Electrical manufacturers continue to scramble to source key production components for many of the products that electrical distributors stock, and the supply chain snafus probably won’t end anytime soon. These product shortages and inflation are driving up prices to historic levels.
Several dozen early responders to Electrical Wholesaling magazine’s annual Top 150 Electrical Distributors survey reported shipment delays ranging from 30 to 60 days for many core electrical products and six months or more for switchgear. There were also many reports of shipment delays of up to two months for load centers, transformers, industrial controls and wall boxes. Shortages of semiconductors for LED lighting or industrial controls, resins for the manufacture of nonmetallic boxes and steel for conduit and other steel-based products appear to be most pressing, but supply chain issues for electrical products extend past these core components and materials. See the chart on page 2 for lead time estimates for 15 key electrical product groups.
Electrical distributors were brutally realistic in their evaluation of when the supply chain issues will loosen up. In the EW Top 150 survey, 66% of the early respondents said it would take until 2023 for lead times to return to normal in the electrical market; 17% said it would take until the end of the year; and 12% said there was no end in sight. “Lead times will affect sales,” said one distributor in the VRP/EW survey. “It’s hard to sell if you can’t get the equipment.”
Pricing issues also surfaced in the EW Top 150 and VRP surveys, as well as Electrical Marketing’s monthly Electrical Price Index. Because of the sky-high copper prices, 42% of Top 150 distributors said they are seeing new price increases for wire and cable more than once-a-month. Some respondents said prices for steel and nonmetallic conduit were also increasing this fast, with 12% of respondents mentioning steel conduit and 14% calling out nonmetallic conduit for price increases at this pace.
More than 40% of respondents were seeing price increases on a quarterly basis for 11 other core electrical product groups (See chart on this page).
More than half of the EW Top 150 survey respondents (52%) believe it will take until next year for electrical product pricing to return to some sort of normal. Some distributors were even more pessimistic, as 24% said no end was in sight for the industry’s pricing issues.
These issues are having a dramatic impact on business for distributors. Said one respondent to the VRP/EW survey, “We used to spend time selling now, we spend time making excuses.”