August 19, 2021

Lessons Learned From COVID-19: Navigating the Ever-Changing Supply Chain

by Joe Erb

It might be the understatement of the year when I say we’ve learned a lot in the past 18 months—both from personal and business perspectives. And among many other industries, the building and construction market has had to navigate a lot of change since March 2020. Not only were we already dealing with a labor shortage going into the COVID-19 pandemic, but now we have an ever-fluctuating supply chain to contend with as well.

Through the unavoidable and volatile ups and downs of the supply chain, we’ve talked a lot about controlling what we can through strong vendor relationships. And VP of Sales Larry Johnson recently explored how to outsmart the unknowns through outsourcing.

Chances are you work with several partners who supply you with a number of different components and solutions that are critical to your output. And when one or multiple orders aren’t available or on time, the entire process breaks down. Crews need to be assigned to other tasks or even get sent home, you miss deadlines and, ultimately, it trickles down to the end customer. Homeowners are waiting weeks, sometimes months for backordered product.

I think it all comes down to building a foundation of trust with your suppliers. And constant communication is a cornerstone of building that trust. As you work on continuing to create that two-way trust, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Am I having regular, real-time dialogue with my key suppliers?
  2. Are they clued into and/or have contact with the key people at my organization, such as customer service, procurement, manufacturing, etc., to understand our needs from all aspects?
  3. Are we sharing future needs with suppliers so they can anticipate their raw material needs?
  4. Is consistent ordering an option? For example, ordering at the same time every month can help suppliers anticipate needs better.
  5. Do we have enough trust between us for a collaborative inventory management approach? Meaning, can we order just what we need, when we need it, versus trying to order backstock because we don’t trust that inventory will arrive on time?
  6. Are there any portions of production that make sense to outsource, such as screens, so I can keep my best employees on the most profitable parts of my business?
  7. Does it make sense to invest in a specific part of my production line to further automate, alleviating the stress of always needing a certain number of employees on the line?

Want to explore this topic more? Here are some additional resources:

We’ll also be at GlassBuild America next month, showcasing our solutions and services that can help you make your business run more efficiently. Visit us at booth #2519.

I’m interested in hearing what has worked for you to help keep your vendor relationships strong. Email me at

For more information about Quanex visit
Posted: August 19, 2021 by Joe Erb Filed under: architecture, commercial, customer