Mark Ellis, product manager at Tilemaster Adhesives, gives readers a glimpse into the main issues facing the adhesives part of the flooring sector.
AS we roll into 2022, the past two years seem to have flown by, which is a wonder, considering how difficult these times have been for everyone, personally and professionally, and given that everyone is wanting an end to the situation.
We’ve all known and heard of someone affected by Covid-19 and it’s had a huge impact on our family, friends, and colleagues. We’ve also seen and felt the effect it has had on longstanding businesses globally, and within our industry too.
Some have seen exponential growth and continue to remain strong, others have struggled and maybe fallen away, but not for lack of trying.
Exponential growth brings its own issues and raw material availability has been a huge complication in recent times for all manufacturing companies; with problems in obtaining raw materials to produce products that have seen an upturn in demand, as suppliers of the raw materials have seen increases too, meaning they’re struggling to supply the manufacturers within our industry.
This in turn means the manufacturers are struggling to meet demand from the distribution companies, which in turn means that the retail showrooms struggle for product to sell to their customers. The net result of all of this is to drive up the cost and expense of manufacturing, selling, and installing the products.
We’ve all heard the stories, and we all know how we, or our customer, or our suppliers have been affected. But for those ‘out of the loop’ so to speak, those that aren’t directly involved in manufacturing, what’s really going on with raw material supplies and the ability to manufacture?
Let’s start with paper. A commodity product, used for all manner of things, from wiping up spills on kitchen work surfaces, holding your flat white from your favorite coffee shop to being used to carry 20kg worth of cement-based product from factory to distributor and then to site.
This simple paper bag is the single most important raw material for a self-levelling and smoothing compound manufacturer. With the times quite rightly calling for a halt to single use plastics, the need to find a sustainable, eco-friendly solution means paper bags are still the way forward, at least for now, for packaging cement-based products. Without the bag, you simply cannot transport the product you manufacture.
Aside from the other raw materials supply issues, packaging and bags has been one of the main headaches during this time. A quick search on Google will tell you that during the pandemic, some paper mills consolidated their paper offerings by up to 40%, limiting the options and availability of certain products.
However, recent times has then seen a surge of demand for this everyday commodity product, so paper mills are now running at 100% capacity with no ability to increase production despite the increased demand. And so, there’s a shortage of packaging to transport the cement-based powder products.
Add to this the struggle to receive various other raw materials. There have been certain shortages and manufacturing issues with UK sourced raw materials, but obviously these are easier to obtain than products brought in from Europe.
The European suppliers have been stretched too, and certain raw materials have been particularly scarce, however after Brexit, the transport links that seemed to work so well when part of the EU became very limited in availability.
This wasn’t helped by Covid-19, as a lack of transporters, or drivers, willing or able to enter the UK whilst the pandemic was at its worst on our shores, coupled with the transitional complications as the UK left the EU meant a real shortage of haulage companies, transporters, and drivers affected not just our industry but all industries; everyone was fighting for space in the same lorry, with priority goods such as essential foods, etc, taking priority over raw materials for self-levelling or smoothing compound production.
As I write now, the situation appears to be easing, availability of products seems to be getting better and more readily available, despite continued extended lead times, and the availability of transportation has improved too. Hopefully, this will continue during 2022 and as the situation begins to improve, the effects will be felt through the industry and the wider distribution network too.
For now, of course, we must concentrate on the Covid-19 pandemic and keep ourselves, and our friends, family, and colleagues safe to ensure that when the supply chain issues ease, that we’re able to continue to support each other and our businesses and to capitalize on the improved economic conditions.