Feedback from suppliers reveals a general fall-off in demand, but according to Mace, confidence is expected to return next year.
Lead times have reduced in nine sectors, with only four areas showing increased lead times in the past quarter.

Piling → lead times did not fall as expected and remain at five weeks. The level of enquiries is lower than it was last year, but suppliers are generally confident about 2004.

The lead time for concrete works ↓ has fallen to six weeks. New projects are not being secured at the same rate as those reaching completion, allowing new projects to commence quickly. Suppliers advise that the residential market remains highly competitive.

The lead time for structural steelwork → remains at 10 weeks, although there is no consistent trend at the moment. Suppliers are quoting periods from eight to 16 weeks, depending on individual circumstances.

Metal panelised cladding ↓ lead times fell by two weeks, to 39 weeks, with high-performance glass remaining a key factor in procurement. Reduced demand in the commercial sector has contributed to the reduction.

Curtain walling → lead times remain at 19 weeks. All suppliers report steady workload and expect this situation to continue for the next six months.

Atrium roofing → specialists report no change overall, with a lead time of 28 weeks. Order books are being maintained as an increase in retail work is offsetting the slowdown in the office market. Low-iron glass and experienced installation teams continue to be in short supply.

The membrane roofing ↑ sector increased lead times by one week, to 10 weeks. Demand in this sector is generally quite steady and, apart from minor fluctuations, little further change is expected in the next six months.

The lead time for demountable partitions ↑ increased by a further week to 11 weeks, maintaining extended lead times as expected. Although the trading environment is very competitive, new enquiries are higher than in the same period last year and suppliers are optimistic about the prospects for 2004.

Despite a steady lead time for the past six months, general joinery ↑ suppliers are reporting a lead time of 12 weeks, an increase of one week. Some suppliers are quoting up to 16 weeks – although this is the exception – for doorsets and general joinery items. The lead time for specialist joinery ↓ fell by one week to 14 weeks. New enquiries are at a high level although actual projects are still in short supply, reducing design and manufacturing periods. Despite low order books, a shortage of skilled craftsmen means that suppliers require longer to mobilise their workforce.

Internal stone finishes ↓ lead times fell to 16 weeks, down one week, for the first time in two years. In general, suppliers can incorporate new projects into order books relatively easily, with fewer new projects than six months ago.

Suppliers of made-to-measure furniture ↑ increased lead times by two weeks to 12 weeks. Long-term contracts are expected in 2004, which has offset slow trading in the second half of 2003. Manufacturing lead times are increased in anticipation of the 2004 workload.

Ductwork ↓ lead times fell to 11 weeks, as recent pressure on design offices lessened. Lead times are being squeezed as main contractors revisit tenders to ensure best value in a competitive market.

Lead times for sprinkler installations ↓ fell to eight weeks, a drop of one week. Suppliers have spare capacity in their order books and enquiries are quieter than in recent months.

Suppliers for generators ↓ say that 19 weeks should now be considered a normal lead time.

The lead time for controls ↓ reduced by three weeks, to nine weeks. Few new projects and good supply chains mean that the sector has been able to shorten lead times.

Overall, feedback suggests that most sectors have spare capacity, yet remain confident about 2004 workloads. Many suppliers anticipate that planned government investment will fill order books, although this has had little impact in the past 12 months.

Suppliers now readily refer to integrated supply chains and long-term contracts in their feedback and are better able to manage changes in demand between the different sectors.

While the slowdown in the commercial market is always quoted as a factor affecting lead times, it no longer has such a dramatic effect on lead times because suppliers have increased their commitments to adjacent sectors, such as retail and residential.

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    Going up

    ↑ Membrane roofing
    ↑ Demountable partitions
    ↑ General joinery
    ↑ Made-to-measure furniture

    Staying level

    → Piling
    → Structural steelwork
    → Curtain walling
    → Atrium roofing

    Going down

    ↓ Metal panelised cladding
    ↓ Concrete works
    ↓ Specialist joinery
    ↓ Internal stone finishes
    ↓ Ductwork
    ↓ Sprinker installations
    ↓ Switchgear
    ↓ Generators
    ↓ Controls
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