Successfully Navigating Choppier Waters

By now you’ve probably heard some of the rumblings—is a recession coming in 2020? Many experts believe it may happen, for reasons wide and varied.

I don’t bring this up to ring the alarm bells. The fenestration and commercial construction industries have had a solid year and, from my dealings over the past few months, we’ve remained as busy as ever. But when reports like these surface, it’s always worth taking a moment—when we have one—to consider how well we’re set up to navigate choppier waters.

And as I wrote last month, we’re also nearing the end of the busy season, meaning a few months of slower business will be coming up. It’s typically a time we can take to assess our plant floors, make some improvements and shore up our operations for success into the next year. Additionally, many manufacturers made investments at GlassBuild in September, and will be working to install and bring new online machinery and automation in the coming months.

With all of this in mind, here are a few things worth keeping in mind as we head into winter and 2020:

Focus on your strengths. Every manufacturer knows what they’re good at, but with the investment in new manufacturing technology comes the potential to reach new markets. Maybe you’re able to expand into offering bigger units or higher-volume orders. Maybe increased capacity enables you to take on more work from more customers.

Doing so successfully requires doing the proper due diligence, of course. It’s also about knowing when to be selective with opportunities. Evaluate them based on your business needs, on expected profitability, and your ability to complete them confidently, on time and within budget. No business succeeds without taking some risks, of course—but being prepared for any kind of market softening requires seizing the right opportunities, not just any of them.

Don’t go bargain shopping. When things get tighter, it’s tempting to cut price corners wherever there appears to be opportunity—but is your organization’s reputation worth those kinds of small-time savings?

Especially as codes continue their march toward greater stringency across the country, the time to reliably and dependably deliver higher performance is now. As we work toward higher-performance glass and glazing, choosing proven components from reliable vendors is more important than ever, no matter the market conditions. Keeping glass at the forefront of new frontiers in architecture depends on it.

Keep communication lines open. Plant efficiency is always one of the most important parts of success and it’s one of the main reasons why our industry has invested so much in automation technology over the past several years.

But automation comes with new considerations for manufacturers. You might find with increased capacity, you’re running low on raw materials more quickly than you’re used to. You might also need to allocate greater square footage for inventory purposes. There are a lot of things to think through here, but one thing is certain: Fluidity on today’s plant floor depends on all stakeholders communicating openly and honestly. Working with suppliers and vendors who share that mindset can go a long way.

Right now, we don’t know what exactly 2020 will look like for the commercial construction market. But no matter what the near future holds, I’m confident our industry will find ways to succeed. We always do.