Volume 39,  Issue 12,  December 2004

FromtheFabricator

Climb That Mountain
    Being Prepared to Face the Peaks and Valleys

by Max Perilstein

Recently, I had the amazing opportunity to go hiking in the mountains with a couple of my good friends. Now anyone who knows me knows that I am not an outdoor type of guy. In fact, until this adventure, “outdoors” for me was the walk from my house to the car in the morning. Anyway, when you find yourself out among the incredible rock formations and overall stunning nature scenes, you think a lot. That’s where this column was hatched. I thought about 2004 and the comeback that seemingly hit our industry. In much of the country business was trending up and commercial building was starting to rock-n-roll.

About halfway through our journey we took a wrong trail and ended up pretty much in a dead end valley. So we had to backtrack and then pick up a different path. This is where the correlation to our industry clicked. Things may be going well, but we have to prepare for the possibility of rough terrain.

What Does This All Mean?
OK, you’re probably tired of the metaphors so I’ll get to the point. In simple terms the rough terrain ahead looks to be the availability of glass. Yes, I said it. No I am not being paid by the float guys to present this point, fact of the matter is that we are headed toward a glass shortage if the economy stays on track and we begin 2005 with the similar business trends that we had in 2004. Basically, in mid to late 2004 supplies from the primary manufacturers were tightening. There are many causes for it, but the one I see is that the suppliers are producing more flavors of glass than ever before. With demands for solar control low-E and snazzy, new reflectives, line time to produce the old favorites is affected. Add in the burst in the economy and you have the beginnings of a rough patch ahead. 

Now I don’t think it’s the end of the world. I don’t see the day where we’ll be rationing glass to the most needy or having odd/even glass delivery days. But I think the key here is proactive preparation. Knowing that the supplies could be tight should be a warning to all fabricators, glaziers, glass shops, etc. to stay ahead of the game. Yes we all love just-in-time inventory, but do you really want to be caught short at the worst possible time? Add in the fact that transportation of our products is probably the single most serious issue affecting our business today (with health care a close second) and you have too many opportunities to be behind the curve when the job comes in.

What Are the Answers?
So what can be done? The end users, contract glaziers and glass shops cannot assume they can wait till the last minute to order their material … that all 874 fabricators slobbering over them in their market will have the ability to produce the product and ship it in the speedy lead-times to which they have become accustomed. Communicate with your customers to find out what’s on tap so you can get your product on order, or at least a heads up to your suppliers so they can make the arrangements necessary to support you. This, in turn, will allow better capacity planning for everyone. 

I know that this subject will garner emotion and I write more from the side of “let’s be prepared instead of let’s scramble when it happens.” If am wrong, and I am wrong a lot (my betting nickname is Mush), then we all become better planners and more efficient in our day-to-day business by opening those lines of communication.

Back on the mountain, we had found the right trail and made our way to our goal peak. The view was amazing, the air clean, the scene overall was breathtaking. Then I thought to myself, I have to now climb down … and sure enough it was much much easier going up than going down … I guess as it should be. Anyway, as this wraps my final column of 2004, here’s wishing everyone a happy, healthy, safe and upward climb in 2005. 

the author
Max Perilstein serves as director of marketing for Arch Aluminum and Glass.  His column appears bimonthly.


USG

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