In the first post of our multi-part series, we discussed the market forces driving today's inflationary environment for energy and natural resources firms. Now, we dive deeper into one of the consequences of those market forces: longer equipment lead times. PowerAdvocate recently conducted a survey of dozens of top suppliers in the energy industry and found an average 50% increase in lead times for critical electrical infrastructure equipment since January of 2021.
As global economies recover from the economic downturn, a combination of market forces is creating an inflationary cost environment for energy and natural resources firms. Severe shortages for key commodities, materials, and labor have businesses scrambling to mitigate the operational downsides, including longer lead times for critical equipment.
In periods of rapid economic change, energy firms need to know where they are most vulnerable to rising costs. The recent volatility of commodity markets - and the uncertain fate of policies like President Biden's $1.2T infrastructure plan currently being debated in Congress - highlight the challenge that procurement teams face in estimating the expected impact on their budgets.
President Biden’s proposed $2T investment plan could strain an already tight labor market servicing utilities. As demand for various construction services increase, North American utilities will need to accomplish the same or greater levels of work compared to the past, but with a more constrained supply base. As a result, utilities must think about the potential higher costs that result from labor shortages.
Across the top areas of spend in the North American utility industry, our models reveal that costs for utilities have increased dramatically in the last year, upwards of 16%, and are forecasted to climb around 3% in a single quarter by the end of Q2 2021.
In our most recent whitepaper, we examine how supply chain professionals can confidently rise to the challenge by demonstrating they can offset the impact of inflation on an ongoing basis.
Volatile markets can have an adverse effect on operators, especially when having to purchase products and services off contract. For example, with Equipment Maintenance Services 8% off contract on average and costs expected to rebound c.3% by April 2022, operators must be prepared to manage their spend effectively to mitigate market changes.
The US construction sector is facing a confluence of supply chain disruptions, cost increases, and worker shortages as the economic recovery from the pandemic accelerates. Now, President Biden’s proposed plan to invest $2T over 8 years in infrastructure could further boost demand for construction services, putting even more pressure on the limited labor supplies providing services to energy firms.
PowerAdvocate’s analysis of the proposed investments in roads, bridges, power transmission networks, and other physical infrastructure shows that higher demand will impact some craft labor types more than others. As the chart shows, demand is expected to exceed supply for several key crafts in the first year of the plan, with heavy equipment operators and electrical power line installers seeing the severest shortages. Both crafts saw minimal job losses in 2020 amid pandemic-related work stoppages and are currently near full capacity with few qualified workers remaining jobless. Meanwhile, both will see significantly higher demand if the infrastructure bill passes Congress. At a national level, PowerAdvocate forecasts that construction sector employers could face a shortage of 27,000 heavy equipment operators, or nearly 7% of the currently employed labor force of 405,000. For electrical power line installers, we forecast a shortage of 21,000 workers, or 18% of the current labor force of 114,000.
Labor shortages are a major risk for energy firms, impacting everything from costs, to safety, to project continuity. PowerAdvocate works with firms to quantify their exposure to these shortages and execute key supply chain strategies to mitigate the risk, including managing demand, improving supplier productivity, and enhancing volume commitments.
This year's economic, cultural, and health environment has elevated the industry's focus on supplier diversity initiatives. As an example, over 50% of the top 25 investor-owned utilities in the US referenced the topic in their Q2 earnings call, vs. just 20% in Q2 of last year. However, data and resource challenges can often hinder progress to stated diversity program goals.
- The US administration recently announced two new rounds of tariffs on $300 billion of imports from China at a rate of 10%, effective September 1 and December 15.
- This is the fourth round of US tariffs on imports from China, which now covers over $500 billion of Chinese imports, covering nearly all remaining trade with China.
- China has responded by cutting US imports and by threatening additional tariffs on US goods.
- The new tariffs largely focus upon consumer products; however, the tariffs also cover numerous steel & aluminum products in both finished and intermediate states that may impact energy supply chain teams. However, the lists will not include products for which China maintains monopolistic market share, such as rare earth minerals and barite.
- While trade negotiations between China and the US are expected to continue, should the talks fail to result in an agreement, the list 4 tariff rate is anticipated to increase to 25%, in line with lists 1 – 3.
- Supply Chain teams should evaluate how exposed they are to key commodities such as steel and aluminum and be able to evaluate potential risks to cost structure.