July 30, 2021 / By Kevin Norcross
Remember last year this time, when we were all working to navigate “business as unusual,” waiting for the pandemic’s end so we could get back to shaking hands with our business partners and holding face-to-face meetings? We may be seeing an end to the pandemic now, but we can’t quite say everything is back to the way it was. We’ve moved out of an emergency declaration as a nation to face new crises around labor and material shortages—not just in construction but across most industries.
Challenges are nothing new for the AEC industry. You stay in this business long enough and you face all types of unexpected situations. More importantly, you come to recognize that where we are today is the place to be: we’re on the other side of calamity, ready to rebuild.
Now is the time to focus on opportunity and how to take the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic to build a more resilient future. After all, we’re watching the global economy return to pre-pandemic levels. We see design and construction demand setting records on a regular basis. It seems like AIA is tracking record high billings each month. The Dodge Data & Analytics Momentum Index tracked six months of massive gains at the start of this year, before dipping to the point that remains well above pre-pandemic demand.
To support all this new construction, manufacturing is picking up as well. The National Association of Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey for the second quarter of 2021 found that 90% of respondents felt either somewhat or very positive about their company outlook—predicting the highest levels of production, sales and job growth in Outlook Survey history. Compared to a reading of 34% one year ago, the worst such reading since the Great Recession, it’s an eye-opening picture of the wild ride that the last year has been.
We’re seeing all of these trends in play here at Vetrotech, where we’re facing backlogs at a level we’ve never seen. I see this as a direct result of the resilience of the U.S. economy and our manufacturing base. So, the question here becomes: how do we sustain this momentum going forward?
What is normal anyway?
Despite these positives, we all recognize that the pandemic has changed us, how we live and work. President Biden may have declared the pandemic over, but I think we’ll see in the fallout in how businesses operate for a long time to come. Our best bet for navigating this recovery is to keep a close eye on the data, and our partners, so we can all get through the bumps ahead. A few things to keep in mind as we attempt to forecast demand to respond to market needs:
How you can support this recovery
Like I said, if you stay in this business long enough, you learn a thing or two about working through unexpected challenges. So, here’s my advice for navigating the year ahead and adjusting to new expectations:
Our parent company, Saint-Gobain, was named “Top Employer Global” by the Top Employer Institute for the sixth consecutive year, one of only 16 organizations in the world to carry this distinction—so we know a little something about taking care of our people. We’ve found that the big key here is that you listen to concerns as they arise and continuously work to make improvements.
Our commercial marketing team strives toward this end by serving as part of the design team for key clients throughout North America. We work to supply building solutions to clients across many different business units from project start to finish. By partnering earlier in the design process, we can more rapidly respond to changes and help our clients move forward with confidence.
It’s not all luck. We saw this coming. Washington was ground zero for COVID, and so we started disinfecting surfaces at our Auburn, Wash., headquarters weeks before it became a CDC requirement. Similarly, we started increasing inventory mid-2020 as we began to plan for this recovery. When you watch the signs closely, you can better prepare. We’ve weathered enough downturns to recognize that this recovery would be coming fast.
I’m optimistic that by this time next year, we’ll be asking “what pandemic?” because we’ll all be so busy. We won’t know what to do with the demand. There’s always a greater opportunity on the backside. We just have to keep our heads above water a little bit longer. For now, keep your eyes on the indicators, often talk to your partners, and don’t be afraid to reinvent “normal.”
Categories: Safe Side