The big changes anticipated at the end of last year have failed to materialise as lead times remain steady, says Rob Darrow of Mace.

Piling ↑ lead times have increased one week to seven weeks overall – the first time they have extended to seven weeks. All contributors say that they are very busy with new projects, and that availability of plant is the main constraint, rather than materials or design.

Lead times for concrete works →have been maintained at five weeks overall.

The average lead time for structural steelwork →has been maintained at 12 weeks. Steel prices have stabilised in the past three months and are not affecting larger contractors.

Natural stone cladding ;increased two weeks to 25 weeks overall, reflecting an increased manufacturing period.

As expected, curtain walling :was unchanged again at 19 weeks.

Following a one-week increase in the last quarterly results, the average lead time for atrium roofing ↓ has dropped back to 28 weeks. Suppliers are trying to fill order books for 2005 and this lead time is expected to remain for the rest of the year.

Lead times for the membrane roofing ↑ sector increased one week to eight weeks.

Dry lining → is unchanged at nine weeks. However, providing fixed prices for the metal components remains a problem. The lead time has been constant for 2004 and appears unlikely to change in 2005 despite the commercial sector picking up.

The average lead times for demountable partitions → are unchanged at nine weeks, although the minimum and maximum lead-ins vary considerably among suppliers. Suppliers report they are becoming busy with enquiries.

General Joinery ↓ suppliers have reported a small reduction in lead times of one week to 12 weeks overall.

Specialist joinery ↑ lead times have increased by one week to 16 weeks. Suppliers across the timber sectors say that the increasing demand for timber certified by the Forest Stewardship Council is extending traditional procurement periods. But the lead time is likely to remain unchanged throughout 2005 as forward orders are now secured.

Raised floors → are unchanged at six weeks, as they have been for the past two years. Supply of base coil is improving, although lead times are not expected to reduce due to the increase in office fit-out contracts that is expected at the end of 2005.

Suspended ceilings ↑ have increased one week to 17 weeks overall. This sector is still affected by the fluctuating price of raw steel, which has extended typical procurement periods. The projected labour shortages for the second quarter of 2005 have not materialised.

Decorating → lead times are unchanged at five weeks. New enquiries and projects are at a similar level to six months ago, but London labour levels are under severe pressure and will affect mobilisation periods.

Ductwork → lead times were maintained at 12 weeks overall, even though steel price rises are resulting in higher tender prices. Some suppliers are able to commence with only seven weeks’ notice, although this assumes that no fabrication drawings are required.

Sprinkler installations → remain at eight weeks although the capacity exists to start some projects earlier than this. The supply of steel piping continues to cause problems, but this is not affecting lead times.

The average lead time for electrical supplies → has been maintained at 13 weeks overall, following a two-week reduction in the previous quarter. There are fewer enquiries than in the previous six months.

Universal power → suppliers continue to quote a six-week lead-in. Items such as magnetic coils, however, are on a longer lead-in period than has been achievable in the past, due to a high level of specialist orders.

Generators ↓ reduced their lead times by two weeks to 17 overall. This reflects continued spare capacity in the electrical sector.

The general rise in lead times predicted in the previous article for early 2005 has not occurred and there is no clear trend between the sectors. Generally, services contractors have capacity in their order books and fit-out contractors are getting busy, but on the whole stable lead times continue to be maintained.

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Going up

↑ Piling
↑ Natural stone cladding
↑ Membrane roofing
↑ Specialist joinery
↑ Suspended ceilings

Staying level

→ Concrete works
→ Structural steelwork
→ Curtain walling
→ Dry lining
→ Demountable partitions
→ Raised floors
→ Decorating
→ Ductwork
→ Sprinkler installations
→ Electrical suppliers
→ Universal power suppliers
→ Raised floors

Going down

↓ Atrium roofing
↓ General joinery
↓ Generators