Glass Production, supply chain woes, higher prices: Why is there a Glass Shortage in 2021?

Why do we have a glass shortage

If you’ve recently tried to buy glass products, anything from glass bottles or replacing a cracked windshield, you may have noticed that glass is harder to come by than in years past. You’re not alone in feeling like glass is more expensive and less available – there is a global glass shortage in 2021 and unfortunately it looks like it won’t be resolved in a hurry.

What is causing the glass shortage?

The current glass shortage and associated price increases are the result of a perfect storm of factors. The coronavirus pandemic deserves its fair share of the blame – shutting down factories around the world in 2020. Worse than simply reducing output, the virus wreaked havoc amidst the shipping industry, creating a huge backlog of shipping containers worldwide.

It is hard to overstate the severity of the shipping container issues. Prior to COVID-19 the shipping industry was running a tight ship (no pun intended), working on slim profit margins, and tight timetables. The Coronavirus pandemic completely upended the system, creating massive delays that continue to this day.

Last month there were a record 88 cargo ships waiting to unload at LA’s dockyard – for comparison it was uncommon prior to 2020 for there to be more than 1 cargo ship kept waiting offshore!

Despite COVID-19 deserving the lion’s share of the blame, the reality is the glass shortage extends beyond that. The severe weather that Texas experienced earlier in 2021 created a severe shortage of a chemical called PVB. PVB is vital for the creation of laminated glass products like automotive windshields – and this production shortfall in combination with the ongoing shipping delays has meant that customers have seen price increases and increased lead times.

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Another culprit of the glass shortage is actually increased demand – particularly within the alcohol industry. Brewers and distillers have seen record sales over the past year, with overall alcohol sales increasing 2%. This boom has driven an increase in production, and a corresponding increase in demand for glass bottles. One rum distillery in Florida reported that sales were up 150%, but now their distributors are having difficulty obtaining the packaging materials they need to keep up with this demand.

One factor impacting certain types of glass has been tariffs. During the spring of 2021 it looked as though the US would impose steep tariffs on Chinese-manufactured glass, although the worst of these tariffs has not yet been put into place. However, some Chinese glass products like those associated with solar panels, are currently subject to high tariffs. These tariffs are under review and may be lifted in the coming months. Even if these tariffs are lifted, don’t expect to see an immediate decrease in prices or shipping times.

Has the glass shortage been impacted by slowing glass production?

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While the current glass shortage was exacerbated by slowed glass production during the early Coronavirus shutdowns – in general glass production is up and running worldwide right now. Glass bottle production in the US is running at full capacity, but 20-30% of the bottles used in the US are produced abroad. Supply chain issues caused by the global shipping container shortage have meant deliveries are taking much longer than usual.

A possible solution seems to be simple: just increase domestic production. However, MJS Packaging Vice President Brett Atlas throws cold water on this idea, stating that the US simply “has a limited number of glass furnaces” and expanding that domestic capacity is no small task.

When is the glass shortage going to end?

Unfortunately, it is difficult to predict when the current glass shortage is going to end. The upcoming holiday season in combination with rising demand due to the reopening of businesses and retailers means that the already-stressed supply chain will not be receiving a break anytime soon.

The glass shortage should be alleviated when the shipping and logistics issues are fixed – but most analysts aren’t optimistic that this will happen any time soon.

High demand coupled with the current labor shortages making it difficult for factories and logistics companies to increase staffing mean that the glass shortage will likely persist for some time. The result of this is that customers should expect glass prices and lead-times to remain high well into 2022.

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Reliability in the Face of Uncertainty

The current glass shortage will come to an end – although it’s difficult to say with any certainty when. In the meantime, here at Century Glass we’re working closely with our suppliers and are still delivering the same reliable service that our customers have come to expect. With three locations across South Carolina, Century Glass is here to help you with your glass needs, from windshields to shower glass!

Call the Glass Experts at Century Glass

Century Glass is the glass company you can count on. We have a team of glass professionals who can assist you with your windshield, shower door, and home glass needs. We understand reliability and convenience are key. Our customers enjoy not just clearer glass, but see life’s moments more clearly.

Call us today at:
Columbia: 803-256-8134
Northeast Columbia: 803-699-2342

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