For this edition of the Fast 5—a Q&A series spotlighting the insights and expertise of construction industry experts—ConstructioNext spoke with David Randolph, director of manufacturing for PABCO Roofing Products. Founded in 1984, PABCO manufactures a range of roofing products, centered around asphalt shingles and related accessories. Randolph shared his insights on asphalt shingle innovation through the years, the impact technology has on the industry and more.
1. How has the composition of asphalt shingles changed since their invention in 1903?
David Randolph: We’ve come a very long way from paper shingles soaked in asphalt and covered with crushed rock. These original shingles were a critical first step in the evolution of roofing products that do much more than keep water out. Modern shingles can reduce algae growth, reflect sunlight and minimize heat absorption and deliver superior aesthetics that last for decades.
The major advances comprising modern shingle technology include use of fiberglass to provide dimensional stability for better roof protection and extended lifespans. Polymer-modified asphalt has greatly enhanced wind and hail resistance. And ceramic-coated granules used by the industry provide superior weather protection while simultaneously delivering color consistency that make today’s roofs look great.
2. How have recent supply chain issues impacted the industry?
DR: Just-in-time production models deliver incredible efficiencies, but the systemwide delays and hiccups the asphalt shingle industry has experienced the past three years expose some drawbacks. Our industry is dependent upon the availability of raw materials often sourced from around the globe. Issues ranging from lack of truck drivers to the war in Ukraine have caused production delays.
Lean manufacturing techniques help alleviate some supply chain issues, along with industry leaders working to find opportunities to maximize available materials. Through empowerment of both managers and frontline staff, we’re able to increase productivity, reduce waste and improve product quality. The innovations we’re identifying and the efficiencies we’re gaining through lean manufacturing are providing near- and long-term benefits.
The industry is also resilient. We’re building supplies of raw materials as we can. We’re also working closely with vendors to identify sources of raw materials that are in closer proximity to manufacturing sites.
3. How is technology impacting the manufacturing process?
DR: The impact of technology on the manufacturing process has been significant and extremely beneficial to manufacturers, contractors and customers. New technologies and monitoring tools have greatly improved the consistency of the product. In the past, employees would staff stations along the manufacturing line, watching for anomalies and inconsistencies. Human error was inevitable, and subtle inconsistencies could be easily missed.
Technology has minimized many of these issues. The product is more consistent across the board, from weight to granule adhesion to variances in color. Subtle shifts in product metrics can be sensed on the line, and adjustments can be made in real time. The end result is a very dependable, reliable shingle that contractors can confidently install and customers can count on to protect homes and businesses.
4. Are labor shortages impacting production?
DR: As with supply chain issues, manufacturers are rethinking how they work—how they attract, train and maintain staff. Referral programs that reward current staff for identifying new recruits are a valuable tool. Implementation of internship programs has attracted a younger generation of employees, allowing both the intern and company to mutually assess the fit and help identify candidates for long-term employment.
Training programs have also improved significantly. For instance, adoption of more interactive training methods is getting staff up to speed faster and more effectively than ever before. At PABCO, for example, we’re leveraging the expertise of our most experienced employees to systematically pass on their knowledge to the next generation of employees.
5. How easy is it to produce new shingle designs or shapes?
DR: Designing a new shingle concept on a whiteboard is relatively simple. Designing an asphalt shingle that can be consistently manufactured, pass rigorous testing, be efficiently shipped, be reliably installed by contractors and have market demand—that is difficult. It’s all about consistency.