How Will The Coronavirus Pandemic Affect Product Manufacturers and Suppliers?

Posted On: 
May 8, 2020

Over the past several months, the coronavirus pandemic has upended our daily lives and made the future difficult to predict. A wise sage once said, “a good forecaster is not smarter than everyone else, they merely have their ignorance better organized.” What will the construction industry look like in six months? A year? Let’s review current changes and what might happen in the future.

As of May, over 33 million people are unemployed. The lockdowns have triggered massive job losses not seen since the Great Depression. A recent article states, “epidemiologists have also warned that there may be more outbreaks, and further lockdowns, as some states relax quarantine restrictions.”  

Jobsites have been shut down across the country over the past several months. Several states in the Pacific NW and in the Midwest as of this writing, still have restrictions. Job shut-downs and delays have caused job and monetary losses. It is difficult to imagine that construction will be business-as-usual in a few months. How will this affect building product manufacturers?

Doing Business Remote Will Become Normal

Social distancing has become normal for many companies over the past several months. It’s difficult to believe that a few months ago, product manufacturers delivered AIA lunch and learns to AEC firms where there might be 30-40 design professionals in the room. Are those days over?

Visiting architect’s offices, delivering AIA lunch and learns, and attending tradeshows like GreenBuild, World of Concrete, Surfaces, Metalcon, etc. may be altered significantly after the current crisis diminishes. When will AEC firms allow product reps to deliver a lunch and learn? Three months from now? Six months? A year?

Many building product manufacturers are trying to quickly catchup. Companies that never delivered webinars or product presentations to AEC firms remote are having to learn how to use GoToMeeting, Zoom, and other online software. Manufacturers that already had existing AIA online courses and already delivered AIA webinars will reap the most benefits and succeed in this very competitive and difficult time. Manufacturers without online courses and webinars will lose specification opportunities, market share, and possibly go under or be acquired.

How can building product reps maintain relationships with architects, contractors, and other collaborators for projects? Zoom meetings, phone calls, emails, and other tech-heavy solutions provide a remedy for now. But many product reps are used to face to face relationships, eye contact, and a more personal approach to working on projects with team members. Time will tell how doing business remote will affect our lives and ultimately specification opportunities.

Projects Will Take Longer

According to Engineering News-Record, when the pandemic first hit, it disrupted projects across the country. On the positive side, companies like AECOM have retained nearly 99% of their employees because general condition costs continue to be paid by clients. However, many job sites across the country are closed and others are suffering delays. Crews are mandated to follow new safety precautions such as staying six feet apart. Many job sites are staggering shifts and only allowing one trade at a time. All of these factors will lead to delays for projects across the country.

Building product manufacturers need to take these facts into consideration as they plan for the future. Trade unions have gained influence since the pandemic started and are trying to keep job sites safe. Cost-cutting measures, financial losses, and union demands may further delay projects.

Building Project Types Will Change

As of May 2020, Las Vegas, Disney Land, and many other tourist destinations are dead. Many hospitality, retail, and entertainment projects will be delayed or even shelved indefinitely. However, hospitals, clinics, and other medical related projects could see an uptick. Warehouse and supply distribution centers may see an increase as well. There could be a push to develop new infectious disease centers and facilities to combat future pandemics.

How can building product manufacturers navigate these significant changes in the marketplace and succeed? What does the future of product specifications look like? We will examine many of these topics in great detail this summer through blogs and webinars. Please refer to our webinar schedule for upcoming specification events.

For more information or to discuss the topic of this blog, please contact Brad Blank