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Commercial, Custom Residential, Interior Design

How a Designer Can Help You Navigate Lead Times

Product lead times can play a major role in the success of your project and, these days, they’re longer and less predictable than ever. If you’ve been frustrated trying to find a product in stock and on your timeline, we feel you. And we have some simple ways to help you overcome these challenges.

September 8, 2022

One of the effects of Covid-19 on the world has been product supply (or lack thereof) and delivery time – what we in the design industry commonly refer to as lead time.

Even under normal circumstances, it’s not uncommon for a small number of products to be discontinued between the time a product is selected and the time it’s ordered. But over the last few years, the quantity of items affected has increased significantly.

The best way to prepare for this is to know your lead times.

How can you address lead times for your project?

Supply chain issues and labor shortages have risen for many products – from building materials like framing lumber, windows, and finishes to plumbing and light fixtures, appliances, and furniture.

During the design process, interior designers and clients invest time in selecting every product to ensure the aesthetics, performance criteria, cost, and scale are the best fit for the project. This makes a long lead time or a discontinued product all the more disappointing when it occurs.

Learn Your Lead Times

Under current conditions, it’s best practice to request lead time estimates during the specification of a product. This information can help identify if any products are known to have long lead times before construction begins and allows an opportunity to get ahead of the schedule by ordering products early.

There are some very simple resources you can use to address lead times early in the process.

  • Some product manufacturers have begun to post standard, estimated lead times with the specification information of their product.
  • Custom items, products that have a greater flux in production time, or are dependent on raw material or specialty parts, typically require an inquiry to confirm lead time. But it’s worth reaching out to get this information as early as possible.
  • Pre-construction meetings with your design team and contractor offer a valuable opportunity to identify any products anticipated to have an exceptionally long lead time.

An Interior Designer Can Help

Having an interior designer on your team can help smooth over some of the issues that arise with longer and more variable lead times.

  • From the initial selection phase, an interior designer can offer product sources and fabricators that are local to the project, when possible, to avoid additional shipping time.
  • Interior designers can be proactive by providing estimated lead times to Contractors and Procurement Specialists.
  • If a product arrival has been delayed beyond the original estimated lead time, an interior designer can help you navigate options to move forward. If a product is in stock and expedited shipping is available, that is the first place to start. Rushed shipping typically adds a relatively small cost, but, in the final push toward project completion, it can make or break a deadline.
  • If product production is delayed and an item is no longer in stock, waiting for the item the be in stock again is an option. This may require a second installation after the project has been nearly completed, though. An interior designer can help you navigate this option to see if it’s right for your project.
  • If a product is backordered or no longer available, a reselection will be required. A well-defined design intent and thorough understanding of the original selection considerations make reselection more efficient. Your interior designer knows your project inside and out and is one of your best resources to start looking for replacement products.

Extended production and lead times are a new normal in the building and design industry. However, being well prepared with timeline information and having design guidance for support will help you navigate project schedules as smoothly as possible.

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