The Engineer: Gazing into the crystal ball
By David Heska
“Knowledge needs to be transferred from those with grey hair and experience to the next young executives and skilled labourers.”
By David Heska
To say the times have changed is an understatement. The life we are all leading today and our careers in the glazing industry have all been dramatically impacted by the events of the past six months. We’ve adjusted to more working from home, video conferencing, face coverings and even an online version of Top Glass back in July.
During the Top Glass event, the highlight for me was listening to the Young Executives Panel comprising some of the brightest young leaders from our country’s architectural glazing industry – Nathalie Thibault, Andrew Dolphin, Mike Bruno and Peter Dushenski. Nathalie is the technical director of Canadian affairs for the Fenestration and Industry Glazing Alliance. Andrew is the general manager of glass operations at BV Glazing. He manages glass quoting, production and purchasing of all glass products. A second-generation president, Mike is president of Alumitex Window and Doors, a commercial fenestration fabrication company that has been around for more than 50 years now. He is also vice-president of Fenestration Canada. Peter is the managing director of GlasCurtain, a curtain wall manufacturer specializing in fibreglass-framed systems.
The panelists discussed a wide range of topics including anticipated code changes, increased competition from European and Chinese suppliers, but of most interest to me was how each person answered the question “What’s the most important thing you think will change in our industry in the next 10 years?”
How would you answer that question? If you were to gaze into your crystal ball and see 2030, what would be different then compared to now? The panelists provided their projections including stricter energy codes, the critical nature of domestic supply chains, a greater focus on carbon and embodied carbon, increasing automation, and a lack of skilled employees. I could elaborate on each of these but the last three jumped out to me.
Firstly, the buzz word of “sustainability” will remain but one of the anticipated shifts will be toward a greater understanding of full lifecycle environmental impacts of materials and products used. Is it really the most sustainable building if your windows all had to be manufactured and shipped from Germany instead of Toronto or Vancouver? Durability also becomes a critical factor when considering embodied carbon because as part of the calculations you need to make accurate assumptions as to how long a product will last before being replaced. Much work as already been done in this area and it will become more prevalent in the next few years.
Secondly, automation is here and will continue to accelerate. Automation is going to ramp up on the manufacturing plant floor, in the engineering design office, in the testing laboratory, and on site. Companies that have invested in automation will be stronger and more efficient with a distinct competitive advantage and, although it may sound crazy to say during a global pandemic, the truth is now is a great time to invest in technology and automation. So, where in your organization could a repetitive task be completed more efficiently if it were done by a computer or a robot?
Finally, during the Top Glass panel the lack of skilled employees in the glazing industry was discussed. Simply put, it’s hard to find good people. Retiring baby-boomers is one thing, but the fact that even our farmers cannot find Canadian labourers to work in their fields indicates a greater issue at hand. Obviously we are not going to solve an entire national economic dilemma ourselves, but it is incumbent upon us to be asking how we can attract 15- to 20-year-olds into our industry. Knowledge needs to be transferred from those with grey hair and experience to the next young executives and skilled labourers.
I see a bright future and listening to the Top Glass panelists gave me even more confidence that we are on the right track with leaders like Nathalie, Andrew, Mike and Peter at the helm.