Left to right: Max Perilstein, Allen Mathis, Jeff Rende and Garret Henson.

The 2018 Glazing Executives Forum took place today as part of the GlassBuild America show, underway this week in Las Vegas. The forum included a panel discussion that focused on navigating the supply chain. The panelists included Allen Mathis, vice president of operational excellence with YKK AP; Garret Henson, vice president of sales and marketing with Viracon; and Jeff Rende, director of supply chain management with Guardian Glass. The session was moderated by Max Perilstein of Sole Source Consulting.

The session began with the panelists answering the question, what keeps you up at night?

Mathis said for his company, it’s making sure service offerings continue to be progressive and exceed customer expectation. He said customers already face significant pressures every day and the last thing they need is another concern with their material supply.

Rende added it’s a similar case with glass, and the service and speed to market. He said they work on having the right product in the right place at the right time.

Panelists also addressed the issue of tariffs. Mathis said one of the biggest issues is the level of uncertainty, particularly given an increasingly global supply chain.

“Right when you get your heads wrapped around one set of tariffs, legislation comes out with a potential new tariff,” said Mathis. “Customers are concerned with what costs will be to erect a building. We take cost management seriously and can’t just pass price increases on dollar for dollar.”

He added, “No one benefits without rendering benefit to others. Tariffs are part of the business now, and it’s our job to manage through that the best we can.”

Henson addressed some of the challenges customers are currently facing and how they can work through them.

“Stay in touch with your supply chain,” he said.

Rende agreed that communication is important.

“We have a dynamic market … [you need] the right people in your supply chain connected the market.”

Logistics and lead times are also challenges, and all three panelists agreed that communication can be essential to ensuring shipments arrive on time and damage-free.

Over the past few years trucking issues have also been a challenge. Rende said as the economy continues to grow, trucking has also improved. He said his company has made changes in their transportation efforts to shorten lead times and put less pressure on the supply chain. This includes, for example, having the product closer to market through distribution centers.

Panelists also talked about some issues customers see with increased lead times.

Henson said that while there is plenty of material supply, there is not a lot of labor. There’s also a misconception and not an understanding of what goes into the process.

“Also there will always be certain substrates or thicknesses that are not readily available,” he said.

“There is no substitute for frequent and early communication,” said Mathis. “This allows for alignment of expectation and capabilities early in the process.”

Panelists also addressed how changes in technology have affected their businesses. One of the biggest benefits has been the speed of the market. Technology allows the customers and suppliers to have a real time understanding, for example, of where a product is in the process.

Henson added that while the advances in things like text messages, email and social media are great, they cannot replace the importance of talking to live people.

“This cannot go away,” he said. “You have to have them.”