Labor shortage tops glazier concerns

January 9, 2007

More fuel surcharges and price hikes expected in 2007

With strong backlogs and healthy commercial market conditions, glaziers report optimism about market conditions in the new year. However, many say the challenges they faced in 2006 will likely continue in 2007.

Glaziers such as Bill Tolbert, project manager for Service Glass Industries Inc. in Frederick, Md., say rising fuel and material prices will be a concern, but, finding qualified workers to handle a growing backlog of jobs will continue to be the main hurdle.

“Of every competitor we know of, no one is out there pounding the streets for work,” Tolbert says. “Everyone is busy. If they could find 50 more men, it still wouldn’t be enough. The biggest issue is going to be the labor shortage.”

Bob Rushing, pre-construction manager for Architectural Aluminum Techniques in Orlando, Fla., agrees. "With the year-round construction schedule the weather allows here, labor is a constant issue,” he says.

Bob Linford, general manager for Giroux Glass, says his company faces a labor issue for field and office personnel at both of its locations, in Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

“We’ve had a standing call for qualified estimators and project managers for four years,” Linford says. “We’re fortunate with the people we do have. But we can’t even bid as many jobs as we want, because we might not have the people.”

As far as pricing goes, Linford says he expects at least two increases in the fuel surcharges from Giroux Glass’ suppliers, and a steady increase in material prices for both aluminum and glass.

Rushing says glaziers have begun to expect rising surcharges, making it easier to factor the additional costs into bids. In addition, he says many fabricators have created a more consistent and understanding surcharge process.

“The fuel surcharge issue is becoming an accepted part of the industry, and we are seeing a more even application of them. A percentage rate seems to be the most common,” he says.

Click here to learn how glaziers deal with increasing surcharges.

To read more about the glass industry’s labor shortage, click here and view the Oct. 3, Oct. 10 and Oct. 17 issues of e-glass weekly.