Strategies to Optimize Lead Times for a Successful Construction Project

The construction industry has been grappling with inflationary pressures on materials, which are now starting to normalize. However supply chain disruptions remain a significant challenge that can have severe impacts on construction projects if not managed properly. 

Cresa project managers have recently been provided lead times of over 50-60 weeks for emergency generators, 45-60 weeks for switchgear, 30-45 weeks for rooftop HVAC units, 20-25 weeks for fabricated strcuture steel, 20-25 weeks for metak bar joists, and 8-16 weeks for lighting. 

This is just a small sample. It's important to note that in the current supply chain environment almost anything can be impacted at any point in time. It's crucial for ever construction project to have a well-defined procurement strategy to ensure that longer lead times don't result in disastrous consequences. 

Here are some tips and best practices that can help you navigate these choppy waters and increase your chances of overall project success. 

Download as a PDF. 

Be Proactive 

The first step in managing long lead items is to identify them early in the project. During the initial project planning phase, review the project requirements and identify items that have longer lead times, such as specialized equipment, custom-made materials, or items with longer delivery timelines. Include these items in the overall project schedule to ensure they are accounted for from the beginning and maintain a procurement log of all items with longer lead times that may impact schedule.

Confirmation is Key  

Engage design consultants to communicate with suppliers during the design process to and verify lead times in advance to avoid surprises during the procurement phase. Construction managers have extensive knowledge of current supply chain constraints, bring them on early in the project will allow them to double-check the lead times directly with subtrades, suppliers, and manufacturers. Make sure you update the project schedule and procurement log as information is confirmed.

Maintain Constant Communication

Lead times can change quickly. For larger projects, it’s imperative to be in constant contact with suppliers to proactively address any potential delays. Regularly review your procurement log and update lead times and review their impact on the overall project schedule. Ensure you are communicating with all project stakeholders so that everyone is aware of potential impacts and can plan accordingly. 

Pre-Purchase When Possible 

Consider pre-purchasing materials and equipment early in the design phase to mitigate risks associated with long lead items. Construction managers, engineers, or owners can pre-purchase materials and equipment to ensure their availability when needed. Setting up vendors in advance and issuing prompt purchase orders can also help expedite the procurement process.

Monitor Approvals 

The shop drawing review and approval process can often impact the lead times of certain items. Ensure that the consultant team is actively reviewing and approving shop drawings in a timely manner. Keep track of this process and ensure it does not delay the procurement or fabrication of long lead items.

Create Options and Mitigation Strategies 

Collaborate with the consultant team to optimize the basis of design for greater flexibility. This includes considering alternative options for long lead items, such as using locally available or domestic materials to reduce shipping timelines. Exploring design assist strategies with MEP trades can also help in streamlining the procurement process and managing long lead items more efficiently. Lastly, ensure that the construction manager has mitigation strategies in place to allow work to proceed on-site even in the event of lead time changes for certain items (e.g. install curbs, complete HVAC distribution in advance of RTU showing up on site).

If you would like further information on how to protect your project against long lead items, please reach out to your local Cresa Project Manager.


By: Jenny West and Michael Wasyliw