The commercial roofing industry is a dynamic marketplace requiring continuous evolution to meet escalating demands for products, services and solutions that deliver competitive value and performance. Roofing Contractor magazine’s annual commercial roofing trends report uncovers several key themes for the next phase of that journey.

The 2017 survey data reveals important shifts in the industry as manufacturers try to balance increased demand for products and services with a need to address labor challenges and invest in tools that make the entire process easier, from bidding through building. Now is the time for manufacturers to escalate our efforts to collaborate with roofing contractors as part of a truly holistic approach to innovation, driving increased efficiency and solutions through tools that will optimize labor and address their greatest needs.

Finding the Right Employees

The 2017 survey shows that finding and retaining qualified labor is one of the issues most likely to impact contractors in 2018, with 90 percent of survey respondents relying on employee referrals to fill their pipeline amid workforce issues in their markets. Generational changes are driving shifts in communication and work styles, as well as the overall perception of the work itself. On top of that, 87 percent of survey respondents reported an increase in labor costs this year, potentially cutting into opportunities to invest in other areas of their business.

While manufacturers have a continued responsibility to engineer products that are responsive to emerging health, safety and environmental requirements, an ongoing focus should also be on using innovative thinking to engineer effective products that help simplify and streamline the work required. These efforts, combined with integrated systems and processes and user-friendly technology, could help control labor costs and provide an even more productive, safe and engaged workforce on the jobsite.

Innovation Drives Partnerships  

Industry-leading products are only as good as the service and insights that manufacturers offer to support them. And innovation is only truly effective if it positively impacts customers. As the industry shifts and consolidates, processes and services must be integrated, responsive enough to update quickly and designed with the customer in mind.

Establishing an open, direct line of communication develops and reinforces critical relationships, enabling increased collaboration that, in turn, helps manufacturers engineer new products and enhancements. Ultimately, a more inclusive approach to innovation allows manufacturers the opportunity to serve as trusted partners to roofing contractors, and they in return.

Technology Drives Standardization

With numerous technological enhancements at our fingertips, updates to critical systems can streamline information gathering, communication and decision-making while also making manufacturers more ingrained throughout each step of the bid-to-build process. More than 60 percent of respondents to the survey said they work with both aerial measurement and estimating software tools. A reliance on these tools offers an opportunity for manufacturers to work with roofing contractors to develop or enhance complementary ordering and tracking systems that improve efficiency and enable roofers to better manage and grow their day-to-day business.

This includes attention to key functions such as bidding, placing orders and support for their own customers − all of which would help contractors manage their bottom line, serve as proactive advisors to their customers and create stronger relationships.

What’s Ahead?

Data should aid decision making, but it’s collaborative relationships that drive the industry forward. Innovation should be an integrated approach that involves manufacturing, product development, service and collaboration with contracting partners. These efforts will help stimulate innovation from the outside in, creating a more integrated approach to the commercial roofing industry. Firestone Building Products is committed to strengthening not only our products, but our processes, systems and partnership approach to enable roofing contractors to succeed.