I own an HVAC distributor – HVAC distribution is a subset of industrial distribution, at least in the US. I have been trying to give our readers some “boots on the ground” updates as we have been winding our way through a hectic 2020 with the virus.
All along the main problem for us has been finished goods. I thought when all of the shutdowns started happening that parts and pieces would be the main issue as a lot of that comes from “over there”. Not the case. Parts were never really a problem.
LTL and parcels were and continue to be an issue. The stuff shows up, but it is always late and we are seeing very poor quality work with damaged skids, missing boxes and the like. Not horrible, but everything is slow.
American factories, where most of the HVAC that is consumed in the USA is made, had immediate and lasting issues brought about by a few things. Covid safety procedures made people space out on assembly lines, slowing them down. People working from home and not able to go on vacation decided to invest that money into new HVAC systems (they also upgraded plumbing, roofing, electrical, etc). Add to this a relatively hot Summer and demand was quickly outstripping supply. All I did the past six months was work contacts, and try to source equipment from anyone who would sell it. I used many non-traditional partners (more on this in a minute) but it was job number one to keep our contractors moving. I have never worked so hard in my life trying to keep the barns full.
Over the last month or so, shipments have been much more freely arriving from the factories, taking a major load off of my shoulders. I don’t know if suppliers cancelled orders (I’m guessing some, but not a lot) or if the factories just said “to hell with this” and started crowding the assembly lines back to normal (maybe) or if everyone who was going to get the crud already had it (no clue). Probably some stuff I am missing too. I guess I don’t really care, but I know that my barns are full again, with just a few exceptions, which is normal for this time of year. Hooray!
MERV 13 filters, you can fuggedaboudit. 4-6 month lead time. I don’t expect that to change any time soon, but you never know. It was always a small portion of our volume anyways. Most people are moving to MERV 11 (lead times extending, naturally) or our stock MERV 10.
As far as the non traditional partners go, it was interesting to do business with different people and through different channels when I was sourcing product any way possible. I have made some new friends and business partners who I think will help me in my business plans over the next few years. I found some deals I didn’t know existed and met some knowledgeable people (virtually), one of whom I may start trying to recruit. These new business avenues were a pleasant surprise in the hell I was living in last Summer.
I am happy to report that coming to work, with the exception of me wearing a mask in my office, is just about what it was like in December of last year. We are very fortunate to be an essential business but yikes, what a ton of work 2020 has been. I need a vacation, but doubt that will be happening until we get the vaccines distributed as things are still pretty fluid with staffing and such but finally – finally – there seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel.