LCA and Manufacturing Forecast Top AAMA Agenda

By Katy Devlin, Glass Magazine
June 11, 2013
Meetings & Events

Rosemont, Ill.–The National Summer Conference for the American Architectural Manufacturers Association kicked off this week with a presentation about life cycle assessment and product category rules, as well as a discussion focused on the outlook for manufacturing in the U.S.  The summer meeting, which concludes today, also featured the announcement of AAMA's annual scholarship award winners.

"Life cycle assessment is the hot topic of the building construction industry,” said Tom Gloria, managing director of Industrial Ecology Consultants. He provided an overview of LCA, as well as the product category rules used to determine environmental impact of a product. Completing an LCA allows companies to understand where their products come from, and how customers are using those products, he explained. “This is a science-based methodology to help companies make better decisions.”

The PCR is used to develop Environmental Product Declarations, a “statement of a product’s potential environmental and human health impact,” Gloria said. He emphasized that stakeholder input is critical in developing the PCR. "Be engaged in the process. It is for you, and [affects] how you sell your products. Only through involvement can you make sure that the environmental performance assessment is fair." 

AAMA has been working to develop a PCR for windows as part of a joint association LCA task group that also includes the Glass Association of North America, the Insulating Glass Manufacturers Alliance and the Window and Door Manufacturers Association. The group is nearing competition of the initial version of the PCR for windows. "We are on the 5 yard line, getting ready to score," said Rich Walker, AAMA president and CEO, noted at the meeeting.

Manufacturing Forecast
U.S. manufacturing is not experiencing a renaissance, but it is growing, according to Stephen Gold, president and CEO of the Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation, who was the keynote speaker on the first day of the AAMA conference.

Manufacturing was hit hard during the recession—harder than the rest of the economy. “The overall U.S. economy contracted 5 percent during the recession, while manufacturing contracted more than 21 percent during the same period,” Gold said. Overall manufacturing is at 73 percent of what it was before the recession, and non-tech manufacturing (traditional manufacturing like that in the fenestration industry) is only at 63 percent of what it was pre-slowdown. “We lost 6 million jobs during the recession, and we have yet to recover those jobs.”

Gold outlined four headwinds that could hinder growth in the manufacturing sector:

  • Weak global economy. “Ninety-five percent of U.S. manufacturers’ potential customers are outside of the United States. … What happens overseas affects U.S. manufacturing to a great degree,” Gold said.
  • High-structural costs.
  • Political gridlock.
  • Skills gap. “Manufacturing is changing so rapidly and becoming so technology centric. The next generation needs to have many more [science, math and technology] skills,” Gold said. “Five percent of current manufacturing jobs go unfilled because manufacturers can’t find qualified workers, and manufacturers expect this to worsen in the next three to five years.”

However, Gold also noted four notable tailwinds that are boosting U.S. manufacturing:

  • Energy revolution. The U.S. has cheaper energy than much of the world, in large part due to fracking.
  • Narrowing wage gap in China. “Manufacturers are going to start bringing operations back to the U.S., as China doesn’t have a competitive advantage,” he said.
  • New shipping and supply chain strategies. “After the tsunami in Japan, many U.S. manufacturers began to look very carefully at their supply chain,” Gold said.
  • Re-emergence of the U.S. housing market.

Looking ahead, Gold said he expects U.S. manufacturing to experience modest growth in the second half of 2013. Overall manufacturing should reach pre-recessionary levels by the fourth quarter of 2014, with non-tech, traditional manufacturing returning to pre-recession levels by the third quarter of 2015.

A strong manufacturing sector is crucial for the U.S., Gold said, as “the race for global advantage centers on manufacturing.”

“Each year, AAMA awards a minimum of three scholarships," noted Janice Yglesias, AAMA's association services director. "This year, seven scholarships were awarded due to the generous contributions of AAMA members.”

The AAMA Scholarship is a one-time award of $2,000. All children of employees of AAMA member companies are eligible to obtain this financial aid for higher education in pursuit of a degree in an engineering or technical field relating to the building products industry. This year, awards were presented to children of employees from Innotech Windows & Doors, Quanex Building Products, Sherwin Williams and Truth Hardware, as well as three children of employees at Pella Corp.

"AAMA is pleased to acknowledge the outstanding students who have dedicated themselves to academic and extracurricular endeavors in order to pursue a career in architecture, engineering and related fields,” added AAMA's Walker. “By supporting these students on their journey to further develop their knowledge and passion, we are hopeful they will make valuable contributions in the building products industry upon completing their education.”