Wrapping Up 2018 and Looking Ahead

As we approach the holidays and the end of the year, it’s always worth taking stock of where we’ve been.

We began 2018 excited by a healthy economy and strong commercial and multifamily markets. It’s hard to say whether we fully met those initial expectations, as some unforeseen (and some expected) challenges reared their heads. But in my recent talks with customers, I know many are looking at strong backlogs and hoping to squeeze in as many jobs as possible while the weather holds out. I think that’s indicative of our industry’s resilience and ability to handle whatever comes our way.

The slew of price increases, tariffs, shortages and other challenges we’ve seen this year won’t magically be wiped away in 2019. But I think the most successful among us can move forward confidently by keeping a few things in mind:

Building for a changing world. One trend I don’t see letting up anytime soon is the continued demand for high-performing products for a couple of reasons. First, with the increasingly stringent energy codes we’ve seen take greater hold this year (see what I wrote about ASHRAE 90.1), green and sustainable building practices aren’t a value-add any more—they’re the expectation.

Second, the definition of sustainable building is becoming more comprehensive. It’s one thing if a new building provides good energy performance—but how will that building perform in ten years? 20?

See the launch of RELi 2.0, a new rating system centered on resilient building and design by the Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI) and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), which aims to enhance total building resiliency at every level.

“With more than 50 requirements and credits spread throughout eight categories, including panoramic design, hazard mitigation, materials used in construction and community vitality, RELi encompasses a wide variety of strategies and techniques,” the organization notes, citing major weather events and an increased urgency to build structures that can better withstand weather-related catastrophes.

The Green Building Law Update blog details at length some of the potential impact of RELi 2.0 in North America, noting that resiliency assessment and underwriting could be “standard practice in commercial real estate transactions” before we know it. It speaks to the need for our industry to be continually investigating the highest-quality and highest-performing materials in order to meet the changing demands of commercial construction.

Technological and operational innovation. I’ve written plenty on this blog about the need for the glass industry to innovate and adapt in the face of new technologies. That imperative won’t change in 2019, and it will probably become even more critical.

The end of busy season and the beginning of a new year is a good time to consider how and where you can make some improvements, whether it’s with equipment, processes or other operational practices. If you’re a glass manufacturer, evaluate your plant floor procedures. Are your established best practices producing the results you want? Is your plant layout optimized? Is there a piece of automated machinery you’ve been considering? Taking action now could pay off significantly once 2019 is in full swing.

Stay focused on people. Some principles never go out of style. No matter how advanced the technologies we adopt become, remaining focused on the people who drive our business should be our No. 1 priority.

This goes both ways—taking care of both our internal people and our customers is essential to remaining successful in 2019. From both the manufacturing and glazing standpoints, investing in new skills and continuing to advocate for the glass industry can help ease the pain of an ongoing labor shortage. And externally, as we interface with customers old and new, big and small, I think it’s important to remember that continuing to make real connections and offering a personal touch to what we do can be priceless. I know that it’s something I’ll be focusing on in 2019.

What are your plans for 2019? How will you be trying to grow your success amidst the challenges we’re seeing in the marketplace? I’d love to hear from you at Joe.Erb@Quanex.com.