NFBA conducts several surveys to measure the health of the post-frame industry. Two important industry surveys are the Post-Frame Industry Market Forecast Survey and the Post-Frame Metal Roll-Forming Industry Survey.
Post-frame market forecast
Last issue, we shared the results of the second quarter’s Industry Forecast survey. Compared to the Forecast Survey’s results for the first quarter, respondents showed slightly more optimism as they moved into the building season.
The results of the third quarter’s survey have set a “new high in lows.” They are even worse than those for the first quarter of 2009, when the emerging recession combined with typical seasonal variation led many to be pessimistic about the future.
Survey responses indicate the third quarter will be poor compared to the same time last year. Numbers of leads for new projects will be down for the majority of the industry, compared to last summer, as will be incoming orders and billed revenues.
However, 31 percent of respondents indicated the number of leads will be up or about the same as last year; so hope remains. The rest of the industry might do well to consider what those 31 percent are doing to maintain or build lead activity in the current climate.
Metal roll forming post-frame industry survey
In the first quarter of 2009, NFBA gathered statistics on the size of the post-frame industry from 2008 year-end numbers reported by metal roll forming companies. This gives NFBA a good idea of the industry’s overall size.
Metal roll-forming companies were targeted for this effort to further industry statistical research.
NFBA began this annual survey in 2003. By assessing the scope of production of roll-formed metal often used for roofing and siding in post-frame structures, an overall picture of the minimum size of the industry emerged.
The full report is made available to National Frame Building Association members only. It contains information that is as accurate as possible, based upon the information available to NFBA staff and volunteer leadership.
To guarantee confidentiality, Harry Field of The Field Company in Seattle, Wash., collected and tabulated raw data. None of the responses collected by The Field Company or anything that might hint at actual responses, were shared with NFBA staff, volunteer leadership or other persons.
Raw data then were imported to a spreadsheet developed in 2003 to extrapolate an estimate of the size of the entire post-frame market based upon strategies outlined by the NFBA statistics sub-committee.
When we first conducted the survey in 2003, 13 companies reported the amount of roll-formed metal sold specifically for the post-frame industry in dollars ($543 million). Ten companies also reported tons (199,717).
At that time, we had identified 38 companies known to be providing steel cladding for the post-frame industry. Because only about one-third of the survey targets responded and we knew there were a lot of other companies not on the survey target list are providing product, what was returned in the survey was probably much less than one-third of the actual total.
On average, metal cladding constitutes less than one-fifth of the cost of materials of an entire post-frame building — and on larger or more complex projects, it may be significantly lower. Furthermore, at least 15 percent of post-frame buildings do not use metal cladding for the siding, roofing or both. This was taken into account in reaching a composite estimate of the entire post-frame industry of $13.426 billion, but to be more conservative, NFBA announced at that time that post-frame was at least a $12 billion industry.
For the 2008 fiscal year and all years in between, the same procedures were followed. However, along the way we conducted more surveys of builders to refine assumptions about what percentage of a typical building’s total cost was attributable to metal cladding and trim, and we added a number of roll formers to our list of survey targets.
Industry experts report that many small roll forming operations have arisen in the past few years, but the list of those that can be substantiated with physical addresses has only grown from 38 to 41 in that time because of some consolidations.
However, participation in the survey has steadily improved, and we are confident we have identified all of the really large companies involved in the industry. For FY 2008, 20 companies reported combined metal sales of $845 million and 14 companies reported combined sales of 265,982 tons. Using the same formulas to extrapolate the size of the entire post-frame industry in 2008 as we have in the past, we reached an estimate of almost $12 billion, using our most conservative assumptions. Statistics committee members believe there may be many more roll formers out there than our survey accounts for directly. Using other methods to calculate the size of the industry, our estimate approaches $15 billion.
NFBA Supplier Council members noted the state-specific data in the roll former survey is most useful to manufacturers and builders seeking to strategically plan business growth in specific states. It would be especially helpful for component manufacturers seeking new markets to penetrate and for determining how they are doing in specific states relative to the rest of the industry.
The data is tracked in millions of dollars in roll-formed metal sales, from which a percentage of the whole is extrapolated. This gives a good indication of the distribution of post-frame in each state. According to the survey’s results, Indiana had the greatest share of the total metal-clad post-frame market in 2008, at 9.06 percent.
Excel data worksheets were used to arrive at the industry estimates, as well as extrapolations of the number of windows and overhead doors estimated to be sold for post-frame building purposes. Other building components could be estimated in a similar fashion using the spreadsheet, based on data collected.
The survey also focused on questions regarding the percentage of sales that account for various types of projects and common building material dealer distribution channels such as a lumberyard, wholesaler or other outlet.
Because various companies drop in or out of the survey from year to year, the only way to monitor growth on an annual basis is to compare those companies who participate two years in a row. This gives a rough idea of whether the industry grew or declined and by approximately how much.
However, not all companies have provided entirely accurate data and one large company can throw this off balance quite a bit in such a small sample. Some companies may provide sales but not tons and vice-versa, or they may provide incomplete data or instruct Harry Field to refer to the previous year’s data as it is similar to this year’s.
This came into play for estimates of growth for 2008 compared to 2007, as one large company reported a significant drop, while all of the others who provided data specifically for post-frame showed moderate to major increases.
Due to fluctuations in the cost of steel and some shots from the hip in terms of tonnage or dollar amounts specific to post-frame, trying to fine-tune industry growth based on this particular survey has its challenges. Price fluctuations also may skew the estimate of total post-frame sales.
It’s likely that tonnage is a better indication of real growth or contraction of the post-frame market, were it not for the volatility of steel pricing. One can see from Figure 1 that in 2008 it is indicated that the post-frame market increased by slightly less than 1 percent in terms of sales, but by comparing tonnage this survey indicates a decline of slightly more than 6 percent.
Another survey done in the beginning of 2009 asked builders, suppliers and design professionals to compare the year just completed with the previous year, to estimate if the industry had grown or not and by what approximate percentage.
That survey, the Post-Frame Market Growth Survey, indicated the entire industry had declined by 2.3 percent. The roll former survey indicated a 6 percent decrease if one goes by tonnage and less than 1 percent increase if one goes by sales volume; but those figures are not very far apart and 2.3 percent is right in between.
Even if one chooses to use the worst figure, a 6 percent decrease based on tonnage, this is far better than the decline reported from the entire U.S. construction industry of more than 25 percent (with some estimates reportedly well over 35 percent). Post-frame clearly fared far better than the rest of the construction industry in 2008.
If one averages the 6 percent decline in tons and the 1 percent growth indicated by metal sales volume, it’s within a fraction of a percentage of potential margin for error compared to the 2.3 percent decline reported in the Post-Frame Market Growth Survey. This confirms that NFBA’s strategy for both surveys was good and that estimates are conservative and relatively accurate.
Post-frame fares better than the rest of the construction industry in a time of economic decline because of its economy. This should come as no surprise, because the humble “pole building” that pioneered post-frame design was a product of The Great Depression.
Post-frame buildings are also arguably the greenest of green buildings due to their material and erection efficiencies, as well as their long-term energy efficiency. These aspects will work to the industry’s advantage in building new leads during the current economic cycle.
NFBA members may download the 2009 Post-Frame Industry Metal Roll-Forming Industry Survey of FY 2008 data from the “Downloads for Members Only” section of the NFBA web site, www.nfba.org.
Although no one knows exactly what the future holds, of this we may be certain: the post-frame industry holds a great deal of promise. Economists continue to predict a trend of economic recovery before the end of 2010. Although many within the industry will see a decline in sales to their traditional post-frame customers this year, others will adapt and grow into new market niches that offer new opportunities.
NFBA is leading the way by educating key decision makers with its Post-Frame Market Initiative program. Thousands of design professionals who previously never even heard of post-frame are discovering that it is the best option for pretty much any low-rise structure.
For more information, visit www.nfba.org, or call NFBA headquarters at 800-557-6957.