The rising cost of raw materials: from paintbrushes to plywood, gas to groceries, no matter what you are shopping for these days, almost everything is more expensive. According to a recent manufacturing report from The Institute for Supply Management, manufacturers are facing shortages and dealing with substantial price increases for input materials across the board. Unfortunately, ISM expects raw materials to continue to increase throughout 2021.
The global pandemic changed the way that we shop, drastically increasing online commerce in a relatively short period of time. The enormous increase in internet retail sales also caused an enormous demand for cardboard, bubble wrap, dunnage bags, pallets, shipping containers, etc. All of this has put a strain on the stone fabrication industry. Although stone slabs are impressively strong, they still need to be properly protected and safely transported so that the final product gets to you, the consumer, unscathed and in pristine condition.
Transporting raw materials, including giant slabs of stone, is causing huge logistic issues across the board. From a lack of packing materials and shipping containers to the actual transportation, every step of the process seems to be facing its own set of challenges which are causing dramatically higher freight costs. The price increases manufacturers are facing are cascading through the very stressed supply chain and ultimately affecting the consumer’s purchasing price.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ producer-price index (which is used to measure the change in prices that producers receive for their output) granite prices have been record-breaking this year for the reasons stated above as well as others. And as though all of that wasn’t bad enough, U.S. tariffs and other trade measures currently restrict the supply of quartz from China, India and Turkey, limiting the availability of the wildly popular stone.
Also contributing to the rising cost of materials, is the decline in skilled laborers almost everywhere in the world. This shortage, which has been ongoing for over a decade, is affecting every industry. So, not only is there a shortage of employees in the packing, shipping and transportation industries (ie. how we get the raw materials) but there is also a shortage of skilled laborers in the actual stone fabrication industry. Training in the areas of quarrying, processing and the installation of natural stone typically occur as apprenticeships or on-the-job training, but have yet to be systemized industry wide. So, although there is a demand, fewer workers are willing and or able to do the work.
It’s difficult to say when the cost of raw materials will start to decline, but we all hope that it is sooner rather than later. There are a few things that we can do in the meantime. First, shop local whenever possible. Limit your use of packaging materials and recycle where available. Invest wisely in things such as your home and purchase high quality items, like time-honored natural stone countertops, that will provide the most return on your investment. Encourage the young people in your life to consider a career as a craftsperson or skilled laborer. Be patient, kind and remember that we are still all in this together.