Saying it isn’t So

The caller on the phone sounded exasperated. I just wasn’t giving him what he wanted and we both knew it. He had tried several times and in different ways to get me to go in the direction he wanted to pursue. But I was trying to have none of it. “Okay,” he said with a long sigh, “let’s try it this way. Let’s say, hypothetically, there was a glass shortage, what would the possible cause of such a shortage be?”

Ah, I thought, there it is—the hypothetical question. Reporters love ‘em, politicians run from them and I well, okay, sure, I’ll bite. “Well when there is a glass shortage, and I am not conceding that is the case now, it’s usually because of one or more of the following reasons ….” And off I went.

Why do I bring this up today? Because there has been a fair amount of discussion lately about a glass shortage. A number of consumer and mass media outlets have picked up on it. I have been contacted and asked for comments a number of times. But since I am not in total agreement with the premise, and without the premise there is no story, well, you get the idea.

To be clear, I expect we will have some shortages of certain types of glass in the next 8-12 months. Most of those shortages will occur around types of glass that are offered by single source suppliers or by a low number of suppliers. But a wide scale shortage of glass is just not on the horizon. Some manufacturers have even announced the opening of plants that were previously shuttered, adding more capacity.

Some fabricators, and maybe even manufacturers, might think a shortage is a good thing. One or two might even encourage that belief thinking that pricing will increase, or orders come in as a result. I see it differently. In the long run, a shortage hurts us, as it makes alternative materials more attractive. Does an architect want to design with a material he may or may not be able to get? Does a GC want to tell a client that they will have to wait for months for a particular type of glass? Does an interior designer use glass if they believe plastics or other alternatives are more predictable in availability? No, no and no.

Promoting a glass shortage is the industry equivalent of shouting “fire” in a crowded room—it will get immediate action and everyone will clear out. But they won’t come back for quite a while. Our industry should be careful of what it wishes for.

A couple of other notes this week:

  1. Paul Bieber: A number of you have asked how Paul is doing as he undergoes his treatments for colon cancer. No one in the world has a better attitude than Paul, so please keep him and his wife Elaine in your thoughts and prayers as he recovers. Paul’s treatment has required quite a bit of blood, however, and if you would like to donate some, that would be a great help to him. You can find a local blood drive by visiting and can make your appointment from there.
  2. Lyle Hill: We’ve moved our blog schedule around a bit and, beginning this week, Lyle and I will be alternating Mondays. So if you have been looking for Lyle on Wednesdays, look for him every other Monday instead.
  3. Thursday: The happiest of Thanksgivings to all. I am very, very thankful for the people I have gotten to know and work with through the glass industry. Thank you–for you!