It wasn't just goods and manufacturing supply chains that experienced massive disruption as a result of the pandemic. So, too, did the world's infrastructure and construction companies. Supply of raw materials became disrupted. Equipment and labor became stuck behind borders. Project teams were either isolated on site or quarantined far away from their jobs.
In very short order, normalcy started to return to supply chains. Raw materials once again started to flow. Equipment began to move across borders (albeit often without their operators). Labor, however, remains constrained - workers are still largely confined by regional travel restrictions; operations and project teams are still often isolated.
Perhaps not surprisingly, infrastructure and construction supply chain managers remain deeply concerned that - any day now - their suppliers may go back into lockdown and the flow of critical goods may be delayed. Others are looking past the current pandemic and realizing there are a wide range of concerning risks still hovering on the horizon.
Over the coming year, expect to see the pace of change in infrastructure and construction supply chains pick up as organizations invest in resiliency. We expect to see developers start to think more broadly about the factors that influence their supply strategies. In some cases, this will likely mean a strong shift towards re-shoring and near-shoring. And it will almost certainly mean that inventory levels will rise considerably (offering opportunities for new suppliers and smaller suppliers to grow).
The implications of this trend for the infrastructure sector will be three-fold. First, expect to see significant investment and development going into strengthening regional, national and local supply chain and logistics infrastructure. This will put pressure on transport and logistics providers (including ports, airports and railways) to start to transform their operations, cost structures and business models in order to remain relevant and flexible in the new environment.
Secondly, we expect to see a growing shortfall in some key capabilities as global talent flows remain restricted. Senior project managers will be in particularly short supply. Infrastructure and construction leaders will need to rethink how they source and retain these skills in a new work environment. Many will need to consider how they might source talent from within their borders.
Finally, you can also expect to see infrastructure developers and operators start to remap their supply needs and networks. Some may start to look to new technologies (such as 3D printing) to help reduce their reliance on niche suppliers. Others will likely re-shore and nearshore many of their own supply lines and networks. Expect owners to seriously examine the supply risks inherent in any bid.