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Supply chain capacity likely to be the biggest risk to industry post COVID-19, warns Arcadis

Posted: 20th April 2020
  • Arcadis downgrades tender price forecast to 0% for 2020 in light of unprecedented market challenges
  • Unique market factors mean that inflationary and deflationary forces will act side by side – limiting the risk of a damaging deflationary spiral
  • Industry must look ahead to business recovery and act now to preserve capacity and resources

In the midst of unprecedented market challenges, Arcadis has significantly downgraded its tender price forecast for the year 2020 to 0%. With many forecasts expecting one of the deepest economic downturns on record, Arcadis has predicted that despite the potential for recovery in public sector investment and infrastructure related to programmes like HS2, it will take many private sector markets – including housebuilding and commercial development – until at least 2022 to return to growth as a result of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This analysis comes courtesy of Arcadis’ latest Spring Market View; Into the Unknown. This quarterly analysis of the UK construction market looks across sectors and regions to deliver a tender price forecast to inform clients about what is going on in UK construction, helping financial decision making for projects and programmes.

The COVID-19 crisis is different to previous economic crises in that it has most deeply affected consumer-facing industries like hospitality, which should eventually bounce-back. However, past recessions indicate that construction activity responds more rapidly and tends to overshoot shocks in the wider economy, so the effects for our sector could last for longer.

Despite this, Arcadis believes that once social distancing restrictions are lifted, work on all construction sites could theoretically start quite quickly, providing that problems around sourcing labour and materials can be overcome as the market restarts. However, as the exit strategy from lockdown has not yet been defined, and the full impact on demand is yet to be assessed,  the forecast is necessarily subject to a high level of uncertainty.

As we move towards recovery, the resilience of supply chains will continue to be one of the major risks. In its report, Arcadis has emphasised that the industry will need to look ahead to business recovery and act now to secure ongoing supply. Recommended measures in an 8-point plan including tactical scenario planning, rescheduling or de-scoping of work and reviewing relevant contract clauses to help mitigate short term risk. Looking ahead, strong relationships with suppliers will be integral to re-establishing work programmes and clearing backlogs as efficiently as possible, whilst also preparing for post COVID-19 opportunities.

As Simon Rawlinson, Head of Strategic Research at Arcadis, explains:

“Plotting the potential course of this crisis is not easy. Our forecast is based on a realistic but positive scenario, but there are of course many potential outcomes. The outlook assumes that the economy will keep going into 2021, the construction pipeline will be sustained, and the supply chain will hold its nerve. Regrettably, if the market does fall away, there will be very few clients who are able to benefit from any downturn, so it is vital that – even in the midst of the crisis – we look at how the industry can implement resiliency measures that will put it on the best possible footing for recovery.”

The full Spring 2020 Market View, including Arcadis’s 8-steps for supply chain resilience, is available to download here.

Business Comment

Business Comment is the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce’s bi-monthly magazine. It provides insight on Edinburgh’s vibrant business community, with features on the city’s key sectors, interviews with leading figures and news on new business developments in the capital.
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