In a world beset by supply chain shortages, locally sourced building materials are invaluable

22.02.2022

With a worsening housing crisis in New Zealand and no sign of the supply chain crisis easing, companies that supply local materials have become a saving grace for many projects.

It’s no secret that the world and the global economy is dealing with a substantial and unprecedented crisis as a casualty of the pandemic: supply chain disruption. Perhaps its most serious ramification of the crisis is the delays in global shipping, which has slowed down systems and processes across many sectors.

The crisis has affected almost every industry that deals in material goods, and the building and construction industry has been impacted especially hard: builders are finding it difficult to source materials, and many projects have floundered in their early stages.

There is a simple antidote to this problem, however: locally sourced materials and products.

When importing materials, there’s no way to avoid global supply chain shortages and disruptions; but when it comes to domestic materials, it’s much easier to get your hands on them.

With a worsening housing crisis in New Zealand and no sign of the supply chain crisis easing, companies that supply local materials have become a saving grace for many projects.

One such company is Viblock, a New Zealand owned and operated company specialising in supplying high-quality masonry from its dedicated Central Otago manufacturing facility.

The company’s general manager, Jim Hunter, says Viblock’s status as a local supplier of a critical building material takes the pressure off many in the industry.

“All of our raw materials are here,” says Jim. “We can manufacture major quantities with no supply chain issues. From a supply point of view, there’s no pressure at all — it’s good to know we’re not holding up any projects.”

And it’s not just about the supply itself — Viblock, and by proxy its customers, also benefit from fewer overhead costs.

“On the cost side of things, the importing of containers has become much more expensive in the last four or five years,” says Jim. “So in that way, the product is very competitive price-wise now.”

Not relying on the global supply chain and shipping system has more benefits than just cost and availability of materials. It also opens the door to better environmental practices, Jim says.

“From an emissions point of view, everything’s locally sourced and distributed, meaning there’s a lot less supply chain footprint involved,” he says.

Meanwhile, Viblock also benefits from a reduced amount of a particular scourge of the environment: waste.

“You don’t have to order as much extra product for the job,” says Jim. “If you’re slightly under on the job, there’s going to be material here easily available to draw on.

“Along with that, you also avoid potential supply chain damages — which can be as high as 10%, or even higher for some materials being shipped internationally. We have almost no wastage from damaged goods.”

As a brick manufacturer, Jim admits there’s always going to be the question of the utilisation of cement in the manufacturing process — but, even in this area, Viblock strives to improve.

“When it comes to brick, there’s quite a small footprint of cement per square metre compared to a slab of concrete wall, ” says Jim. “So we make sure to use as small an amount of cement as possible.”