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Glass Industry COVID-19 News: What We’re Watching

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has led to a seismic shift in the way glass and glazing industry companies do business. The crisis has created sudden financial uncertainties, worker safety challenges, questions over how to continue operations and more.  

Glass Magazine has been tracking the rapidly changing situation and posting numerous updates from across the industry to help companies navigate business during the pandemic. Here is a quick look at the news we’re watching.  

Essential v. Non-essential

The U.S. saw a domino of state and local business closure orders throughout March, prompting immediate concerns from glass companies in all segments about whether they are able to continue operations. One key concern came from float glass manufacturers. (Read a message from National Glass Association President and CEO Nicole Harris about the essential nature of float manufacturing.) Most jurisdictions have deemed the work of industry manufacturing and construction contractors as essential, meaning businesses can remain in operation. (Architect Magazine and ConstructConnect have developed maps for tracking essential construction mandates)

Numerous industry companies have announced they are remaining open as essential service providers. However, they also indicated changes they have made to protect employees and customers, such as eliminating in-person visits and increasing telework. See announcements from C.R. Laurence Co., Erdman Automation, GED, Don’s Mobile Glass, LiteSentry and more. This week also saw news of SageGlass re-opening after a temporary closure.

Worker safety

Protecting employees has been a top concern among glass company owners throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The NGA has released a number of COVID-19 safety resources for glass companies, include two free online courses at MyGlassClass.com, best practices for companies working in customer homes, and safety recommendations for glazing companies.

Additionally, OSHA has updated several guidelines to help companies navigate workplace safety, including new guidelines about recording workplace exposure to COVID-19 and guidance on respiratory protection as companies grapple with the ongoing shortage of protective masks. 

Industry protections for frontline workers

Numerous glass industry companies have stepped up to help protect essential workers during the pandemic. Companies have supplied protect guards to essential businesses (read updates from Binswanger, FHC, and MyShowerDoor and D3). Others have donated protective gear, in particular masks (Cricursa, Roto Frank). This week, Binswanger announced the development of glass intubation boxes for frontline healthcare workers.

Economic fallout and industry closures

There is “no question” the U.S. is in a recession, according to leading construction economists in an April 13 in-depth look at current economic conditions and forecasts from Glass Magazine. The economics of the COVID-19 recovery, however, are less certain, with some forecasters projecting a shorter recession, with recovery beginning in the latter half of 2020, and others expecting a lengthier downturn.

Looking at the industry, some companies have already announced closures and other downsizing measures, prompted by COVID-19. Residential window manufacturer Thermal Windows & Doors announced March 27 it was permanently shutting down operations, and on April 13 officials from float glass manufacturer Vitro Automotive announced it will be shuttering operations of one of its two float glass lines at its auto glass float plant in Meadville, Pennsylvania, in June. “The ongoing downturn in the U.S. automotive marketplace―worsened by the economic impacts related to the global coronavirus outbreak―necessitated the decision,” said Vitro officials in a statement. 

Glass Magazine will be closely tracking the construction economic reports to help companies prepare in the short- and long-term.

Virtual events

The glass and glazing industry is adjusting to current barriers to large events and gatherings by moving conferences and educational opportunities to virtual platforms. Industry organizations have made a quick push to bring additional educational opportunities online. In addition to its COVID-19 MyGlassClass courses, the NGA also announced a new webinar series, NOW and NEXT: Surviving the COVID-19 Crisis. The first webinar in the series, All About SBA Loans, is scheduled for April 22.

Industry conferences are also shifting to the virtual world. FeneTech announced plans for a free Virtual User Conference, and the Fenestration & Glazing Industry Alliance moved its Summer Conference online

Author

Katy Devlin

Katy Devlin

Katy Devlin is editor in chief for Glass Magazine. E-mail Katy at kdevlin@glass.org.