Problem Begins with P

It was a delight to be part of the Management Conference that the Texas Glass Association (TGA) held for its members on Friday, May 13, in Round Rock, Texas. (Glass TEXpo ‘21, which the association co-sponsored with USGlass magazine, was the first industry-wide event to be held post-COVID and we were all still wearing masks then, so it was nice to see—really see—full faces anew.)

I enjoyed catching up with Felix Munson of Anchor-Ventana Glass, Kyle Sharp of Sharp Glass, who is serving as TGA president this year, Sam Hill of Oak Cliff Mirror and Glass, another backbone of the industry, and Kyle Lamb of Universal Glass, as well as many others.

The educational sessions focused on the problems our post-COVID glass world is having. I am sure you will recognize the common themes. The biggest problems right now are:

1. People—or rather lack thereof. The glass industry has faced this problem perennially, but it’s different this time. Not only do you worry that you’ll “find them, train them, and watch them go,” as one speaker said, but then you have to worry how many employees the other industries upon which you depend have. No one has enough employees. “Shippers don’t have enough drivers, local companies don’t have enough delivery guys, even the people we order food for lunch-and-learns from stopped catering because they don’t have the people,” said a Houston area business-owner. “It affects us everywhere.”

Kyle Jones, Mike Walters, Seth Madole and Chris Giovannielli discuss “Upstream and Downstream Challenges” at the TGA Management Conference last week.

2. Product—or rather lack thereof. I don’t have to tell you how hard it is to get the product and supplies you need in a timely manner. Chris Giovannielli of Kawneer, Kyle Jones of Premier Glass Products, Seth Madole of Viracon and Mike Walters of GE Silicones, discussed this very issue on an afternoon panel titled “Upstream and Downstream Challenges.” Group consensus said that glass fabricators have done a good job meeting demand, but the supply of raw material is the biggest challenge. “Aluminum” was Giovannielli’s answer to a question about what material you are most worried about in the future.

3. Pricing—or rather lack thereof. With the inflation rate currently at 8.3% and demand far outpacing the supply of many products, it’s no surprise that pricing in job contracts signed even six months ago is not even able to cover the cost of some materials at the moment, let alone produce a profit. In an outstanding seminar called “Legal ‘Panes’ Impacting the Construction Industry,” attorneys Tim Fandrey and JP Vogel of Gray Reed took participants through how to work with general contractors and owners when prices need to change and how to write contracts going forward in the new reality. They also gave a great overview of other construction issues such as change orders, liens and more.

The day wrapped up with an inspiring closing keynote address given by Kris Paronto, who was a member of the CIA annex security team during the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi. His story was a testament to perseverance against the odds.

Overall, it was a very enjoyable and educational day. I can’t wait to see everyone again next year, if not before, at Glass TEXpo ’23, May 11-12 in San Antonio.