November 30, 2009

What, Really, Does The Arch Bankruptcy Mean To A Glass Shop?

By Paul Bieber

You’ve read the news, Arch Aluminum filed for bankruptcy. What does this mean to you? Odds are, not much. If anything, it will help the average glass company who is a customer of Arch.


Yes, if you had your ear to the ground, this had been rumored for a while. Arch’s management has spent a boatload of time worrying about this, setting it up, and preparing for the future. Now that the future is here, and well defined, they can get back to the glass business and Arch’s employees can be assured their jobs are continuing. Your service should improve as everyone can let their breath out and go back to business as usual. Arch was a glass fabrication company, not one of these financial super markets. The bankruptcy won’t interfere with their core business. Sure, the bankruptcy is going to hurt their vendors and the owning family, but the glass and metal customers will come out ahead.

If you were an Arch customer, continue to be one. They are not going anywhere. There is a temptation to shop around, and it is always a good idea to compare vendors, but don’t switch just because of the bankruptcy. What brought Arch down was the debt that drove their growth, not their operations or their production. The skills of 1900 employees are not going anywhere.

Pilkington and PPG are going to take a hit. So are Guardian and Bonnell. They will all survive this. The glass industry as a whole will not be hurt by this. The biggest losers will be the banks. They knew the risks of loaning money, and got paid for their risks. I don’t feel sorry for them. That is their business, no differently than folks in our industry bidding on a job, and finding extra costs associated with the job. If you don’t do a proper takeoff, and really study the job, this will happen.

Some people already have said to me that the Silverstein family is making out like a banshee. I promise you this is not the case. I know that an event like this feels like a member of the family is severely sick, and then a magic medicine helps bring back the life. The only one who will be making a ton of money on this will be the attorneys. Nobody at Arch wanted this to happen, and everyone there is working to make the company healthy again. Ten years ago, filing for bankruptcy carried a stigma, totally negative. Unfortunately, today, it is thought to be ‘good business’ to rid yourself of debt.

I have owned four Chevy’s in the past 14 years, and I will certainly buy another one when my current car gives up the ghost. The fact that GM went through bankruptcy actually makes me feel better about buying a car, because I am sure they are now healthy enough to stand behind it. You should feel the same way about Arch.

I read an interesting note on the US Glass News page today. One of the oldest and best known companies in the glass industry also filed for bankruptcy this week…The Fletcher Terry Company, the company that controlled the market by making the best glass cutters in America. What happened here? Can we blame the recession and its impact on the construction industry? Can we blame imports? We don’t know. Events like this happen in all industries.

The Silversteins are smart people, and their staff is truly capable. They will make Arch Aluminum viable for their customers. Count on it.

PS. As many of you know, I am a consultant in the glass industry. I have never had any financial relation with Arch Aluminum or any of its companies. The above opinion is strictly my own.