Fired Up: 3 Things the Glass Industry Learned in 2016

It’s been a long time since the glass industry could look back and describe a year as “busy.” Although busy is good, there’s still been a lot to learn along the way to our industry’s new normal. For some, the challenge has been how to remain productive with limited staff and production capabilities. For others, it’s finding skilled laborers for specialized jobs. Whatever the challenge, it’s safe to say we aren’t approaching project bids, manufacturing or support services the same way we were eight years ago when the recession hit.

So, what’s proved the most successful? Here are my thoughts on three of the most important lessons learned in 2016. 

1. Prioritize partnerships. Many of us apply “the difference between success and failure is a great team” philosophy to our immediate workplace. A collaborative environment where people work together is undeniably key to bettering any company. But, it’s important to go a step further. Trustworthy, reliable partnerships with others outside your company are just as valuable to your business success as are your own employees. This rings particularly true in a busy market. 

One of the best ways to leverage your existing labor and effectiveness is to partner with trusted suppliers and manufacturers. Whether it’s prompt service, clear communication to eliminate project setbacks or quality materials made right the first time, quality partners can help your team deliver a project on-time and within budget.

2. Prioritize efficiency. If the latest research is right, then growth remains on the horizon in an industry that’s already spread thin and juggling demanding schedules. The Dodge Construction Outlook predicts U.S. commercial building construction starts will grow 6 percent in 2017. This means efficiency will become even more important in the coming year.

For some companies this will translate to automation to maximize production; for others it means additional employee training to learn about new materials or reassessing the supply chain to better deliver on project deadlines. Whatever the approach, it’s important not to lose sight of quality craftsmanship during the process. We all lose if we start shipping sub-par products or cutting corners on the jobsite to meet deadlines. 

3. Prioritize scheduling. The labor shortage is complicating the demands of a busy marketplace. For example, a general contractor that waits to hire a glazier might find out there isn’t one available to meet his schedule. This results in project delays, frustrated customers and strained relationships. 

Early and frequent collaboration with the trades is essential to avoiding these setbacks. This is particularly true in high-end jobs. The increase in construction spending has led to buildings with more complex glass installations. Not only is it a real challenge to find laborers with the skillset for these specialized jobs, but complex installations often require technical support and onsite custom work. Building time into the project schedule to account for labor needs and custom work is critical to ensuring the glass assembly is installed correctly and in line with the project schedule. If a project delivery team hasn’t worked with a particular glazier or subcontractor before, it’s also critical to factor in time for hands-on training and collaboration. 

 

Jeff Razwick is the president of Technical Glass Products, a supplier of fire-rated glass and framing systems, and other specialty architectural glazing. He writes frequently about the design and specification of glazing for institutional and commercial buildings, and is a past chair of the Glass Association of North America’s Fire-Rated Glazing Council. He can be reached at 800/426-0279.

The opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Glass Association, Glass Magazine editors, or other glassblog contributors. 

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