The economic toll of the global COVID-19 pandemic is vast and ongoing. According to Bill Allmond, president of The Adhesive and Sealant Council (ASC), member companies have experienced varying degrees of difficulty, and those difficulties have likely evolved over the course of the crisis. The ASC’s manufacturer members began experiencing the downturn initially in the late first/early second quarter, depending on the end-use sectors they serve. Supplier members then followed, as demand for materials and equipment decreased due to various closures and reduced demand.
“The impact really depends on which markets our members’ products are sold into,” Allmond explains. “For example, packaging, consumer, DIY, hygiene, they’ve all been performing better compared to other markets, such as automotive, building and construction, woodworking.”
Despite the challenges of the first half of the year, market conditions for several of these struggling sectors are showing signs of positive progress. “Even in some of those markets, we’ve seen some improvements over the last month, particularly in building and construction as residential—especially new residential construction—is starting to ramp back up,” says Allmond. “Automotive is starting to come back on line. But still we have a ways to go.”
Though supply chains disruptions were a concern early on, the impact has been limited. “Some of our members did report some continuing delays in raw materials sourcing, particularly over ocean freight from some parts of Asia,” says Allmond. “But inventories were well stocked prior to the pandemic. Those members with operations in Asia saw the pandemic coming and made some necessary inventory adjustments in anticipation of its impact once it reached the U.S., so there was some time to prepare for potential disruptions.”
Communication and Education
In the early days of the pandemic, the ASC considered how it could work to help its members understand the crisis. “Members needed to know what was going on, how they could be responsive, how they could prepare for the current emergency, and how to emerge from it once it starts to die down,” Allmond says. “Members also needed to maintain their focus on their current job responsibilities, such as continuing to take educational courses through ASC’s Training Academy.”
One of the ASC’s first endeavors was the development of a Coronavirus Resource Center, which provides resources to help members find information to help them understand the current status of various issues, as well as steps they might take to help get through the crisis. In addition, the council has held webinars featuring experts on economics, public health, and regulatory issues, and has expanded access to past webinars as well as its Training Academy.
The ASC also developed a new Crisis Recovery Program to assist members that are struggling to meet their commitments due to COVID-19. “As I mentioned, our members reported a lot fewer supply chain disruptions than we expected, but we did create this program in the event where those members had difficulty fulfilling their supply commitments,” Allmond explains. “Members can voluntarily work with them to help them fulfill those demands.”
We’ve all experienced disappointment due to the cancellation and postponement of literally hundreds of industry-related events as the pandemic took hold. A prime example is the 2020 World Adhesive and Sealant Conference (WAC), which was originally planned for April and subsequently moved to 2021. In order to offer an event in the U.S. this year, the ASC developed an Annual Convention & EXPO, to be held in Louisville, Ky., in November. (Editor's note: The ASC has since announced that the event in November will be 100% virtual. Details are available here.)
Allmond reports that the keynotes and other speakers are essentially confirmed, and that exhibitor interest has been strong. Sponsors are also enthusiastic about the event.
“The big question on our mind, and everybody’s mind, is whether this will be a hybrid event, where we have people attend in person November 4-6, or whether it will be all virtual,” says Allmond. “This is a weekly conversation that I’m having with my team, also a regular conversion that I’m having with the ASC board and leadership.”
The ASC has planned for either eventuality. They are working closely with the host hotel, the Omni Louisville, to ensure that safety precautions are in place should it be determined that the event can be held in person. Planning is also ongoing to develop a dynamic virtual conference that will provide myriad education and engagement opportunities, in the event that an in-person meeting is not feasible.
As mentioned, the World Adhesive and Sealant Conference has been rescheduled for 2021, from April 19-21 at the Hilton Chicago in Chicago, Ill. Allmond reports that all of the keynotes and many of the speakers who were originally scheduled for the 2020 event have confirmed their participation for 2021.
“The program will be very similar to what we would have done this year,” he says. “We’ve had strong interest from our sponsors and our exhibitors to coming back next year as well.”
Of course, the duration of the pandemic and the associated safety concerns remain unknown. However, Allmond is cautiously optimistic about the possibility of an in-person WAC2021.
“All of it rests on how well we do as a society here and around the world to keep the pandemic low and increase everyone’s confidence in getting on an airplane and getting into a group of people once again,” Allmond says. “We’re excited about the opportunity to host the conference, and we’re very hopeful that we’ll be in a much better place in April of next year.”