Most companies have been busy in the first quarter of the year, but market uncertainties are expected to drive down lead times in the future
Seven sectors reduced their lead times and five increased in the period to March 2003. Market uncertainty has not yet filtered through to lead times – however, many companies may reduce periods in the coming quarter, should the economic climate continue to be inclement.

Rotary piling ↓ fell one to four weeks overall as mobilisation periods reduced – caused by a slight downturn in secured projects. Companies note enquiries have started strongly at the beginning of 2003 and expect lead times to increase in the next quarter.

Concrete works ↓ now only need eight weeks to start on site, a reduction of one. Suppliers say that the search for work will be more competitive in 2003 and this will reduce lead times further as companies strive to get the better of their competitors.

A drop of two weeks means the steelwork ↓ lead time is only nine weeks, the shortest since the beginning of 2001. The buoyancy reported last time has evaporated and companies are experiencing the general market uncertainty.

Atrium roofing ↓ suppliers dropped two giving a lead time of 30 weeks. Manufacturing and mobilisation periods have reduced as commencement of several significant projects have been postponed.

Membrane roofing ; installers now need eight weeks lead-in, an increase of one week. Firms have secured several good projects in recent months and enquiries are strong, with no materials or labour problems reported.

The metal window → sector reports no change at 17 weeks with enquiries still strong. High performance glass remains the constraint on shorter lead times.

New enquiries for brickwork ↓ companies were quieter than recent months and this resulted in a return to a five week wait, as previously reported. Blockwork → remains unchanged at four weeks.

Additional projects using demountable partitions ↑ led to an increase in the required manufacturing period of one week, giving an eight-week lead time. However, bespoke products will take longer to arrive.

New enquiries for general joinery → remain sluggish following the two-week drop reported previously, and lead times are unchanged at 11 weeks. Six to seven weeks remains a reasonable manufacturing period for doorsets.

Specialist joinery ↑ recovered to 15 weeks, up one from last time. Many companies report full order books for small to medium-sized projects. One supplier noted that solid American walnut is in high demand.

No change was reported in the raised floor → sector, which remained at six weeks. Some key projects are due to complete in the coming months, which may increase capacity and affect lead times in the next article.

Lead times for suspended ceilings → have not reduced as anticipated, remaining at 15 weeks. The labour shortages previously reported have been eased by downturns in some sectors.

Stone wall and floor finishes → remain at 17 weeks, although companies are finding life quieter than they were six months ago. Suppliers confirm that the availability of material is acceptable, unless specific stone beds are specified.

Mechanical installation ↑ increased lead times by one week to 18. The period required for design after a contract is signed is being increased by poor information. Some companies say that this is a product of lower fees and a more competitive environment.

Ductwork ↓ companies reduced lead times to 14 weeks, a drop of one. All services companies are concerned about the recent pay deal on Terminal 5, and expect to lose labour to companies working on that development.

Controls ↓ fell by two weeks to 14 overall. Some companies in the sector are reported to be making redundancies as a result of the slowdown in the order books.

Overall, although some companies have reported a slowing in workload, 70% of services and 50% of envelope companies report they are busier, with more secured projects and enquiries than in the previous six months. Nevertheless, it is likely that spare capacity will increase and eventually translate into a further reduction in lead times.

Going up

↑ Membrane roofing
↑ Demountable partitions
↑ Mechanical installations
↑ Specialist joinery
↑ Decorations (wall coverings)

Staying level

→ Metal windows
→ General joinery
→ Raised floors
→ Suspended ceilings
→ Stone wall and floor finishes
→ Blockwork

Going down

↓ Rotary piling
↓ Concrete works
↓ Atrium roofing
↓ Brickwork
↓ Ductwork
↓ Controls
↓ Steelwork