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At 2020’s Midpoint, Taking Stock of an Unprecedented Year

Perspective on how the industry has changed … and how it hasn’t

In a regular year, I travel quite a bit. As you might guess, this year has been different.

I’d last traveled in early March. When I finally took my first trip to Quanex headquarters from my home in Alabama in late June, I had the opportunity to reflect on how the pandemic has impacted our industry. I thought about where we collectively stand in our ability to find shared success throughout the remainder of the year.

It’s easy to start by considering what has changed in our industry in the past few months. There’s plenty. Shop floors have, of course, radically altered the way they operate with the implementation of new health and safety measures to stop viral spread. As an industry that strives to put safety first in all that we do, it’s been remarkable to witness this shift as everyone does their part to keep workers healthy while continuing to fulfill orders. My sense is that things will continue this way for a while. No organization wants to see their staff getting sick.

We’ll see how this new normal continues to influence how manufacturers make quality products—I suspect automated equipment will have a big role to play, as it helps minimize touchpoints and can help workers maintain their distance. The industry’s ongoing labor shortage has been exacerbated in some ways by the pandemic, too, and some organizations are finding it even more difficult to find good people. Once we get over some of the more immediate economic uncertainty, we might be seeing more investment here.

What else? GlassBuild is officially cancelled for this year, as restrictions remain in place in Las Vegas. Emily wrote a nice blog about it and about the GlassBuild Connect online event that will be taking the real thing’s place this year. It’s emblematic of the limited face-to-face, in-person interactions most of us will be having with colleagues and customers throughout the immediate future—and of the need to get innovative with how we connect and collaborate as an industry.

Elsewhere, there are a few things that haven’t changed. Many window and door companies found themselves deemed “essential” in various parts of the country and, as such, so were many of their suppliers. And, while there have absolutely been economic impacts, things haven’t approached the lows that we might have expected a few months ago. The building and construction markets in general have continued chugging along, and fenestration pros have kept the pace.

I would say that kind of resiliency in the face of uncertainty is another element that hasn’t changed over the course of this year. Our industry buckled down, did what we needed to do, and it’s looking like we’ll weather the storm. Orders are picking up; we’re making do with production, deliveries and construction with the proper precautions. There’s still some looming uncertainty, of course, but right now I’m confident we’re in a good place looking ahead. Here’s hoping we’ll make the best of the rest of this year.

Author

Eric Thompson

Eric Thompson

Eric Thompson is the commercial sales manager for Quanex Building Products. Email him at eric.thompson@quanex.com.