What a crazy world we are all living in right now! Over four months have somehow passed since Coronavirus started severely impacting us here in California. While it seems like just yesterday we were all frantically buying up all the toilet paper, it's so hard to believe we've been in this pandemic for as long as we have. These have been trying times for all of us, and we are all feeling this and experiencing it in our own ways, shaped largely in part by our profession, lifestyle, and family situations. Madison Nicole Design has been fortunate enough to keep moving forward with client projects, although it seems that each day presents its own set of new challenges.
As we all try to acclimate to different countries and states' approaches to lockdown, I wanted to give you a look behind the scenes to see how that has affected my corner of the world. Construction, design, and the furniture industry as a whole have been crucially impacted by our current situation. Keep reading to see how each part of the shipping, delivery, and construction process has been affected by shutdowns, social distancing, and virtual work.
Most vendors have initiated virtual work from home for their customer service representatives, which is definitely the right thing to do to ensure the health and safety of employees. However, this change means these reps are no longer within walking distance of their warehouses or delivery trucks. Now, an inquiry must be emailed to the warehouse employees to check on an order (who still need to manage all incoming inventory), and then emailed back to the customer service rep, who then emails the designer - all of which could be days' worth of time vs. a few hours between a rep and a designer.
DELIVERY TRUCKS AND DRIVERS
Many vendors have also decreased the number of truck routes as well as the number of drivers to stay in line with the initial decreased demand and lockdown restrictions. As more complete lockdowns are lifted, the demand has steadily increased, with far less manpower and transportation capability. Less guys doing more work inevitably has led to furniture damage claims going up substantially, thereby delaying the receipt of product even longer than the original projected timeline.
Those who keep a large amount of inventory on hand have been able to weather this storm for the first few months of the pandemic. However, we are now in the restocking phase for vendors, so anyone you might have noticed carrying on as usual will be fighting out of stock notifications now. This will remain indefinite as long as suppliers and manufacturers remain closed or severely restricted in their production capabilities, as they rush to fulfill orders that have backed up from the last few months as well. In other words, if you were looking to have a custom dining set or sofa ready for Thanksgiving, I would be ordering those today to give yourself about an 85% chance of the set being ready!
CONSTRUCTION SITE TRADESMEN
Now onto the construction site! Normally, tradesmen in HVAC, flooring, and electrical work simultaneously on the job site and come and go as they please to complete their specific responsibilities. Now with social distancing guidelines, each trade must be the sole team on the site each day, most likely with less team members than they normally have. What would have taken days now takes weeks to complete.
INTERIOR DESIGNER TRACKING
Now we tackle my part of the job - the tracking of everything above! Because of the changing timelines of literally every piece and service in every current project, I spend a lot more time communicating with vendors by phone and email, updating dates for my clients as I receive new information. This leaves less work time for design work and finish selections, so even that part of the process takes a bit longer than it usually does for me!
I don't say any of the above as a complaint, by any means. I truly believe that everyone is doing the absolute best they can, given their individual situations and the current restrictions that are in place. Sometimes we don't realize all the separate jobs and tasks that go into just a furniture piece being delivered properly! We all need to continue extending grace and understanding as much as possible. I just keep reminding myself how fortunate I am to have the best, most gracious clients during this period!
How has your industry been affected? Being able to see how we are all working to keep each other employed and doing good work has been inspiring to say the least. The more we know, the more we can empathize and create solutions in real time!