Key Take-Aways from 5/20/20
Optimism and Concerns as Nation Re-Opens
Use Visuals to Sell Metal to Architects
Training Will Be Key to Combat Labor Shortage
METALCON Co-Founder and CEO, Frank A. Stasiowski, FAIA, in partnership with the Metal Construction Association and Rob Haddock, CEO and Founder of S-5! Metal Roof Innovations, continued the focus on “Build Back Better” with special guest Mark Kalin (FAIA, FCSI, LEED), President of Kalin Associates Specifications and highly experienced specification writer, author, speaker and registered architect. See below for Mark’s valuable insight of the specifications industry and strategies to leverage more metal sales with architects.
Highlights from Frank Stasiowski, METALCON Co-Founder and CEO
At this juncture, eight weeks since METALCONLive! began, Frank switched the format up a little and highlighted what he is optimistic about and what concerns him:
- CNBC report on mortgages being at a record high, which is a leading housing indicator for the construction industry
- the creativity in our industry on how they are handling their businesses during this crisis
- current status of construction
- politics of reopening resulting in division of our country
- if the reopening will lead to future spread and additional health problems
- “consumer confidence” and how quickly consumers will be buying given a continuing rise in unemployment
- what 2021 will look like; e.g., future capital projects are in question because of the impact of the crisis on local town and state budgets
Highlights from Rob Haddock, CEO and Founder of S-5! Metal Roof Innovations
Using the same format as Frank, Rob also led with what he is optimistic about along with his concerns as we move into the next phase of the crisis:
- despite the serious nature of the crisis, confident it will pass
- the construction industry’s “bulldog and tenacious” personalities will get through this
- seeing companies take advantage of the “shake-up” and using this time to re-evaluate, re-prioritize and push past comfort zones in how business is conducted
- the “rebirthing of the entrepreneurial spirit” within the industry
- using personal faith to lean on and trust
- overall loss of life and lives that have been scarred by the pandemic, whether it be related to losing a loved one or having their business ruined
- divisiveness in our country
- future spread of virus; “throw caution to the wind”
- how the national debt will impact 2021 and how this may be the greatest threat in the long haul
Rob also shared his weekly S-5! update: sales year-over-year are still up by 20%; seeing a decline in in-bound orders over the past 6-8 weeks but saw a spike in orders last week; fast-tracking plans for building projects in both Colorado and Texas; and shipments are 135% compared to this time last year.
POLLING QUESTIONS (“live” questions asked during event to poll participants)
PQ #1: With things opening up across the country in 49 of the 50 states, do you feel: More optimistic – 51%, Less optimistic – 6%, Same as last week – 43% (Shifted marginally compared to Week 7 which reported – 40% more, 46% same and 14%)
PQ #2: With restaurants, churches, convention centers, sports facilities and other gathering places now on schedule to open over the next few months, when do you think we’ll effectively manage under “new normal” conditions: July – 7%, August – 23%, September – 19%, October – 19%, November – 9%, Beyond – 23%
PQ #3: Do you think this crisis will inspire more architects to use metal in various ways in buildings because of its cost effectiveness? Yes – 52%; No – 48%
Following this polling question, Frank pivoted the conversation to more of an architectural focus as it relates to the metal construction industry. He highlighted the AIA’s recent announcement of the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) being 30% down in April. The ABI is an economic indicator for non-residential construction activity, with a lead time of approximately 9–12 months. Frank shared his own thoughts on the index results and added the decrease may be attributed to some segments like interior design which are way down; smaller firms of six associates and fewer; and some offices not billing due to physically being out of their offices.
Q&A with Mark Kalin (FAIA, FCSI, LEED), President of Kalin Associates Specifications. Mark is a CSI certified construction specifier, USGBC LEED accredited professional and one of only 27 individuals advanced to fellowship in both the AIA and the Construction Specifications Institute. He has been involved in more than 4,000 specification projects since 1984, including 250 LEED projects and has taught Architectural Specifications at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University.
Q: What are your thoughts on AIA’s ABI?
A: Frank, I agree with your comments about the reasons for the numbers being down, especially due to the segment of smaller architectural firms of six associates or less.
Q: Do you believe architects will specify more metal?
A: It’s up and will continue to stay up. Metal is suitable for rain screen cladding. It’s code now that you have to have continuing insulation. Also, the market is driven by speed and cost, and metal goes up quickly. Seeing the commercial sector is 70% metal; the rest is glass.
Q: Are you seeing any supply chain interruptions with projects?
A: We anticipate there will be some projects put on hold like the “summer slam” projects that universities typically do and anticipate 2020 to be a “9-month year.” I also know of some projects experiencing shipping/receiving challenges because of port shut-downs.
Q: As a result of COVID-19, have you modified your specifications on how workers on a job site have to be protected? How will it impact those on the call who are installing metal cladding or roofs?
A: I just received a list of requirements from a contractor that includes completing a questionnaire, temperature scans on arrival and the continuation of zoom meetings. But, the contractor is in charge on-site, not the architect. Safety is the contractor’s responsibility.
Q: Can you give your participants recommendations on how best to approach architects about using metal post-virus?
A: Without face-to-face interactions, you must become an expert on using the technology tools when presenting your product. For example, a sales rep who wasn’t able to share his PowerPoint recently during a Zoom call conducted an ineffective sales pitch. Architects are all about the visual, so speak to that. Show that metal is attractive and flexible with visual tools. This is especially true at trade shows; e.g., show how metal connects, show how graphics can be printed on metal. Also, be on the look-out for a shift in residential from city building to suburbs.
Q: Do you anticipate a shortage of knowledgeable installers and technicians who know how to put metal together?
A: There are 10,000 architects completing architectural school programs every year. Once they are working, education falls to the manufacturers, distributors and fabricators regarding specifications. I’m seeing that the metal suppliers have to include engineer design in their work. Each group has to speak the language. If you want to have metal downstream of architects, you have to educate the architects and “hold their hands.”
Rob added: Happy to see the engineer requisites; it helps to clean up the industry.
Q: Will there be an increased need for training in the specifications industry?
A: Yes, there is a new requirement for specifications writers necessitating certain expertise to do specific tasks at a job site. Unions are now recruiting from high school and creating training facilities.
Q: Commented on design firms freezing compensation and asked if Mark was seeing this on the specifications side?
A: While there are lots of qualified architects beginning to “age out,” compensation is holding for now.
Rob added: “It’s a supply/demand equation – if labor supply goes up, suggests that wages will not go up. After years and years of costs constantly increasing, as a general rule, we may see compensation rates stabilizing.”
Q: In specifying industry, what is status of the sub-contractor during the crisis?
A: Impact has been location driven. In speaking with a drywall sub-contractor, they had to furlough 500 of their 600 contractors in the Boston area, but a company in L.A. didn’t have to lay off anyone.
Frank made special mention of PPP Loans and that the SBA announced a new form to have the loan forgiven. Be sure you are checking and monitoring the latest regulations as they are changing.
Rob added a final comment as it relates to “What is the new normal?” He said, “Change is the only constant!”
METALCON 2020 PREVIEW:
With Las Vegas announcing plans to re-open, our METALCON team is working hard to open registration in the coming days and announce our program for 2020. This year’s show will offer two new programs including “The Architect’s Experience” and “Connect! The Women’s A/E/C Network.” CONTECH will also return! To help METALCON better serve you, please complete this 2-minute TECHNOLOGY SURVEY.
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METALCONLive! is YOUR online weekly business-boosting broadcast that connects you with other metal construction company owners, contractors, fabricators, suppliers, and experts for the strategies that enable us all to BUILD BACK BETTER.
Wednesday, June 3, 2020 at 1:00 p.m. EST
METALCONLive! returns next week with business insights from industry experts and the latest in metal construction news. Hear how one company hired over 800 employees during the pandemic and get updates on one of the largest steel mills being built in the state of Texas. You won’t want to miss this.
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IN OTHER NEWS:
MCA has announced that they will hold a Virtual Summer Meeting from June 15-18 and opening it up, beyond their membership to anyone who would like to participate. REGISTER HERE.
MBCEA Annual Conference has also gone virtual offering one-hour sessions on Tuesday and Thursday now through June 19. REGISTER HERE.
Receive a complimentary copy of the PSMJ A/E/C Market Forecast monthly supplement by answering this brief 2-minute survey.
For more information about Rob Haddock, check out his recent articles: “Accept the Things You Cannot Change” in Modern Metals Magazine and “Seize The Opportunity Presented By These Uncertain Times” in DesignandBuildwithMetal.com.
Click HERE for a list of S-5!’s upcoming FREE Webinars with three coming up next week beginning on Wednesday, June 3.
For answers on how to “re-open” your business, download Frank’s Handout: “38 Questions to Ask-and Answer-When Designing Your Reopening Plan.”
Download Danny Kerr’s “Coronavirus Leadership Playbook” – https://www.btacademy.com/download2020/ – Use Code: MC0429. Danny Kerr was a special guest during our May 6 METALCONLive! and has appeared at several METALCON shows as a speaker.
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