STEELING FOR SUPPLY SHORTAGES
As predicted by the Institute for Supply Chain Management at the beginning of the pandemic, resources we frequently take for granted are in short supply: microchips, building supplies…even garden seeds. Oh, and Perlite and fiberglass are in short supply, too.
What the heck is Perlite? It’s a key component to Fireguard® Steel Tanks. Which may explain why you might be experiencing longer lead times on a Fireguard tank no matter where you call.
Fiberglass shortages affect Permatank® and the ACT-100® model tanks, but we’ll get to those in a minute.
FIREGUARD TANKS AND PERLITE
Trademarked by the Steel Tank Institute [STI], all Fireguard Tanks are built to STI standards and use STI distributors for their materials. As mentioned, Perlite is a key component: it is used to mix an insulation barrier between the two walls of the tank. To find out why there is a shortage, we caught up with Sales Manager Jerry Schollmeyer, who has been with Morrison Bros. for 37 years. Morrison Bros. is the distributor for Perlite.
“We’ve never experienced a shortage in Perlite before. Most of what we manufacture is made right here in Iowa. Perlite is a different story. We are simply the distributor for the ingredient and have been since 2006. Strong [Company] mines the material in Mexico and processes it in New Mexico, before it’s shipped here. COVID affected some of the mining, so that created some delays. The snow in February then created additional shipping delays.”
Jerry continues, “But a bigger reason for the Perlite shortage is the number of states legalizing cannabis and marijuana.”
“The growers put it in the soil for growing.” A quick Google search shows this to be true — Perlite is the primary ingredient in popular garden feed Miracle Gro. “So that’s also having an impact on supply,” Jerry explains. Fifteen states have legalized marijuana: four did so in the 2020 election alone.
“But the great news is the situation will soon rectify itself. Demand was so high, Strong not only moved to a faster production schedule, but they went out and found new sources in Oregon and Georgia. So we should see the situation rectify itself within the next few months.”
ACT-100®, PERMATANK® AND FIBERGLASS
Fiberglass is also facing some challenges. Mike Floyd of North American Composites, the STI distributor for fiberglass, explains, “When the Chinese got into producing fiberglass years ago, most American companies got out – not enough margin. So when tariffs were imposed on Chinese fiberglass in 2018, we were left with only one domestic supplier here in the U.S., and that’s Owens-Corning. For everyone. Not just for manufacturing, but for the construction industry too.
“Then the pandemic hit. That slowed production, while building soared. And suddenly everyone wanted an inground pool for their staycation, too. Those use a lot of fiberglass,” Mike explains. Another quick Google search shows that demand for inground pool construction quadrupled during the pandemic.
The Texas freeze compounded fiberglass shortages. “Most of the fiberglass is made in Texas, but they didn’t have power. That created a couple more weeks’ worth of delays,” Mike adds. “All of which means the glass is in high demand, and currently allocated based on a percent of what you ordered. If you ordered 100,000 lbs. of glass in March, you’re going to get 25,000 lbs. of your order sometime later.”
“There’s also a driver shortage, and that’s affecting delivery times,” Mike continues. “We’ve had shipments that only need to be driven an hour from here. It’s actually harder to get a driver for that distance than it is something going hundreds of miles. The driver and/or company can make a lot more money based on distance, so shipments that should’ve gone Friday may have to wait until Tuesday the following week. And the cost goes up with demand.”
While almost 71% of all American freight is transported by truck, the shortage of truck drivers in the U.S. has been going on since 2018. It is estimated the industry will need to hire 1.1 million drivers over the next 10 years.
Bet you didn’t think pools, pot, power and portability would be the explanation behind delays in some models of steel tanks, but truth is still stranger than fiction.
For the time being, our strongest recommendation is that if you know you are going to need Fireguard tanks, Act-100 tanks or Permatanks, order earlier than you normally would. While both distributors stated they expect the situation to resolve in the next couple of months, planning ahead is just good common sense.
“And we’re all going to have to learn to be a little more patient,” Jerry adds.
That’s always a good lesson, too.