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LBM Technology - Opportunities & Outlook

Building materials guru Craig Webb and acelab discuss a broad range of topics including effects of the pandemic; M&A and dealer consolidation; time-saving technologies; the value distribution offers to architects, and opportunities for improvement; and a peek into Craig's crystal ball.

Matt Samson

It's always enjoyable to catch up with Craig Webb. Craig is president of Webb Analytics and one of the nation’s leading experts on building material dealers and distributors. He spent 12 years as editor-in-chief of ProSales, the nation’s most honored publication for building material dealers, as well as five years as editor-in-chief of Remodeling magazine.

While daunting to interview someone with professional roots as a reporter and publisher, acelab's CRO Matt Samson found the challenge well worth it to learn from Craig's acute industry pulse and fresh insight. We covered a broad range of topics in a relatively quick cadence, including both positive and negative effects of the pandemic; M&A and dealer consolidation; time-saving technologies; the value distribution offers to architects, and opportunities for improvement; and a peek into Craig's crystal ball at what dealers could look like in 10-15 years.

Here are our key takeaways, and you can see the full conversation in the video below.

  • Covid elicited “shock and awe” on the building industry in 2020. While challenges with the supply chain and elsewhere were significant, the industry stepped up and digitally accelerated 5-10 years in areas like communication, billing, and meetings. It may have taken a significant disruption like Covid-19 to drive these changes, but they significantly raised customer experience and expectations and are therefore here to stay.
  • While there were fewer enterprise transactions in 2020, some (like BFS, BMC, US LBM) were formidable and will have a significant impact on the industry. 2021 acquisitions are already off to an active start in both the manufacturer and dealer segments.
  • Much of the tech advancement we are seeing from lumberyards and specialty dealers is aimed at improving the customer’s efficiency, both at the jobsite and in the office. From e-commerce to inventory checks to ordering confirmations and delivery tracking, they are aimed at preserving the builder and contractor’s greatest asset: Time.
  • Best-in-class examples of innovation include concepts borrowed from the manufacturing world’s relentless focus on quality control and efficiency. Craig’s anecdotes around NASCAR pit stops and Amazon’s frictionless experience are both entertaining and ring true to the high level of customer service required by today’s lumberyard.
  • The most sophisticated distributors are also analyzing data more and more and demonstrating strong financial acumen.  And they are considering how to leverage their financial and operational strengths to capitalize on the modular construction trend.
  • There is currently not a strong synergy between dealers and architects. While the former serves as a conduit between architects and manufacturers and offers requisite expertise around products and building codes, the knowledge sharing is done mostly in an analog manner and needs to be more productive for both sides.

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Full interview:

buildingmaterialsbuildingproductsbuildingproductsourcingarchitectaiaconstructionconstructioninnovationconstructiontechdesigndesignbuildtechnologydigitaltransformationdigitizingconstructionwebbanalyticsspecacelab`craigwebbbmcbfsbuildersfirstsourcelbmuslbm