggest merchants will face disruption for some time to come (the Construction Products Association has revised its growth forecasts for 2022 down from 6.3% to 4.8% in anticipation).

There are two issues to be solved; distribution and demand. The former requires carefully untangling and rebuilding supply chains. It will take time, but the logistics industry will eventually adapt.

For the latter, manufacturers will need to increase supply. At Knauf Insulation, for example, we’ve brought new capacity onstream globally, and we’re planning investments here in the UK that will deliver in the longer term too.

That’s important because the demand for Mineral Wool insulation is only likely to increase. This winter’s energy price crisis has sharpened the appetite for buildings that are energy efficient to run, while COP26 reminds us that we mustn’t forget embodied carbon either.

When construction emerges from its current demand shock – and eventually it will – there will remain a strong, underlying demand for Mineral Wool because it can deliver genuinely sustainable buildings. And that’s one good thing we can’t have too much of.

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