“Well, it’s that time of year. GlassBuild America is less than four weeks away. Coming off a year that featured mostly Zoom meetings and virtual industry events, I have been checking with my customers and industry associates to see who is actually going to Atlanta and who is staying home. There does not seem to be much indecision on the matter, as the answers I am getting are essentially boiling down into one of two categories.” – Jim Plavecsky

1.) The “Proactive People” – They are absolutely going. They feel that this is one of the most critical years ever and this show cannot be missed.

2). The “Buried in Business Folks” – They are just so busy trying to keep up with orders that they just cannot afford to get away.

Surprisingly, neither COVID-19 nor the new Delta variant seem to be influencing the decision to go or not to go. It seems like most reasonably healthy people in our industry are “over it” as it relates to letting a virus control their actions. I am finding that the majority of my customers have already had the disease (tested positive) within the last eight months or have been vaccinated and so are not letting it weigh on their decision to attend the show. The decision, it seems, is mostly about what they feel is best for their business.

What the “Pro-Actives” are thinking: We need to attend this show to look at and decide on automated equipment to help solve our manpower deficiencies over the next five years. Production workers are scarce, turnover is high, and worker reliability is low. If our business is going to make it through the next five years, then a serious investment in automation needs to be made now. In case you have never been to one, the GlassBuild show is the one place you can go on this continent to see every major window equipment manufacturer, all in the span of three days, with most of them demonstrating real-life examples of what they have to offer—with live demos right on the show floor. If we are required to wear masks and engage in social distancing while on the show floor, then it will only serve to underscore the heightened significance of investing in automated equipment given the dire circumstances surrounding the availability of an adequate and reliable work force (which was an issue even before the pandemic, let alone what it is today). The “Pro-Actives” are also going to meet with component vendors that they perhaps have little knowledge of or have no current relationship with prior to what I will refer to as “The Year of Shortages.” I have been in this industry since 1986 and have never seen a year such as this, where material and component suppliers have ever struggled like this to keep up with demand. It is truly a unique event in the door and window industry. The “Proactives” will surely be at the GlassBuild show looking for backup plans as it relates to everything from extrusion supply to screws.

What the “Buried in Business” folks are thinking: “We cannot afford to leave our business to go to Atlanta for three days to walk around that show and risk getting further behind on orders back home. Every day is a daily struggle just to get enough components to meet our daily production goals. If we send key people down to the GlassBuild show, then we risk having something go wrong back in the factory and getting even further behind which may result in disappointing and possibly losing a major customer. We need to take care of business at home instead of spending money and spending valuable management time attending a show which displays a bunch of equipment that, if we ordered it tomorrow, might take us 18 months to get!”

The reality is this: There are a few factors that are happening right now in this industry that will significantly change our industry in the next five years. The current administration’s mandate of reducing carbon emissions will be affecting new Energy Star requirements as well as building codes. The end result will be greater market demand for the most energy efficient fenestration products possible. This means more modern vinyl extrusion platforms and more energy-efficient insulating glass, most likely requiring triple pane configurations. This translates to more modern equipment. The other major factor that will continue to affect our industry is government policies that lean toward providing financial assistance to people who might otherwise be motivated to work a factory job. This may be an area of great controversy, but I have always been one to “call a spade a spade.” I hear this every day. “We cannot find anyone who wants to work because the government is paying people to stay home!” say numerous plant managers, as they throw their arms up in complete frustration. At first it was thought that these were temporary policies, but now with the Delta variant showing up and talk of additional variants arising on the virus front, the question presents itself: When will it all end?

One thing is certain, when it comes to staying ahead of the curve and being an industry leader, a long-term vision to business trumps the short-term approach. You don’t have to send the whole entourage to Atlanta. Keep some key people at home to man the fort. But it has never been a more critical time to visit the show floor and ponder key decisions that must be made to lead your fenestration related company to the head of the pack!

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