It is no exaggeration to say that 2022 has been the year of shortages. Beginning with the supply chain crisis of 2021 resulting in a shortfall of building materials, we have since seen problems with stocks of fuel and the subsequent exorbitant pricing of petrol and diesel. It will come as no surprise then that there is also a shortage of glass in the UK, Europe, and throughout the wider world. This is impacting construction companies and uPVC suppliers quite significantly – at least for now.
In this blog post, we focus on how the shortage of glass has directly impacted the availability of uPVC (Unplasticised Polyvinyl Chloride) windows in the UK. We cover why this is the case, when the shortage might end, and what construction workers and project managers can do to mitigate the impact while the market gets back on its feet.
UK Shortage Of uPVC Windows 2022
The UK shortage of uPVC windows is directly linked to the relative scarcity of glass, not only in the UK but also across continental Europe and beyond. While there is a limited supply of glass to meet existing demand, the shortage is a global issue and not simply isolated to the UK.
Manufacturers and the remainder of the supply chain in general are struggling to fulfil requests. Equally, as a result of the shortage, the lack of supply is increasing prices. This has a knock-on effect on construction firms who are already having to contend with higher prices for wood and various other materials.
Below, we outline some of the key reasons for the glass shortage in the UK.
UK domestic production of glass has been gradually slowing over recent years, forcing companies to rely more heavily on imports, mainly from continental Europe. HGV driver shortages and other supply chain issues, including a lack of shipping containers for glass arriving from further afield, have exacerbated the situation. Not only this, but Covid-19 restrictions have also resulted in fewer people operating in the supply chain in general, generating additional pressure.
Various operational issues have had a direct impact on the shortage of uPVC windows in the UK. We have seen a reduction in domestic production of glass capability due to 2 float lines being offline for maintenance purposes during 2021. In more positive news, Saint-Gobain spent £30 million developing a new glass furnace at Eggborough. It is hoped that with all 3 lines available, plus a new site opening at St Helens by Glass Futures, this will go a long way to helping plug gaps in production.
The shortage of glass in the UK has equally not been helped by the demand for glass across continental Europe and also globally. The shortage on the continent has understandably reduced the frequency of flat glass imports into the UK, placing further pressure on construction companies and domestic uPVC suppliers.
Another impact on UK availability of uPVC windows and glass has been increased energy prices. Due to the cost of production, it is now more expensive to manufacture glass, which in turn raises prices and subsequent demand from consumers. In severe cases, this could potentially lead to the closure of glass manufacturing plants, forcing the UK to become even more reliant on imports.
When Will The Glass Shortage End?
Experts and other industry watchers predict the glass shortage could last several months, possibly even into 2023 to some extent, although the peak is still predicted to be in 2022. It is worth mentioning that much of the shortage involves ‘flat’ glass, not necessarily all types of glass, such as glass bottles, which are in abundant supply. Even so, construction companies should remain resigned to the fact that prices will continue to peak before production becomes more stable during 2023 and beyond.
What To Do If You Are Affected By The Glass Shortage?
Any companies and stakeholders that are affected by the glass shortage, such as project managers and construction workers, should first and foremost not panic. The availability of glass will eventually return to more normal levels in the near future. This is especially true as domestic UK production increases due to new plant openings.
But while there are still supply chain issues to contend with, it is worth noting that these are slowly being rectified. The availability of imports should also begin to ease as we reach the latter of 2022 and enter 2023, hopefully on a more positive note.
It is recommended that construction project managers should be open with their customers and demonstrate that this is a global challenge. In particular, IGU (Insulated Glass Unit) makers and fabricators need clear communication to enable them to manage expectations and complete the glazing manufacturing process as best they can within the understandable limitations. This way, they will be better able to remain flexible in terms of delivery schedules.
While somewhat controversial, it is also important to remember to pass any cost increases down the chain to customers. Although inflation is rising in all sectors, companies still need to rebuild their margins to remain sustainable. Customers are still willing to pay the going rate, especially for high-quality service. In any case, it may be that prices will settle soon, enabling more competitive pricing in the near future.