From the Publisher October 2021

October 8th, 2021 by Nathan Hobbs

A Strange Show In a Strange Time

By Tara Taffera

Last month, several staff members of this magazine and I traveled to Atlanta for GlassBuild America—our first door and window trade show since COVID reared its ugly head in March 2020. No one knew what to expect. No one! One exhibitor told me he would be happy to leave the show with one solid lead—my how times (and expectations) have changed.

The biggest observation I want to make here is a fairly obvious one: Supply chain challenges are hobbling the industry. Did I know this? Of course, I did. But, I think you would agree with me that there is really no substitute for talking to someone in person— seeing their face up close, and really hearing about the impact of these challenges on their company.

I’ve been covering this market for 23 years, so I have been here through the boom, the bust, and everything in between. In the boom years, the conversations would go something like this: “Yes, we’re busy, but it’s a great problem to have.” And when the bottom fell out a few years later, those words rang particularly true.

At GlassBuild I heard those words again with a few differences. From a supplier: “We’re busy, but I guess it’s a good problem to have. We can’t really complain.” Even though his words said one thing, his face said another. If you work for a supplier, you undoubtedly get calls at all hours of the day from companies wanting to know when the product will arrive. It’s no one’s fault. It’s the state of the market, and it’s happening with hardware, extrusions, and everything in between.

One door and window manufacturing company president didn’t mince words. “For months, I have had employees devoted to talking to my suppliers every single day,” he said. “Never in my career [30-years plus] have I been through anything like this. We’re taking orders now that won’t arrive until Christmas. Lead times have never been this long. And it’s [true for] all of us.”

One supplier even told me they are taking their product launches in phases. They have new products, but they aren’t marketing them to the masses just yet. Why? Because they have to make sure they can supply their current customers first. I have never seen anything like it.

All of this was corroborated by the fact that I had to leave the trade show floor with [DWM] editor Drew Vass so we could cover a breaking story that had to do with—you guessed it—supply chain challenges. It never stops.

If you were a glass supplier at the show, you had lines three people deep, according to Carlos Juliao, sales director at Interglass.

“People were waiting in line to see if we had glass,” he said. “If they want what my customers need, then it’s hard. But if they have other specialty products, we may be able to help them.”

One supplier doing demos at the booth told me an attendee came by and said, “What are you doing with that product when you are done? Yup, attendees were willing to walk right off the floor with products that are in short supply. If they could get their hands on something, they would seize the opportunity.

It’s a strange time indeed. And yes, you will see stories in our magazine and on our website that detail financial upticks, but that doesn’t mean those companies aren’t struggling because they are. Those challenges simply look a little different these days.

Tara Taffera is the publisher of [DWM] magazine.
ttaffera@glass.com

To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.

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