Volume 40,   Issue 6                                  June  2005

Issue @ Hand

What’s Wrong With Us?

If you are not part of the solution, the saying goes, then you are part of the problem. And I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the problems the architectural glass industry has. So, if identifying your problems is 90 percent of the solution, as another saying goes, then I hope we are 90 percent there after this series of columns. Plan to spend the next few months with me identifying our industry’s biggest failings and problems, and then, maybe, we can begin to figure out how to fix them. (Just e-mail me your thoughts at deb@glass.com).

In the course of preparing for this series, I’ve talked to countless experts—people in the industry and out, people who’ve spent their lives here or who are just passing through, people who earned their education in school and people who earned it on the streets. A number of common concerns emerged. It’s our industry’s own list of the top things we, as a group, need to correct.

Problem Number One: Material Pricing
Several years ago, USGlass did a study of the major building products used in commercial and residential markets. Using data from a variety of services, we compared pricing for metal, iron, gypsum, concrete, etc. on the commercial side and glass, wood, etc. on the residential side. The result: flat glass was the only product of the ten we studied that had actually decreased in price over the prior ten years. The per-unit pricing of every single other material in the study had increased, even in cases where advances in technology had resulted in increased efficiencies and economies.

Manufacturers responded by explaining that this phenomenon was on the way out as the glass industry was moving from a commodity-based market to a value-added market. Companies would specialize, they said, and those making “plain” flat glass would be fewer in number with greater control of their pricing.

At the same time, we hear complaints from readers about the fuel surcharge some manufacturers have added to their invoices. I rarely hear readers complain about the charge, but rather that it isn’t called a price increase as it is in other industries.

Maybe you can enlighten me as to why the suppliers in the industry can’t raise their prices like suppliers in other industries do. 

Or, as the saying goes, have we met the enemy and he is us?   —   Deb

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