Thanks in equal parts to caution and luck, Kaser Blasting & Coatings made it through Covid unscathed. But 2021 has brought us face to face with an even more disruptive reality: we can’t coat parts that don’t exist.
The majority of our customers are metal fabricators, who – for a number of reasons relating to Covid, the Suez Canal blockage, and worldwide material shortages – are struggling to acquire steel, stainless, and aluminum.
If they don’t build, we don’t coat.
The last six months have seen some lulls around the Kaser campus, interrupted by bursts of hyper-productivity. That’s what happens when customers ship parts to us weeks after the coating deadline has passed.
And, like everyone else, we’re struggling to keep our own supplies in stock.
Our packaging costs have tripled. Lumber, which we use as dunnage to cushion metal parts during shipping, is notoriously expensive at the moment. Foam and shrink wrap prices have also skyrocketed due to a polyethylene shortage. We can’t let parts leave our lot unpackaged, nor can we keep absorbing these costs forever.
As our vendors and customers alike scramble to find new manufacturers, we’re experiencing unpredictable changes in the quality of the products we receive. For instance, the packaging foam we’ve ordered a million times suddenly starts leaving residue on parts, because it’s made of slightly different material. The shrink wrap doesn’t get as tight as it used to. The drive shafts we’ve coated for years are covered in fish eyes, because of unfamiliar oils on the substrate.
Little things lead to big things. We’re trying to roll with the punches.
Oddly, the only product that – so far – has seemed completely unaffected by this chaos is the powder coating itself. I’m knocking on wood as I write this, but powder coating prices have not increased nearly as dramatically as liquid and commercial coating prices. This is a major silver lining.
If I seem exhausted, it’s because I’m carrying the same energy we all had as we shopped for toilet paper last spring. I’m constantly hunting for supplies, praying for bargains, and trying to stretch our stock.
While I continue to hope for a quick return to normalcy, I know it’s unlikely. The best we can do is be patient with one another as we muddle through.