Fear Itself

Fear and worry are difficult emotions. They are difficult to control and even harder to conquer. We have things we fear and things we worry about. Oh sure, the unknown and uncertainty are always in there, but otherwise they are usually personal things. Yet in business, there are collective fears and worries. I recently completed a small informal research study among our quietest group of readers—the primary manufacturers—about what keeps this group that starts with sand and ends with glass up at night. The answers may surprise you.

I know the results surprised me. I guess that’s because I expected the answers to revolve around the manufacture of glass and when, in fact, they concerned everything but. Then again, when you think about, doesn’t fear and worry stem more from what you can’t control than what you can? Here are the top five things primary manufacturers are worrying about:

  1. Transportation: Getting glass where it needs to be has always been challenging. It especially more so now with the new federal truck driver rest regulations. Driving capacity has been taken out of the market at just the time when business is picking up. Cost-and time-efficient delivery has become a major issue.
  2. Freight: And so has packaging. How the product is packaged for transport so that it can be delivered easily and cheaper, without too much labor or mechanical help, has always been problematic. Add to that the new environmental requirements that have led to new pallet designs and materials and you will see the challenge.
  3. Energy Prices: In part for the reasons above and, in part, because of the energy-intensive manufacturing process;
  4. Government and State Regulation: A change, especially in a state law, can close a plant overnight. Manufacturers must constantly evaluate proposed laws and how they will be affected by them. We all know of a number of cases where changes in state law would have required so many changes in operating plants that the manufacturers chose to close them instead.
  5. Building Codes: Here, the concern was not that there would be more or stricter codes, but rather that there wouldn’t or that codes put in place would not reflect the interests of our industry. The recent battle to keep the window-to-wall ratio (WWR) in ASHRAE’s codes from being decreased is one such example. But, as manufacturers have moved from commodity to value-added products, they would like codes that support the sale of these products.

It was an interesting exercise and gave me a bit more understanding of some of the issues the primaries face. And it reminded me how every segment of our industry has collective challenges and worries. Man, wouldn’t it be nice if all we had to fear truly was fear itself?

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