This past weekend, my husband and I traveled to beautiful Charlevoix, Michigan — that’s about a four-hour drive North of the metro-Detroit area. Totally worth it — summer and fall are both great times to visit! We drove up to attend a friend’s wedding. Unfortunately, the wedding date was held during an annual summer festival in Charlevoix, and hotel rooms were in high demand. Every hotel we checked was either at capacity or cost $600 per night for a basic room. Luckily, we were able to crash with family in Petoskey, about a 20-minute drive from the wedding venue, so it all worked out.

We also noticed that food prices were exorbitantly high. We paid over $40 for just two iced teas and sandwiches for lunch. Inflation is hitting every industry hard, and most, if not all, of those increases are passed along to the consumer.

Just last week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that annualized inflation has surged to a record high of 9.1%. That’s the largest increase since November 1981.

While most of the recent inflation is seen in gas and food, MEP engineers must also pay attention to what is happening in the current economic landscape when designing plumbing and mechanical systems due to the ever-changing material costs and persistent supply change shortages. While my lunch was a measly $40, delays and alternate sourcing of equipment and parts could cost a building owner tens of thousands of dollars depending on the situation. Many companies are recognizing this need and are moving forward to offer solutions for engineers. One of those companies is Trimble.  

According to Chris Peppler, category general manager, Building Pre-Construction Software at Trimble, some of the most prominent trends in the industry right now are moving toward a better understanding of the supply chain availability and the impact it has on the dramatic increase in prefabrication.

“It’s not only material issues either, it’s labor shortages, which most companies in the construction space are realizing they can’t solve with people on the job site, so they have to solve that through more manufacturing methods and prefabrication. Trimble has been focusing a lot more on prefab and understanding how the supply chain impacts the shop now. You might be modeling something, and then find out it’s not even available. So it’s important to have quick access to substitutes and supply chain information from a distributor. That’s where a lot of our software is helping right now. We have a solution called Trimble Supplier Xchange, which connects to more than 500 distributors. So through using our solutions, people can very quickly understand real-time pricing, real-time availability, and run a lot of scenarios with substitutes and also understand how that impacts their material pricing as well.”

Read more about current MEP software trends and technology in our August cover story.

In the meantime, MEP engineers should focus on obtaining software with solutions like Trimble’s Supplier Xchange, or even partnering with distributors themselves to check equipment and parts availability as well as substitute brands that could fit with your designs. As the Boy Scout motto goes, “Always be prepared.”