Note: This post is a little longer this week because of the big news from last week and GlassBuild America kicking off this week.
One story that I have been talking about for a while, and that Glass Magazine has been all over for months, hit the mainstream media in a big way this week. A story that led with the premise of glass being short in supply first appeared in the Wall Street Journal on September 8th. (Thank you old pal Scott Surma for the initial lead on it.) After the first posting of the article, many other sites followed with their takes as well, making the news somewhat “viral,” at least as our world is concerned.
First and foremost, the original article from the Journal had some serious flaws in it. The biggest one was noting that a product shortage forced real estate companies into the “glass” business. However, the Journal's example firm actually makes unitized curtain wall, so that move in no way alleviates any pressure a glass shortage would have. That’s just a hole in the story logic, making their “problem” more of a fabricator/glazier issue, which in fact is a serious problem, possibly as much as a tightening of glass capacity.
When it comes to glazing, especially major, high-end contracted projects, the field of qualified players is very limited. Because of many factors, only so many companies per market really want to get into these projects, or have the ability to do so. These are sophisticated projects that if you do not have a good team, including top-notch project managers, your entire business could fail with one bad turn. So blaming a glass shortage the way the article initially intended and then going into the installation issues in the way the article ended, was off base.
This WSJ article really is more about a glazing issue, featuring costs developers never expected to pay, and lead-times they never expected to wait. Why? Because they’ve always enjoyed the benefits of the opposite. Most feel our industry has always been too “competitive” when it comes to the first issue and way too expedient on the second. Lead-times especially have thrown many in the chain because it’s always been a “just in time” world. We surely spoiled the masses there.
In the end, there are two takeaways.
First, there’s no doubt, despite the confusing nature of some of the articles out this week, we do have a glass shortage. It’s been building for a while. It’s something I have been banging on and telling anyone who listens to prepare for. I know some are questioning if it’s real, and while they may make calls to find out, anyone who works in this business on a day-to-day basis knows it’s a very difficult climate, worse in areas that are further from the primary plants and especially bad on certain styles and sizes of glass. What used to always be there is simply not available right now.
Second, we do have an issue with installation, especially a shortage of quality project managers. That is something that is not new to readers of this blog either. When you add these up with the other factors in our world (transportation, recovering economy, stressed equipment, etc.), this is what happens.
As noted above, many sites picked up on this original story. But one article really caught my eye. It was by huge tech blog Gizmodo. This one took the lead from the Journal, stayed in its lane focus wise, and then also pointed out the excellent work that Katy Devlin and Glass Magazine did to show what is happening here. Plus the story featured the line of the year for me:
"Maybe most interestingly, this isn’t the first time a glass shortage has hit the world. Katy Devlin, editor of Glass Magazine (yes, there is a glass magazine!)"
That last sentence: so true. And if you’ve been reading Glass Magazine, you knew about all of this long before the mainstream stumbled upon it.
- Last note on the above for now: Props to Matt Tangeman of Custom Glass Machinery. He attacked the comment section of the WSJ story like a champ. Great insights provided. Nice work, Matt!
- GlassBuild America kicks off this week, and I am looking forward to seeing as many people as I can. Once again I’ll be the goofy looking guy wearing the yellow vest that looks like I stole from the ground crew at Atlanta’s Hartsfield Airport. So please stop me and say hi. As for the show, the exhibits I have been researching have me excited to see the innovation and advancements. And I have to say the amount of education this year is like nothing that has ever been at a conference or show before. It’s amazing. Also, a side note: during the Glazing Executives Forum, a great panel will be held on the lead-time subject featuring Garret Henson of Viracon, Chris Cotton of Dlubak/Consolidated Glass Holdings, and John McGill of YKK AP America. Three companies and three excellent people to provide some views on a very challenging world right now.
- If you are unable to attend (I am sorry; tough one to miss), I will be tweeting from the GlassBuild America twitter account @GlassBuild and also doing Periscope sessions from there to show you some education and forum happenings. So follow @GlassBuild on both Twitter and Periscope. And my guess is they’ll probably never let me near either account again after this, so don’t miss it!
- Of course on my blog next week, the recap of the show: people seen and products checked out and more.
- Last this week, a shout out to my good friend Kris Vockler and the folks at ICD High Performance Coatings. ICD was given an award by the state of Washington for their efforts on hiring America’s veterans. The Vockler family are simply awesome people, and they back it up with the way they do business and the people they hire. Congrats!
Read on for links and video of the week...
Max Perilstein is founder of Sole Source Consultants, a consulting firm for the building products industry that specializes in marketing, branding, communication strategy and overall reputation management, as well as website and social media, and codes and specifications. E-mail him at MaxP@SoleSourceConsultants.com.
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.