RC: How would you assess the state of the roofing industry in 2022?
Jim Schnepper (JS): Our industry has its share of challenges right now — supply chain issues, material shortages, rising costs and an ongoing labor shortage are top-of-mind for all of us. However, for every challenge there is ultimately a solution — and in this case I believe that technology, innovation, strong partnerships and maintaining our focus on how we can best serve our customers and their customers will help us continue to move forward as an industry. My team has heard me ask many times, “What can go wrong?” We game out situations so we are not reactive but rather proactive with a play book.
RC: What do you think was learned and how will that impact the industry moving forward?
JS: One of the most important factors in our ability to keep producing the product that kept homes, families and businesses safe and dry during the pandemic — not to mention the hospitals and healthcare facilities that provided critical care during this historic crisis — was our designation as an essential business. That designation meant that our plants could keep producing, while we worked to ensure a safe workplace for our employees. Once we were designated as an essential business our focus was on how to operate safely and keep our employees from contracting and transmitting the virus. I promised our employees that we would make all our facilities safer than going into their grocery store. We lived up to that promise.
RC: How did you help support contractors as their needs changed throughout the pandemic?
JS: In many ways, the pandemic was a catalyst that accelerated our work in a number of important areas — including digital solutions and remote education. Today, we’re doing more online training than ever before, and contractors are using our digital technology to continue to sell without having to meet in person with customers. I am excited to continue this path to reach deeper into our contractor universe more efficiently to provide new levels of service, innovation and creativity.
RC: Have you seen any progress in the workforce shortage in roofing, and what encourages/discourages you about the current approach?
JS: The labor shortage affects much more than roofers — it’s a nationwide problem for employers of all industries. However, I believe the key is attracting more young people to the roofing trade. Our GAF Roofing Academy program is an important step in this area, which offers tuition-free, hands-on training and access to career opportunities for young people — 80% of whom come from underserved communities.
RC: What are you proudest of as the industry tries to recover from the challenges of the past year or two?
JS: I cannot overstate how proud I am of what our phenomenal workforce accomplished, despite the crisis unfolding around us. So much extraordinary work was done in 2021, and our teams not only helped us survive, but thrive during this time. It is also important to note that all of this was achieved while maintaining a relentless focus on safety, which is no small feat. I’m very proud of how our teams came together to keep each other safe, even as we worked to keep our promises to our customers.