October 28th, 2021
The Elephant in the Plant
Well, dear readers, it’s almost November, and what a strange ride it’s been since we commenced this COVID-induced journey in March 2020. Journey/nightmare … whatever you want to call it—both words apply. Yes, sales are up—way up, but along with that comes supply chain nightmares, logistical challenges, and a non-existent labor pool, the likes of which we have not seen in our lifetime. For this blog, I want to look at an important issue that I think relates to all of this—proposed Energy Star changes.
I’m penning this article on October 26, also known as Energy Star Day. I hope you saw the article by editor Drew Vass in the October issue, which is an excellent overview of the changes proposed in Version 7. If this were a regular business climate, debate would still ensue, but this isn’t a regular climate, and the last 18 months have been anything but normal.
How can manufacturers expect to launch new product lines amid unprecedented employee shortages that have no end in sight? In this day and age when window manufacturers have employees whose sole jobs include making daily calls to suppliers (extruders, for example) to get an idea of when product will arrive? When lead times are longer than ever (12-16 weeks out), and stress is at an all-time high?
Drew’s article posed some of those same questions, and the industry offered its input. Here is an excerpt from that article:
Can those hypothetical products be made? Door and window manufacturers say yes, with a caveat: deployment will likely take longer than the 12-month period that EPA officials are suggesting for rollout. Currently, EPA plans to finalize Version 7.0 around the start of 2022 (ideally in January, officials say), with new requirements set to take effect 12 months later.
Some suggest 12 months might be enough—under normal circumstances—but not amid the current business climate.
“Generally, product enhancements can be completed in that time frame,” says Nick Pesl, Kolbe’s displays and product information manager. “In today’s world, 12 months is not a lot of time to develop a new product or product line.”
Before EPA officials raise their eyebrows that I would pose such a question, let me say I agree with them on the premise of continually tightening the criteria. If the majority of doors and windows on the market meet Energy Star criteria, then why bother having the moniker at all? In a world that consumes energy at a frantic pace and is not at all on track to meet government energy reduction goals, why would I even question a further delay?
Because I am truly worried about our nation’s labor crisis. Earlier this month, Kermit Baker, chief economist at the American Institute of Architects (AIA), offered his outlook regarding labor shortages. “It’s a long-term problem with no clear solution in sight,” he said.
“I don’t see good training programs developing, and I don’t see immigration issues improving. I think the only bright light is if there is a technology fix for this,” said Baker. “I think it’s a long-term problem with no clear solutions on the horizon.”
Right now, that is the bigger problem in my view. Let’s ensure we have the manufacturing capabilities and the workers to bring on these improved energy-efficient products. I would love to hear your opinion on the matter. Email me at email@example.com.