RC: How would you assess the state of the roofing industry in 2022?
Jennifer Ford-Smith (JFS): 2021 probably had to be the most challenging year for not only Johns Mansville, but the entire industry that will be remembered in history. Veterans with 35-plus years history in the industry reported never seeing so many challenges occur all at the same time. You know what they say, what doesn’t kill you makes you better, and while significant challenges arose with the supply crisis, it forced us to rethink our business; find creative solutions to significant challenges; and it, hopefully, positioned us to be a better supplier to the market in the future.
RC: How did the supply shortages of 2021 impact business and where did you find stability?
JFS: By March of 2021, we had suppliers of ours putting us on allocation. So even if our plants had line time and labor, there wasn’t enough raw materials to push through the process. Beyond the allocation, came transportation issues, so even if a supplier could get us product, they struggled to find rail and/or trucks to transport it in our facilities. Call outs were an issue due to COVID’s mass spread, and navigating the ever-changing landscape of managing a workforce during a pandemic had its challenges as well. I think the positive outcome was that it brought us even closer to our customers. The key was communication and transparency, which can only be done through the long-standing relationships that JM has been able to establish with our customer base.
RC: What do you think was learned and how will that impact the industry moving forward?
JFS: As we did with our contracting partners, transparency and constant communication is necessary with our suppliers during supply situations like this.
We did everything we could do to help contractors continue projects they had started. We worked closely with them to look for viable alternates, even sometimes accepting competitive components to keep the project going. We also worked with our building owner customers to educate them on viable alternates.
RC: Have you seen any progress in the workforce shortage in roofing, and what encourages/discourages you about the current approach?
JFS: The NRCA is putting in a tremendous effort to elevate the perception of the industry with programs like ProCertification and others. The (Roofing) Alliance’s partnership with colleges and universities is also supporting that effort. I feel we still have a long way to go — all trades do.
RC: What are you proudest of as the industry tries to recover from the challenges of the past year or two?
JFS: Johns Manville is over 160 years old. We have been through many ups and downs throughout our history, and what has always got us through is our people. 2021 was one of the most challenging times for the industries we serve, and it was our people coming together, being laser focused on the challenge at hand, working with customers, and putting in the hours are what makes us proud to be a part of the JM family. We are also proud that we were there for the industry as a whole — JM participated in every tradeshow, in person and having leadership available to answer the tough questions.