What SSP Learned at the GFA’s Fall 2022 Meeting
Specialty Silicone Products (SSP) recently attended the Fall 2022 Meeting of the Gasket Fabricators Association (GFA), a leading trade group for companies that provide custom-fabricated components like seals, gaskets, tapes, and adhesives. From September 13 to 15, SSP joined other GFA members in beautiful Park City, Utah. The GFA holds two meetings each year.
A September event in Utah’s Wasatch Mountains is a great way to beat the heat, but uncertainty is like a strong, cold wind that’s blowing across many industries right now. At last week’s meeting, however, SSP gained valuable insights about what to expect for the rest of 2022 – and into 2023. Here are five things we learned that we’d like to share with you.
#1 Sales are still strong, but they’re no longer record-breaking.
Many of the companies that we spoke with enjoyed red-hot sales during the first half of 2022. In fact, some shattered records as they met growing demand for gasketing products. Sales are slowing at the end of the third quarter, however, and the end-of-the-year doesn’t appear to be record-breaking. Still, GFA members are enjoying some strong months as Q3 turns to Q4.
#2 Proceeding with caution is now a common approach.
Todd Buchholz, an economist and best-selling author, spoke at the GFA’s Fall event and delivered a data-rich presentation about uncertainties in the U.S. economy. Although Buchholz did not predict a recession at this time, he did examine issues (such as inflation) that GFA members and others will need to contend with in the months and year ahead. If there’s a motto for 2023, “proceed with caution” might be it.
#3 Supply is improving, but some long lead times remain.
Throughout 2022, supply chain disruptions have challenged countless manufacturers. Today, supplies aren’t as constrained as they were during the first half of the year; however, there’s still a measure of discomfort and delays. With certain polymers, there are long lead times – and longer than GFA members would like as they seek to meet demand.
#4 Companies are finally clearing their backlogs.
Record high temperatures across parts of the U.S. weren’t the only thing that made for a long, hot summer in places. Most of the manufacturers that SSP spoke with spent the last three months clearing a record backlog of orders. The loosening of supply chain constraints surely helped, but it takes people and equipment to get the job done.
#5 Labor shortages are both widespread and instructive.
Unfortunately, labor shortages continue to be a challenge. Most of the companies that we spoke with said that staffing is an issue, and the problems range from calls-in and no-shows to workers staying for a day or two only never to return again. Interview no-shows, a form of “ghosting”, is also a problem. If there’s a lesson to be learned, it’s to keep workers happy and to pay them well.