Navigating Furniture Lead Times and Supply Chain Issues

The global supply chain is in pretty rough shape. What can you do to avoid getting hit by major delays in the commercial furniture world?

It’s no secret that the global supply chain is experiencing shortages of just about everything. From toilet paper, to the computer chips in new cars, to (you guessed it) commercial furniture, supply chain delays are significantly limiting the quick access to consumer goods that we have all become accustomed to. Here at BII, we know the waiting game all too well — few things are worse than the building anticipation of seeing a new space come together, only to watch days and weeks tick by waiting for furniture to arrive. What used to be a 4-6-week lead time (the time it takes from ordering to arrival in your space) can now have us on the edge of our seats for sometimes up to 20 weeks.

How We Got Here: What Experts are Saying About Supply Chain Issues

Virtually all reports cite the COVID-19 pandemic as the culprit for this crisis:

Forbes notes that factories were, and still are, experiencing inconsistent operating capabilities due to lockdowns and illnesses stemming from the pandemic. This includes our beloved furniture manufacturers pausing production of our favorite task chairs, height-adjustable desks, and conference tables.

Peter Goodman of The New York Times also noted that many companies cut their production schedules at the beginning of the pandemic in anticipation of a decline in consumer demand. Of course, for most companies, demand skyrocketed when consumers stockpiled, tried their hand at DIY home improvement, and explored new ways to function in lockdown. Things were no different in the furniture world. For many of our clients, creating a functional work from home space meant finding the perfect at-home task chair, and many companies took the opportunity to overhaul their empty offices and create a workplace worth coming back to. At BII, we certainly saw the boom in demand first hand, and now are experiencing the negative effects of manufacturers cutting back production schedules. 

The New York Times also writes that many goods are interdependent: one factory may be operating at full capacity, but will stall out waiting for materials from another foreign factory. For example, Haworth manufactures their furniture here in the US, but their factories are still experiencing delays in receiving shipments of raw materials from around the world.

“ Americans took the money they used to spend on experiences and redirected it to goods for their homes, which were suddenly doubling as offices and classrooms. They put office chairs and new printers in their bedrooms, while adding gym equipment and video game consoles to their basements."

– Peter Goodman, The New York Times

So What Now? How to Overcome Furniture Supply Chain Issues

With the supply chain in rough shape, it may feel impossible to avoid getting hit by wild delays in the construction and design of a new space. Having worked through these issues with countless clients throughout this crisis, there’s nothing worse than the moment of realization that your space is nearly complete but you’re still waiting for furniture to fill it. There is hope, though; our team has a few tips for navigating long lead times so you don’t end up with a beautiful new space sitting empty.

1. It is Never too Early to Start Talking Furniture

Talking furniture options early on in a project is hugely beneficial because it’s such a big part of how users will interact with your space. Why not plan early and design accordingly? The vision you have for your finished space should align architecture, furniture designs, and space planning. The earlier you decide on the objectives for your space, the more efficient a furniture package can fit into those goals. And, the earlier we can finalize that package, the sooner we can place an order so leads times don’t start eating away at your move-in date.

Talking furniture early can also help protect your project budget, as the majority of manufacturers we work with are routinely implementing price increases to keep up with rising shipping costs. The earlier you order, the more likely you are to avoid a surprise surcharge or percentage increase.

2. Order Early — and Factor in Storage

Ordering your furniture early is a big part of avoiding a shipping delay. That way, the raw materials and furniture for your project can traverse factories and cross oceans while your space is going through the pre-install phases, ensuring your project remains on track. It is important to note that ordering early can cause some pieces to arrive sooner than expected, so we recommend budgeting for some pre-install storage when ordering early. This way, you avoid having your beautiful new furniture delivered to a work-in-progress construction site. 

3. Consult Your Experts (That's Us)

Most people aren’t experts in every little nuance that comes with dealing with commercial furniture — that’s where we come in. We love taking the stress of figuring out those furniture logistics off your plate — after all, one of our BII core values is being passionate experts of our craft! Our team has the experience and is happy to help customize a package that works for you and beats supply chain issues. No two projects are the same, so let’s connect to make a plan that works for your timeline, budget, and aesthetic.

Have a project coming up soon? Let’s start talking now. Browse our portfolio to spark some inspiration and reach out to us to start discussing your upcoming project today.

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Whether it’s commercial furniture selection, space planning, or both, we are here to be the expert partner that you need to complete a successful furniture project for your space. Fill out the below form to get started today.