Have you experienced delivery delays? Or perhaps some products you’re looking for simply aren’t available?
The rumours are true, the glass industry has taken a hit and shortages have raged on. To make matters worse, while this is a surprise for some, this shortage has been in the forecast for some time.
2020 saw a huge delay in window glass production as the pandemic slowed production. While Covid-19 has stuck with the world well into 2021, the recovery of glass manufacturers hasn’t been easy. The fact of the matter is that recovery isn’t so easy in the glass business. There are a few key reasons for that.
Why the Delays?
There are several reasons why forecasters have seen this shortage coming, and why it’s been expected to stick around for a while.
The clearest starting point was the covid-19 pandemic and subsequent measures. Glass manufacturing is a labour-intensive process. Glass manufacturing is undertaken in large facilities, many of which faced closures. Pandemic measures worldwide saw workers sent home.
A Sensitive Process
The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent measures have hurt many industries. But why would glass be hit especially hard?
The devil is in the details here. Glass manufacturing is a process that requires constant attention and maintenance of facilities.
Glass can be manufactured in vast quantities in short times thanks to the furnaces used to make them. Glass blasting furnaces are made to operate constantly. Yes, we mean 24/7. They are designed to continuously operate without much need for supervision.
While glass-making facilities are designed for intensive, constant work, they also demand immense maintenance. Over time, these intensive facilities will deteriorate. The quality of the manufacturing line dwindles, and then maintenance is undergone.
Cold repair, one of the main methods of repair, requires a furnace to be cooled and completely emptied. It allows for the most thorough repairs, but of course, demands a full production halt. Unsurprisingly, it also requires a lot of planning. It’s not possible to be flexible past a certain point in maintaining glass manufacturing furnaces.
Any interruption to this process is inevitably going to have reverberating effects.
While less of an issue, trade barriers will continue to affect the glass industry. The global pandemic led to shipping difficulties all around the world in many industries. In addition, international tariffs have become more of an issue during the last few years.
Another factor that may be at play is anti-pollution initiatives. Glass manufacturing is energy-intensive, and some Asian economies have passed measures to reduce energy consumption. On their own, these measures would have a noticeable effect on glass and other industries. But in addition to trade, the pandemic, and other service interruptions, these measures are increasing the pressure on glass manufacturers.
When Will it End?
So far, there is no clear end to the glass shortage in sight. While the glass shortage was seen a while away, it took a while for the shortage to reach its peak. The truth is that after the problem was discovered, it slowly got worse.
Depending on where you are in the world, there may be additional troubles affecting the glass industry. In Europe in particular, transportation issues add another layer to the existing problems.
Globally, the effects of the glass shortage will linger until at least 2022. The effects on window replacements will also be felt by the average global consumer.
Of course, there will eventually be a recovery in the glass industry. Facilities around the world are working to get back to previous levels of productivity and catch up with the current backlog. However, that backlog also adds to the uncertainty.
In the meantime, both supply and demand are beyond any single institution’s control. The problem is currently more demand than there is supply. While demand has not and likely will not slow, the supply end of the equation simply has a lot of catching up to do.
For now, price rises and low supply will likely remain issues.
What You Can Do
Glass manufacturers can and should be honest with their customers. Global supply chain shortages aren’t unique to the glass industry. Keeping customers up to date with the latest development may not be ideal, but it’s better than pretending these issues don’t exist. After all, such shortages won’t come as a surprise to most customers.
Unfortunately for customers and small retailers, price increases are inevitable. When issues like these shake an entire supply chain, the costs are normally sent further down the supply chain. If you’re the end customer or even a business owner, you should prepare for increased costs which may stick around for some time.
In the meantime, all anyone or any business can do is hold down the fort and wait. The lack of supply means current demand is inflated. However, that spike can’t last forever and there is reason to believe it will end in 2022. Until the market is stabilized, there is little to do but understand and adapt to current circumstances and wait for them to end.