A few weeks ago, 360Connect made our first trip out to the MBCEA conference, and we came away with a wealth of information about the metal building industry. From what we heard from the manufacturers and erectors in attendance, a lot of things are going well for the industry as a whole but there are a handful of current issues that are raising some concern. In the interest of assuaging any fears that the industry is taking a downturn or suffering more than it really is, let’s first take a look at some of the wonderful things happening for industry members this year:
- The economy is doing well, and that means more work for builders and erectors. In fact, some of the MBCEA attendees we heard from are booked as much as 6 months in advance! This surge of new business is coming not just from the commercial sector, but also from the residential sector where consumers are finding themselves with more money in their pockets. Their desire for new housing or garages is diminishing, but according to ConstructConnect’s Alex Carrick “underlying accommodation needs are still healthy” and the sector’s construction needs will continue to trend upward through 2021.
- While it may seem like a negative that more and more businesses are moving away from the traditional brick-and-mortar model, the rise of e-commerce is actually great news for steel erectors! As companies move towards running their businesses online, the need for traditionally constructed retail spaces ARE declining, sure. But all that means is that more businesses are looking for warehouses to store their wares until they ship out. That ultimately means more work for constructors of steel warehouse structures.
- The “green building” movement has been around for a while now, but this year advocates like Jason McLennan are pushing to reinvigorate and recontextualize the movement. Steel is an incredibly eco-friendly building material, being not only easily recyclable but also so resilient that it can last for decades longer than other materials like wood or vinyl. This has been known for a while now, and so it would seem that the next step is simply to inform and rally the general public – as well as encouraging those in the industry to continue constructing buildings that are not only functional and visually pleasing, but good for our planet as well.
Clearly, the industry has accomplished a lot over the past few years and can likely look forward to continued prosperity in the years to come. That said, there are a lot of serious issues plaguing the industry as well. Here are the three biggest issues we heard being discussed and what they could mean for you and your business:
- The industry is suffering from a lack of skilled labor. With both parents and schools pushing the idea that college is the next step after high school, fewer and fewer kids are opting to go to trade schools. This is resulting in a decline in the number of new workers coming into not just the metal building industry, but into nearly all trade jobs. This, combined with existing workers getting older and closer to retirement, has put the industry in a precarious position. It may be harder for the next few years to find employees with the training needed to safely and effectively construct metal buildings, and this may result in less bandwidth to take on new jobs while you focus on the quality of existing ones.
- A lack of rigid standards for build quality is resulting in disreputable fabricators and manufacturers undercutting prices and providing consumers with unsafe buildings. These businesses are not only potentially harmful to consumers, but may also damage the reputation of metal buildings as a whole. If low quality building continues, customers may lose faith in the durability of these structures. To combat this, many businesses have adopted the AISC building standards but these are by no means an industry-wide requirement. According to the MRA’s Renee Ramey, the solution lies in both increased regulations and standards and in ”increasing homeowner education to help prevent these issues from tainting the industry’s strong reputation through the development of resources.”
- Since this is a construction-centered industry, internal marketing sometimes falls by the wayside for steel erectors. When you’re busy managing build sites and ensuring the safety and efficiency of your workers, it can be hard to find the time to then pour even more energy into a marketing campaign. Right now, with companies booked out for 6 months or more, that may not be an issue. Despite the current positive industry trends, though, the future is never certain and it’s a good idea to have a system in place that can help you spread brand awareness, establish a positive reputation, and grow your customer base. This ensures that your success remains relatively stable rather than fluctuating with industry trends. There are a lot of options available, from cold-calling to SEO/PPC campaigns to lead generation services. We encourage you to investigate all your options to develop a plan that works for your business.
All in all, the industry is managing quite well despite the problems it’s currently facing. For more in-depth information on these trends and others, you can visit www.metalconstructionnews.com/ to read more articles written by industry professionals. 360Connect is also here to help, offering tailored lead generation and marketing services to help your business continue to thrive. Visit us online any time to get in touch with one of our expert consultants.