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Forging Success through Change
July 09, 2003
 

It’s often said that the only constant is change, and that’s indeed true of the metal building systems industry. Yet, to many of the decision-makers and influencers, metal buildings are dull and static square boxes which all look pretty much alike.  Yes, it’s true that these basic structures are still in demand and make up a percentage of our overall project portfolios. However, the product itself has undergone dramatic change through the years as innovations in design, improvements in paint systems, and efficiencies of production have progressed to satisfy the demands of the market. Today, metal buildings have evolved literally “outside the box” into attractive, irregularly designed buildings systems that incorporate the aesthetics of brick, glass, wood, stone and other treatments.

      The pages of this magazine should be used to remind these decision-makers that today’s metal building systems are as varied as the imaginations of those designing these projects.  Our industry continues to change to respond to the needs and demands of the construction market. Not only have we in the design and manufacture of metal building systems changed with the times, but so have the many quality suppliers of metal building components. Together, we have significantly increased the versatility – and viability – of metal building systems in just about any low rise building project.

      The Metal Building Manufacturers Association (MBMA) is acutely aware of the pace of these changes.  In 2001, an independent study was done as our group attempted to update its strategic thinking. Although this study was done just two years ago, the pace of change in this industry led our board of directors to authorize a new strategic study this summer to be reviewed by our board at our annual meeting in December.

      The point is to be sure that the MBMA is at the cutting edge of advances in our industry.  One of the many areas where MBMA leads is in putting a proactive focus on the ever-changing building codes.  MBMA is blessed with a professional staff led by Dr. Lee Shoemaker. Dr. Shoemaker and his staff are respected by everyone who interacts with our industry and seen as an authoritative source of technical expertise.   Research usually advances the state of the art that subsequently makes its way into the appropriate standard, specification or design procedure. Building code work is a comprehensive undertaking for any staff. Just the regularly scheduled activities of the standards and specifications committees with which MBMA interacts can involve over 50 meeting days per year. And, this of course does not include the preparation time required to be up to speed with the agenda items and the time required to analyze the impact of code changes under consideration. Also, the staff relies heavily on the knowledge and input of MBMA’s member engineers who are using the codes on a daily basis to design metal buildings.

      Recently, MBMA member companies have lost several veteran engineers to retirement who were mainstays in our code monitoring activities. While the loss of key individuals is always difficult to overcome, it also provides a good opportunity for young engineers to grab the torch and help guide the industry. Recognizing this, member companies this year have renewed our commitment to support the MBMA technical staff by increasing the involvement of our own engineering staffs in attending code meetings; reviewing proposals which come before code groups; and coordinating with MBMA staff to monitor code developments.  This endeavor to be involved with code development will be an ongoing effort to be sure that decision makers are adequately informed to make intelligent decisions regarding the integrity of our metal building systems.

      With the changing demands in our marketplace, our planning group is focused on effectively marketing and promoting our industry image of professionalism and cutting edge technology.   To that end, we have a number of proactive initiatives either in place or in the short-term pipeline, including: · A comprehensive website – www.mbma.com – that provides information and insight into the advantages of metal building and roofing systems, including a new section on cool metal roofing that provides a wealth of useful data for anyone looking to maximize sustainability and the energy-related benefits to their building project; · An industrywide capabilities and technical brochure coming this fall that will boldly display the advancements made our industry and which can be used by anyone to promote metal building systems; · A web-based learning program for architects in conjunction with the American Institute of Architects, debuting later this year, that will help educate this important segment on how to more easily incorporate metal into their plans; · An advertising program in the pages of Architectural Products magazine, again positioning ourselves in front of design decision-makers. As our systems have changed, so have the demands placed on those who erect these projects.  The MBMA and our members continue to encourage training and testing of those who are involved in bringing these systems together in the field.

      We have made a huge investment over the years to promote the quality of the systems we manufacture through the AISC-MB certification program. A true point of distinction regarding metal building systems is that we are the only building construction industry to have a certification process in place that not only includes fabrication, but the engineering process.

      Through the years our industry has recognized the fact that we accomplish much more working together than we can do on our own.  This spirit of cooperation extends to our partnership endeavors with related industries to promote metal in construction and to keep the progressive image of our building systems in the market place.

      Over the years, MBMA leadership has stood behind the wisdom of bringing our suppliers into the organization as associate members.  These members provide not only important financial support but also vital energy to our meetings and a dedication to promote our industry.  Understanding how instrumental their role is, the MBMA has included the chair of this group of suppliers as part of our strategic planning work this summer. We look forward to the perspective the chair will bring all of us.

      These past few years have challenged our industry like no time before. Despite the increasing pace of change in our market with a backdrop of a difficult economy, there is a spirit of optimism in our association that our best days are ahead of us.  Our planning this year is evidence of our commitment to continue to be forward thinking, and to be an active, doing organization. Our success will be determined by our ability to demonstrate that we offer the very best alternative in construction in the low-rise marketplace, produced by a dedicated group of manufacturers committed to excellence.

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