The metal construction industry has seen its share of challenges and successes over the past several years. Long-term challenges in finding qualified labor, the pandemic’s impact on the supply chain, the diminishing availability of key raw materials, the effects of the invasion of Ukraine and the ever-changing regulatory environment are just a few of the recent dynamics that industry manufacturers, distributors and contractors have faced.
Overcoming recent challenges showcases the industry’s strength
Through it all, I have been amazed at the resiliency exhibited as the industry has adapted to solve each new challenge. These unprecedented obstacles have called for innovative resolutions like working with competitors to help customers find additional sources for products.
The Resilient Design Institute defines resilience as “the capacity to adapt to changing conditions and to maintain or regain functionality and vitality in the face of stress or disturbance. It is the capacity to bounce back after a disturbance or interruption.” We increasingly use “resiliency” as an important construction goal but it’s also a character trait, like grit, at work in our industry. More emphasis is placed on resiliency in construction—and codified into building codes and standards and municipal zoning—but it’s also important that we recognize the resiliency of our people, our companies and our industry.
Surviving the Challenge
The “resiliency” definition I just shared talks about how we operate during a challenge, not just afterward. That’s important, too, because industry challenges likely will be exacerbated in the near term. Sanctions declared to protect Ukraine will further stress the supply of steel, aluminum and nickel. Shortages in resins and raw materials for paint will continue to impact the availability and pricing of preferred paint systems.
I have been amazed at the resiliency exhibited as the industry has adapted to solve each new challenge.
The recently approved infrastructure bill will likely create a greater demand for labor and construction materials, potentially diverting these needed resources from our industry. (The demands of the infrastructure bill may also be a needed impetus to draw labor to the trades.) The regulatory environment and sustainability initiatives will place further restrictions on materials and new demands on building construction.
Recognizing the depths of these challenges, the Metal Construction Association (MCA) is working in collaboration with partner organizations to develop strategies to drive solutions. MCA has partnered with trade organizations to develop workforce recruitment and development programs, campaign against adverse regulatory proposals, address supply chain concerns and solutions through collaborative programming, and lobby for legislation and codes that both advance the industry and protect it from undue harm.
Research and Codes
In the context of building design, resiliency and sustainability are also having an impact on the industry. Building codes and product standards are being revised to include provisions for protections against weather-related and environmental events including hurricanes, flooding, wildfires and other natural disasters. Changes in wall and roof system design and attachment, and potentially raw material input, are likely to be required to meet evolving building code demand. MCA is monitoring proposals and conducting research to assess their impact and our ability to meet future requirements.
With all the turmoil, how can a designer, specifier or end user be confident that providers meet performance requirements? MCA’s certification programs were created to identify the criteria differentiating products’ performance. Manufacturers and fabricators recognized as MCA certified are committed to consistently providing high-performing products. Certification criteria are reviewed and updated regularly, and certifications are renewed on a two- to three-year cycle. Specifying the use of certified providers is one way to ensure high-performing products in your buildings.
Getting Back to Normal
Resiliency isn’t just facing adversity but also about bouncing back afterward, such as MCA did in January, when nearly 85 of us met in Scottsdale, Ariz., for our winter meeting. Together, after two years of virtual meetings, we were able to be together to network, honor our colleagues’ dedication, and work as councils and committees to further our objectives.
We were joined by Dr. Melissa Furman, whose dynamic, engaging keynote presentation provided food for thought on the workforce’s generational differences and leadership in these challenging times. We celebrated Miguel Peña of GSSI Sealants, Houston, for his service to MCA, especially in our METALCON Liaison Committee, and Dale Nelson of Roof Hugger, Lutz, Fla., for his years of service across the industry.
Through an optional golf outing—an activity we definitely weren’t able to duplicate virtually during the pandemic—we raised $4,500 for the National Pancreatic Cancer Foundation in honor of Pittsburgh-based Triangle Fastener Corp.’s Randy Allen, a former MCA board member who passed away in January 2020.
The power of face-to-face dialog was on full display throughout the meeting. Members enjoyed the opportunity to refresh friendships and create new ones, to connect to discuss individual business concerns, and to engage in in-depth discussions in council and committee meetings. Agendas were quite full and members built on MCA’s already robust plan for advancing our mission of promoting the use of metal in construction.
In June, we’ll host the MCA summer meeting in Rosemont, Ill., June 13-15. We encourage all in the industry to attend and experience the power of the industry’s resiliency and resolve and our shared commitment to expanding the use of metal in construction.
Jeff Henry, MBA, CAE is the executive director of the Metal Construction Association. He leads MCA’s staff in supporting industry members and elevating the use of metal in construction. For more information, go to www.metalconstruction.org.