Like most industries, the timber supply chain has seen significant disruption to its business due to the social distancing measures imposed by the government. A recent survey by the Confederation of Timber Industries (CTI) highlights how many of the UK’s largest timber suppliers and manufacturers are managing the situation.
The survey showed that on average, 18% of companies in the timber supply chain have stopped operations completely. But this is not spread evenly across the various trade bodies. The Structural Timber Association (20%) and the British Woodworking Federation (29%) both reported far higher shutdown rates than the Trussed Rafter Association (6%), Timber Trade Association (4%) and the Wood Protection Association (0%).
This proves that manufacturers have been most affected by quarantine measures, with almost all firms reporting a sharp decline in output. The few manufacturers that have managed to remain open reported operating at minimal capacity. This is perhaps not surprising given that timber manufacturing is a labour-intensive process which requires a highly skilled workforce.
A glimmer of hope
But the report also offered a glimmer of hope to the embattled industry. The majority of respondents reported that they could return to full operations either immediately (54%) or within a month (31%). A smaller percentage (15%) believed it will take up to 3 months while a handful (3%) said it could take up to six months for full operations to be restored.
The vast majority of respondents also reported they were planning to reopen in May as the government announced the relaxing of some quarantine measures. This follows on from the housebuilding industry announcing the reopening of some construction sites where social distancing measures could be implemented.
Obstacles to overcome
What is clear, however, is that some measure of social distancing will remain in place for a considerable time to come. This will have an inevitable effect on output as manufacturers implement new working practices to account for social distancing. There are also concerns about the availability of PPE for workers and a lack of understanding about how the new rules will be enforced, both on building sites and in factories.
But despite these concerns, the industry looks to be in a good position to bounce back quickly. There is no doubt that the government’s furlough scheme has helped ease the pain somewhat. But most suppliers are confident that they can re-open quickly once restrictions are relaxed. How long it takes for the industry to fully recover remains to be seen, however.