Brick shortages worsen as contractor order cancellations fall

Aaron Morby 2 months ago

The industry-wide brick supply crisis is being intensified by a sharp fall in order cancellation rates from contractors.

Brick shortages are worsening as supply continues to outstrip production
Brick shortages are worsening as supply continues to outstrip production

Supply problems are now so tight that brickwork contractors warn that they now face quoted lead times into next year for some products.

One brickwork firm told the Enquirer: “There is an unprecedented struggle to get supplies. Very few products from any of the main four companies are available until next year.

“Even existing orders that have been on with the ‘required schedule ‘ all year are not being fully met.”

According to another source chest-high courses of brickwork across a new housing development had to be broken out to be replaced by a different range after stocks of the particular facing brick dried up.

Brick producer Wienerberger this week wrote to its UK customers warning that suddenly changing market conditions had led to delivery failures.

It blamed a sharp fall in typical order cancellations rates, usually notified because of planning rejection or projects being postponed or canceled.

The letter said: “At the start of 2021 and for many years, the average order schedule cancellation rate we have operated to has been in excess of 24%.

“This has allowed us, combined with higher levels of inventory, to operate in a flexible manner ensuring we achieve supply expectations.

“Due to market pressures, and materials shortages, the last quarter and month to date position in relation to our percentage of cancellations has dropped to just above 6% on average.

“The significant cancellation change, combined with short term raw material supply issues, has resulted in our recent increase in notifcations of schedule delivery failures, which are currently at an unacceptable level.”

The brick producer said it was now acting to address the issue by providing customers with visibility of all orders by factory and brick type by weekly volume available between now and the year-end. Importantly the numbers that will be provided by brick type have been mapped versus production planning.”

It added: “We are unable at this stage to commit additional volumes for UK product above that which is set out in your schedule confirmation information.”

According to latest Government figures for June, brick inventories have plunged to new 20-year low as deliveries continue exceed production.

Expressed in weeks of deliveries, the latest level represents 8 weeks delivery down from a recent peak of nearly 14 weeks in April 2020.

The latest monthly fall in total stocks to 290m was driven by a 11% month on month increase in deliveries, while near-capacity production slipped by nearly 6% compared with March, due to summer maintenance.

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