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Is There a Paint Shortage in the US?

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 2, 2022

By Emily Newton


Construction materials have become increasingly harder and more expensive to obtain. Costs have risen by as much as 11.3% year over year in some areas, raising questions about where these price hikes come from. Growing signs of a widespread paint shortage in the U.S. offer an explanation.

Paint isn’t the sole material seeing rising prices, but it’s experiencing some of the most dramatic shifts. If the industry wants to overcome some of its current challenges, it must first understand issues like the paint shortage and how it came to be.

Effects of the Paint Shortage in the US

PPG Industries and Sherwin-Williams, two of the world’s most notable paint producers, have reported difficulties producing enough paint to meet demand. In late 2021, PPG executives said they could not fill all their orders, and Sherwin-Williams cited raw material costs rising by 20% or more.

Goodboy Picture Company

Paint isn’t the sole material seeing rising prices, but it’s experiencing some of the most dramatic shifts.

These shortages have had far-reaching effects throughout consumer and commercial markets. Even government bodies have struggled to complete projects in the face of strained paint supplies. The Iowa Department of Transportation had to rethink its approach to painting roads, as shortages kept it from getting enough paint to redo lines in every district.

Similar stories of projects having to adapt or pause have risen across the country. As companies and consumers alike find it difficult to get the paint they need, it could raise project costs, extend timelines and further disrupt operations.

Why Is There a Paint Shortage?

The paint shortage in the U.S. is an undeniable challenge for construction and infrastructure projects. Organizations that hope to overcome this obstacle and prevent similar situations in the future must first look at its causes. Like many other material shortages today, it stems from a mix of related issues.

Unexpected Demand Spikes

Part of the paint shortage comes from an unexpected and unprecedented rise in demand. Sales spiked in the spring and early summer of 2020, peaking at $1.34 billion in July as lockdowns encouraged people to take on home improvement projects. Similar spikes have occurred since, reaching $1.42 billion in June 2021 and $1.49 billion in May 2022.

Construction delays likely also play into demand spikes in the commercial market. After months of inactivity during initial COVID-19 lockdowns, construction firms emerged with substantial backlogs. Skyrocketing demand from a booming housing market and new government infrastructure projects compounded the issue.

These trends left paint companies with a surge in demand they couldn’t have reasonably predicted. Meeting this need with little preparation time proved challenging, resulting in delays and shortages that still affect companies today.

Supply Shortages

Paint manufacturers that rushed to meet this uptick in orders encountered supply issues. A combination of natural events like unexpectedly cold winters and disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic have made it difficult to get the raw materials to produce paint. Just as construction teams struggle to get paints, producers struggle to get materials like resins and dyes.

These shortages are more impactful given the precision these manufacturers require. Producing consistent colors is delicate work, requiring accurate volumetric filling machines and highly specific material levels. Any variation in dyes will create a different color.

Consequently, as these raw materials become harder to obtain, paint manufacturers can’t adapt by stretching them thinner. Providing consistent quality levels and colors means using the same amount, so these shortages directly impact paint supply.

Logistics Complications

Issues in the logistics part of the supply chain also play a role in the paint shortage. General backlogs and delays have congested ports, making it difficult to move anything across international borders.

Labor challenges introduce further obstacles. A nationwide lack of qualified truck drivers hinders getting products to consumers as available truckers have busier schedules. Without more truckers, companies may have to wait for logistics providers to be able to move their inventory.

These transportation issues mean that even if manufacturers produce more of a product, it can take time to reach shelves. As a result, backlogs can pile up and shortages persist.

Potential Remediation Solutions

With all these issues exacerbating each other, current shortages will likely persist into the coming year. Teams working on projects with high paint demands should consider this when planning. Setting aside more time for completion and seeing if there are ways to use less paint may be necessary to avoid compounding the shortage.

Paint manufacturers can restructure their supply chains to prevent similar situations in the future. Nearshoring and distributed sourcing can help provide more resiliency if a material shortage arises at one or two locations. Increasing safety stocks and embracing demand forecasting can also help.

The Paint Shortage is Pressing, but Won’t Last Forever

The paint shortage in the U.S. is a real issue construction firms and similar businesses must account for. However, if the industry can learn from this situation and adapt, it can prevent shortages of the same magnitude in the future.

For now, anyone using paint for large-scale projects can expect higher prices, fewer options and longer delays. As these issues dissolve over the next few years, it’s important to adapt to and remember the shortage to build a more resilient industry.

ABOUT THE BLOGGER

Emily Newton

Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized, a magazine exploring innovations in science and industry that shares ideas to promote a better tomorrow. She regularly covers trends in the industrial sector. In addition to her work with Revolutionized, Newton is also a contributing author for loT Times and the International Society of Automation. Newton also provides science and tech insights at BBN Times. For more information please visit connect with Newton on LinkedIn or contact her at https://emilyjnewton.com/.

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Tagged categories: Asia Pacific; Coatings systems; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); High-performance coatings; Latin America; North America; Pigments; Polymers; Z-Continents; Coating Materials; Economy; Paint; Painters; Painting Contractors

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