The delivery bottlenecks are now so tight that masonry contractors are warning against expecting the specified delivery times for some products into the next year.
A bricklayer company told this Inquirer: “There is an unprecedented struggle for supplies. Very few products will be available from any of the top four companies by next year.
“Even existing orders that ran on the ‘required schedule’ all year round are not fully fulfilled.”
According to another source, chest-high layers of masonry had to be excavated in a new housing estate in order to be replaced by another range after the stocks of the facing brick in question had dried out.
Brick manufacturer Wienerberger wrote to its British customers this week and warned that suddenly changing market conditions would have led to delivery failures.
It blamed a sharp drop in typical order cancellation rates that were usually reported due to planning rejections or postponed or canceled projects.
The letter states: “In early 2021 and for many years, the average cancellation rate of order plans was over 24%.
“This, combined with higher inventory levels, has allowed us to be flexible and ensure that we meet delivery expectations.
“Due to market pressure and material shortages, the position of the last quarter and the previous month in terms of our percentage of cancellations has fallen to just over 6% on average.
“The significant change in cancellation, combined with short-term problems with the supply of raw materials, has led to the fact that we have recently received more notifications about delivery failures on delivery dates that are currently at an unacceptable level.”
The brick maker said it is acting now to address the problem by providing its customers with an overview of all orders by factory and brick type by weekly volume that are available through the end of the year. It is important that the numbers that are delivered according to the type of brick are compared with the production planning. “
It added, “We cannot at this point set additional quantities for UK products beyond what is stated in your schedule confirmation information.”
According to the latest government figures for June, brick inventories have fallen to a new 20-year low as supplies continue to exceed production.
Expressed in delivery weeks, the latest status corresponds to 8 weeks delivery time compared to a recent high of almost 14 weeks in April 2020.
The latest monthly total inventory drop to 290 million was due to an 11% increase in shipments compared to the previous month, while near-capacity production fell nearly 6% from March due to summer maintenance.