As if finding quality employees these days wasn’t hard enough, we’re now forced to challenge our current employees with a new daily task that’s begun taking over their work day. Finding supplies has become a full-time position in a lot of glass shops across the country. The issues that surround the supply chain flow are extensive and with no solid solutions arriving soon. Some companies are finding themselves struggling in an area where they haven’t had to struggle before.
It’s no secret that the glass industry is a capital-strapped industry. We tend to stay in this business for the passion of the industry, our clients and the incredible humans we meet along the way who share that same zest. Anyone who has been in the industry long enough knows that “getting rich” isn’t really a business strategy in today’s climate, but loving what you do and making a living at it is easily achievable. That being said, paying for supplies upfront or even at the 30-day mark while waiting patiently for them to arrive is painful on the pocketbook. Some suppliers are requiring full payment upfront for large orders and others are keeping terms, but the likelihood of consistent, on-time supply delivery is more of a dream than a reality. Our small shop has had four orders of residential windows on order for two months now. Keep in mind, those orders are paid-in-full to the suppliers and even though we took a deposit of half down from our clients, the margins aren’t always enough to cover the cost. Those orders have been pushed back again and not only do we have capital out of pocket, we have upset customers. This is only one instance of the many versions of this struggle that are beginning to cripple glass shops. I’ve spoken with owners and managers of many companies and some of the bigger shops seem to be struggling less than the smaller ones. Volume matters and, as a self-proclaimed small company, we know we are possibly on the bottom of the list to get orders filled. That’s not saying all suppliers are managing orders that way, but based on the feedback, it does appear that might be something they’re doing to weather the storm. I’m not sure that I wouldn’t do the same in their positions either. This is business, after all, and big fish usually eat first.
The fall-out from the added stress on the employees who manage inventory to the client’s frustration makes the day-to-day processes more difficult. The conversations that many of us are hearing make you want to give everyone managing these issues an immediate raise. But how? We’re spending every dime we have to get orders placed and crossing our fingers that those orders not only arrive in a reasonable amount of time, but add in all the fun aspects of the glass business itself and you gotta hope that everyone in the process has done their part and the orders are right. We are all human and there are a lot of hands-on glass orders, which already have the potential for the human error factor. This is now multiplied by the added pressures and stress of these supply chain issues.
While I personally hope there’s an end in sight for these struggles for all of us, I don’t know how real that hope can be. Making huge pivots is the move and as I’ve always said specifically about this industry, if you aren’t pivoting constantly, you’re going to get left behind. Finding strategic partnerships with suppliers is a huge deal and ensuring your staff is aware of which companies to order what supplies from is an ongoing rotation. Some suppliers have a great stock of certain items and limited availability for others. I couldn’t imagine being the one responsible for finding supplies right now, whether it’s a full-time hourly employee at the glass shop or the salaried position at the supplier. As an industry we know suppliers are doing their very best and we know a lot of this isn’t a tangible controllable for any of us.
As always, I know that this article is simply the thoughts of one person, sitting in one town among a lot of much smarter and much more capable people, sitting in a lot of different towns across the world. I speak for everyone struggling when I ask, what are you doing to survive or even thrive in this supply chain climate? Comment below with your thoughts.
Dustin Anderson is the president of Anderson Glass in Waco, Texas.