Handling the Truth
Early in the day on September 11, 2001, in the midst of
all the chaos, I talked to a family member who happens to be a structural
engineer. “Tell me those buildings aren’t going to come down,” I said
in a voice that was more filled with question than command. But a declaration
was what I got in reply. “I can’t tell you that,” was the quiet answer
I received about 10 minutes before the first one fell. I went looking
for reassurance and found that, sometimes, the truth doesn’t give you
Although this is in no way a proper analogy, nor is it an attempt to trivialize
the events of September 11 in any way, I did feel the need to go looking
for answers after Arch Aluminum filed for bankruptcy late last month (see
related story page 16 and on
usgnn.com™). Up to that point, even amid the rumors that had been swirling
about for months, I’d felt that our industry was in the midst of some
very, very tough times but that we would emerge from them okay. The Arch
reorganization—that of a long-time, large, primary source fabricator—was
a tsunamic event felt around our industry. It was unsettling. If Arch
could file for bankruptcy, the thought process went, then was anyone safe?
Would our industry come crashing down around us?
“Are we going to be okay?’ was the question I asked to a few very learned,
most highly-respected leaders—the structural engineers, if you will—in
our industry. I went again seeking reassurance, but this time I got it.
The new year is often a toast to hindsight mixed with expectation, followed
by a chaser of predictions. So here are my predictions, based both on
my observations and (hopefully) educated guesses, along with the opinions
of those I value. Watch for:
1. Consolidation at the primary manufacturer level. I would not
be surprised if we have one less primary manufacturer in existence by
the middle of next year than we do as I write this. This consolidation
will be the result of merger;
2. Increased influence among manufacturers. Along with such a consolidation
will come an increased influence by certain primary manufacturers and
fabricators over what companies make it in the business and which ones
do not. Since the number of companies at these two levels are relatively
small, they will have more control over which companies in financial difficulty
are allowed to exist and which are not;
3. Operators under the “commodity” model will dwindle. The days
of being able to sell volume are gone, at any level. Primary manufacturers
and fabricators must differentiate themselves through value-added and
specialized product in order to survive long-term;
4. Capacity will decrease. In addition to the effect of consolidation,
lines are down due to refurbishment and low demand. The eventual effect
will be reduced capacity and, as a result, increased prices. Some leading
experts also said a glass shortage would not be out of the question. That
sounds counterintuitive on the surface, but when you analyze it, it’s
5. A healthier industry in the long run. Survival of the fittest
is cruel in nature or in business, but it leads to stronger, more vital
This has been a tough year for our industry. I am glad I got to spend
it with you. I am very thankful for the people I get to work with—and
work for. Even in tough times, the glass industry will survive. Are we
going to be okay? Yes.
Happy New Year. It is an honor for us to work for you.
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