Supply Chain Issues Impacting the Contract Furniture Industry
The constant media coverage makes it hard to miss the fact there are major issues with global logistics. Just like every other market, there are similar supply chain issues impacting the contract furniture industry.
If the effects of shortages in raw materials, difficulty finding workers, too few containers, port backlogs, and logistic problems moving freight inland aren’t daunting enough, the contract furniture industry has additional finished goods shipping requirements developed over decades to ensure safe receipt of products and accessories.
COVID was and still is the main catalyst, but other factors in play before the virus emerged as issues when the shutdown and restart efforts took place.
The Unique Supply Chain Issues Impacting the Contract Furniture Industry
Pre-pandemic, clients enjoyed the benefits of nearly limitless selections for their contract furniture needs. Styles, fabrics, finishes, frame materials and nearly every detail were customizable. This allowed designers to envision and create unique interior landscapes for their clients. Lean manufacturing processes enabled manufacturers to create one-off products to meet any specification. It also allowed them to keep small inventories and rely on just-in-time inventory methods to feed the manufacturing process.
Another outcome of lean manufacturing is the practice of shipping furniture in component form, to be assembled at the receiving warehouse or job site itself. Shipping this way can minimize the physical volume of the materials, but requires exceptional care in loading and unloading, adding substantially to the delivery time. Customization comes with a price in many areas.
When COVID hit, everything became scarce: Steel, lumber, fabrics, seat foam, leather and plastics suddenly became hard to find and lead times increased substantially. Foam and plastics were especially hard hit when a winter storm paralyzed much of Louisiana and Texas in 2020. These two states are the primary producers of chemicals critical to foam production. Refineries for the components that go into plastics also shut down.
Add to this the sharply-rising demand created by workers and their employers who needed to equip a home office or home school. Furniture (or raw materials to create furniture) that might have gone into an office setting was now going to homes and apartments. This also taxed the delivery system, switching from truck load deliveries to warehouses or project sites into less than truck load (LTL) deliveries at widely distributed locations.
What are the Practical Effects of These Issues on My Design Project?
There are several ways the supply chain issues impacting the contract furniture industry are being felt by our clients. Combined, these factors are driving manufacturers to give production and delivery forecasts well into 2022 for orders placed today.
Shortages in raw materials are being addressed. However, pent-up demand has industry insiders forecasting tight supply until mid-2022.
We are experiencing a new phase in pricing. Where we might have been given 30 days’ notice of adjustments before, we are finding increases are announced with little, if any, lead time and they are coming at a much more rapid pace.
Another component of price increases are surcharges levied by manufacturers due to unprecedented increases in their own expenses — and expenses of their own vendors — in the areas of fuel, ocean freight, container costs, and availability of trucks and drivers that produce a domino effect or rising costs. Accordingly, to offset some of those costs, many furniture manufacturers are imposing a temporary set of “logistics surcharges.”
Extended delivery times
The industry is dealing with a perfect storm when it comes to shipping. Port congestion aside, there is a shortage of trucks, trailers, drivers and warehouse/dock workers. Some trucking companies are prioritizing loads based on the fastest turn-around. This means shipments that load and unload the fastest and go the shortest distance get preferential consideration. Since custom contract furniture orders can take longer to load and unload, they are vulnerable to falling down trucking companies priority list.
How We Can Help You
As dire as all this may sound, there are positive alternatives that can move your project forward. Now more than ever you need to work with a company that has the experience and breadth of products and services to ensure your product is successful.
Fortunately, much of what we sell is made here in the United States. However, there are a myriad of components that go into a product; casters, pneumatic lifts, frames, screws, nuts and bolts, fabrics, wood, steel, aluminum and foam. These can be sourced from anywhere in the world and whose availability will impact certain pieces and lines.
Our team at Pacific Office Interiors is known for innovative solutions, and we are applying our problem-solving skills to help you finish your project on time and within budget to the greatest degree possible:
Include More In-stock furniture
We partner with manufacturers who offer in-stock furniture options with fewer designs and with fewer options available. While their selections may not exactly match your original design specifications, we can work with you and them to find the best alternatives.
Switch To Comparable Products
Similar to the first option, we deal with hundreds of manufacturers, many of whom are our premium partners and many of whom have products that are ready-to-ship or whose offerings are available now and that come very close to what we originally had envisioned for your space.
Choose Alternatives Offered By Your Preferred Manufacturer
Our strategic partner Haworth has dozens of chair options, sizes, colors, textures and finishes. Some of these may have quicker turnaround times and can meet your project timeline. There may be fewer choices, but they are still premium products that will meet or exceed your needs.
Reconfigure Your Existing Furniture
As an interim step, our design team can work with your existing furniture, adapting it as closely as possible to your new design requirements. This can be an excellent strategy if you are moving to a new space, or if some of your new furniture has arrived and other parts are going to be delayed. This interim step may work well until your new furniture is delivered.
Refresh Your Current Furniture
We can help you breathe new life into your existing assets for use until your new furniture arrives. Applying new finishes, cleaning, reupholstering and repairing existing pieces can make older furniture look and work like new.
We accomplish this by bringing your existing furniture into our warehouse. There we clean, repair, refinish, reupholster and resurface tables and desks. Worn or broken items like casters and pneumatic lifts are repaired or replaced.
Refreshing is also a greener alternative. When you reuse and repurpose quality furnishings, you extend their useful life and keep them out of the waste stream.
One of the great advantages of having our own warehouse is that we have the option to receive your furniture and store it while we await delivery of additional products. Your furniture order may be fulfilled in several shipments days or a few weeks apart. However, to allow your project to proceed, we can accept deliveries to our warehouse, aggregating them until your space is ready for their installation, or your existing furniture is renewed
Purchase Used Furniture As An Interim Solution
If you are unable to reuse your existing furniture in a reconfigure or refresh manner, we may be able to help you procure furniture from other clients who are also upgrading.
Supply Chain Issues and Your Project
Not every contract furniture company can provide you with the options we can here at Pacific Office Interiors. As the old saying goes, “It ain’t bragging if you can do it.” And we can do it for your project by combining all our skills to meet the challenges of the supply chain issues impacting the contract furniture industry.
To support the options we have for furnishing your new or remodeled space, we offer:
- Design — Our team and yours collaborate to adapt the design to accommodate alternate choices, refreshed furniture or other options.
- Warehousing — Store your furniture as it arrives or while it’s being refreshed.
- Project management — Our team ensures there are no mistakes in measurements, construction drawings, furniture and accessory style and design specifications and coordination on the job.
- Procurement — We can draw on our relationships with 250 top-tier and niche manufacturers to get you just the products you need. Additionally, custom contract furniture orders require tracking at much more discrete levels than ordering a prebuilt product. Our order management team members are wizards at this demanding task.
- Asset management — Our team can help you determine what you already have that is of value that we can repurpose to fulfill your design and budget requirements, whether redoing an existing one or moving to a brand new space.