Overcoming Supply Chain Delays in Multifamily

Tips for navigating this ongoing challenge from Morgan Properties' Carol Jackson and Brian Turner.

Carol Jackson

It’s no secret that for over a year, the country has been facing supply chain delays. Grocery store shelves remain bare and waitlists for big-ticket items like furniture and cars continue to get pushed. To overcome this, professionals across every industry have had to adapt the way they source materials even if it’s at an added cost. Multifamily owners and maintenance professionals are no exception.

HVAC systems and water heaters, for example, have and will continue to see delays into late spring/early summer, but owners can’t allow the lack of available materials to push back move-in dates or building repairs. Here are a few tips to help navigate this ongoing challenge.

Continue to Meet Residents Needs

Despite the challenges property management and maintenance teams are facing, residents’ requests must be addressed with the same level of attention and timeliness. Residents who were once forgiving of delays at the beginning of the pandemic have grown more impatient and expect their issues to be taken care of almost immediately. Everyone is facing pandemic fatigue. When residents come home they want peace, not to have to deal with a broken washing machine or leaky faucet.

If there is one lesson facility managers have learned over the past two years it’s that there is always a way to tackle an issue, even if it takes some creativity. When Plan A or B doesn’t work due to delays, there is always a Plan C. Looking back a few years ago, a maintenance technician would have never purchased tools and supplies from local hardware stores, but now this is becoming the norm. Running to the store to pick up small items like door stops and knobs has become part of the weekly routine to get the necessary parts and complete many maintenance requests.

Should the solution not be that simple, transparency with residents is key. In some cases, products won’t be available for a few weeks, but it is the job of the onsite team to clearly communicate updates and find a temporary fix to meet the needs of the resident. At the end of the day, we must remind ourselves we’re in the customer service business and resident satisfaction is critical.

Be Prepared, But Not Overly Prepared

There is a fine line between having enough materials and having too many that it becomes a problem. Inventory has to be reviewed more closely to ensure orders are being placed when supply starts to dwindle while also considering the increased cost that comes with overordering. Each item requires a separate analysis; it’s always better to have more smoke detectors and furnaces, for instance, but bulkier items like HVACs can be difficult to store. Utilizing inventory management software can allow maintenance staff, property managers, and corporate operations teams to work together to quickly submit, approve, and order low-stock items.

As we approach peak leasing season, facility managers should already be looking at what materials they have on hand and what needs to be ordered to turn over units as efficiently as possible. With lease terminations typically taking place 60-90 days prior to move-out, maintenance teams should have plenty of time to secure everything that is needed for standard upkeep.

Stay flexible

Brian Turner

We ask that residents be patient with our teams as we work to find supply chain delay solutions, and on-site teams need to remain forbearing and flexible, as well. Finding alternative products takes time, alters plans, and may even require teams to learn new skills.

Units that are slated to be renovated have taken the largest hit due to product shortages and shipment delays. It can take property owners months to decide on the right finishes for unit upgrades and only one day to change everything. Cabinets and appliances that were readily available in September are now backordered through July. With spring and summer being the busiest months for apartment turnovers and upgrades, owners have had to make tough decisions when it comes to producing a consistent look and feel across units.

Whenever possible, it is ideal to utilize the same vendor for each purchase, but it’s more important to move residents in on time. To make this work, owners need to be willing to switch out black appliances for stainless steel and dark wood cabinets for white to meet their deadlines. When new items are introduced, it is the maintenance technician’s responsibility to learn how to properly install, use, and fix any problems that may occur. This is a simple task for new finishes, but not as easy for new kitchen appliances or washers and dryers.

We can expect to see the impact of supply chain delays continue into the summer and maybe even fall of this year. Those owners and managers who stay nimble and creative to meet and exceed resident expectations along the way will prevail in this challenging supply chain market.

Carol Jackson is the area vice president of the Maryland region at Morgan Properties. Her primary responsibilities include coaching and developing future leaders, overseeing company financials, strategic planning, and executing company initiatives through regional and site teams.

Brian Turner is the facilities area vice president, responsible for overseeing the Facility Department of Morgan Properties’ Maryland portfolio which consists of 32 multifamily communities totaling 20,912 units, and manages the regional facilities team consisting of seven members.

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