Another Strong Outlook for the Year Ahead

The U.S. glass and glazing industry is still riding the highs of a robust construction expansion and strong economy, according to the 2019 Glass and Glazing Industry Outlook from Key Media & Research (KMR).

The construction recovery that began in 2009 and 2010 has steadily trended up for nearly a decade. While it is beginning to level off as it reaches the pre-recession peak, moderate growth is still being projected in the near term.

According to KMR’s 2019 Contract Glazier Outlook Index, a numerical measurement of the optimism and current health of the glass and glazing industry, glazing contractors collectively enter 2019 with a very positive mindset. Contract glaziers again expect growth in all of the major nonresidential building segments. While the office sector continues to lead the way on the commercial side, healthcare facilities are expected to see the biggest increase in glass and glazing work. Along with a bump in educational building, healthcare construction is driving significant gains on the institutional side.

Employment in the construction industry, and more specifically in the subsectors that encompass glass and metal contractors, continued to grow through the end of 2018. Looking ahead, more than three quarters of glaziers intend to add employees in 2019, though they remain concerned with the skilled labor shortage and lack of qualified skilled workers in the industry.

Flat glass manufacturers and architectural glass fabricators also maintained a positive business outlook through the end of the 2018 and into the new year. Large glass remains the most prominent trend on the supply side of the industry, as fabricators and manufacturers are making production and logistical adjustments to accommodate for the demand of oversized lites. “Compressed schedules/short lead times of clients” has emerged as the top concern among glass manufacturers and fabricators.

Manufacturers of commercial fenestration products and glazing systems are upbeat in 2019, as well. A majority of them anticipate sales increases this year, though they, too, are concerned with shortened lead times, material costs and the labor shortage.

According to KMR Industry Outlook response data, glass fabricators/manufacturers and contract glaziers plan to make significant investments in machinery and equipment in 2019. Transportation/trucks is the top priority among glaziers when it comes to machinery and equipment. This category was a key one among glass suppliers as well, but they are focused on investing in a variety of glass fabrication machinery types.

Overall, the industry outlook is optimistic from virtually all angles. While the construction expansion is entering a mature state, its easing effects have not been felt in the glass and glazing industry. This positivity should continue into 2020, though it may begin to pull back in 2021, KMR projects.

This article was derived from the Glass and Glazing Industry Outlook’s executive summary, with permission from Key Media & Research (KMR). For more information about the report, visit www.keymediaresearch.com/research or email KMR director of research Nick St. Denis at nstdenis@glass.com.

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