By Bob Hasulak, Partner & Director of Operations, QuickFrames
Given that fabricators are some of our biggest clients, we wanted to dig into what they’ve been facing in recent months. Here’s a look at two of the main stories that have dominated headlines in the metal fabrication world, along with some ideas for how to deal with it all.
1. Making adjustments for labor shortages.
Dubbed “The Great Resignation,” 2021 has been a year marked by open jobs that are largely unfilled. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the number of unfilled job openings in the U.S. increased to over 10 million in June 2021, up from 7.1 million a year earlier. With this phenomenon touching every industry, the onus is on fabrication companies to complete jobs with considerably fewer employees.
One of the ways that companies are navigating this challenge is by outsourcing some of their less profitable jobs to other vendors. For instance, we work with many steel fabricators who love to have us manufacture their rooftop equipment supports. This helps them save valuable shop time (and valuable labor) for their most profitable jobs instead.
Another possibility to help fabricators through these labor shortages is to turn to machinery and technology. One expert remarked that “robotics technology has evolved to the point where these devices can work safely alongside team members to complete tasks.” This refers to collaborative robots, commonly called cobots, which can handle many dangerous and/or tedious tasks. By considering such technology, fabricators may be able to bridge the resource gap left by employees’ departures (or even short-term gaps caused by employee illness, etc.).
2. Scrambling for (more expensive) steel.
Of course, we can’t talk about this past year without mentioning the steep increases in steel prices. This has impacted our friends in metal fabrication greatly, and we’ve felt it too. It all started when steel tariffs and other factors resulted in the importing of 30% less steel in 2020 than was imported in 2018. This, coupled with the increased demand for steel, created a sticky situation for all of us who use steel as our primary material. Prices have soared, “far above both the 2008 and 2018 peaks” and steel “is in the worst shape, from a supply basis, since at least the 1970s.”
Now that the doom and gloom have been covered (and lived through), there’s good news on this horizon. To that end, some experts are saying steel prices seem to finally have reached their peak. Nonetheless, savvy steel fabricators are finding creative ways to make the most of the steel they do have.
Many are recycling material much more intentionally than ever before, and also taking the time to carefully plan their cuts so they can get maximum material from each sheet. Additionally, metal fabrication shops choose to turn to QuickFrames for their rooftop unit frames, helping to save the steel they have on hand and save costs too.
It’s been a tough 18 months or so for everyone, and no industry has been left unscathed. But thanks to a promising outlook for the near future, and the ingenuity of our friends in the metal fabrication world, we’re confident we’ll all come out stronger on the other side. Here’s to you and your success.