An Interview with Brittany Coffee
In 2020, companies were forced to reset in ways that allowed them to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, as the world opened up again, many Americans thought U.S. companies would return to pre-pandemic norms. But as any contractor can tell you, 2021 was anything but business as usual. This building supplies leader manufactures innovative products for interior and exterior framing, interior and exterior finishing, floor and roof framing, as well as clips, connectors, metal lath, welded wire, barrier mesh, and accessories. As a manufacturer working with both cold-formed steel framing and drywall/plastering finishing systems, ClarkDietrich has found itself dealing with new and persistent challenges.
Metro recently talked with Brittany Coffee, Regional Sales Director, to discuss how ClarkDietrich handles supply chain challenges and why this company continues to lead the industry.
More Than Just a Manufacturer
Formed in 2011 through the combination of two established market leaders—ClarkWestern Building Systems and Dietrich Metal Framing— this company values the relationship at all points in the building process. Coffee explains, “It started as a very small company. And it still has that feel, although we now employ over 1,000 people. It continues to have a family business atmosphere. I’ve worked for a few different companies, but this truly is the first company that I’ve worked for that that really lives by the company values. The people on the ClarkDietrich team are champions of truly doing things the right way.”
To meet higher performance specifications, it often partners with teams of architects, engineers, building developers and owners, contractors, and more on projects of all sizes, scopes, and complexity. These collaborations are key in developing smarter installation and design.
“Our most appealing benefit,” Coffee notes, “is that we focus on innovating labor-saving products. Virtually every new product we introduce is designed to help contractors complete the job as efficiently as possible. This approach really ties into ClarkDietrich’s commitment to work-life balance. What the company delivers to contractors is more time so that they can go home on schedule. Work-life balance is one of our core values.”
Coffee adds, “Once you consider that ClarkDietrich products are certified code compliant through many agencies including the ICC Evaluation Service, Underwriter’s Laboratories (UL), and Intertek, that’s definitely something that makes our company stand apart. Yes, we’re the biggest, but it’s also critical to have third-party code compliance. Codes are obviously very important in commercial building.”
ClarkDietrich recently expanded its Blazeframe® family. In this line of joint or fire joint protection products, intumescent strips are affixed to steel profiles to provide firestops seals for dynamic and static joints. These products eliminate the need to apply caulks or sealants, so they naturally contribute to social distancing by requiring fewer people on-site at any given time.
“And we’ve retested and relaunched some of our backing products, including Danback®,” Coffee emphasizes, “Danback transforms a two-person job into a one-man job, making it easier to social distance.” In addition, Danback can reduce steel stud backing installation time by up to 90 percent by eliminating cutting, notching, ripping, and routing.
“We’re always adding and expanding our offerings,” she summarizes. “ClarkDietrich continually explores ways to provide better performance and easier, quicker installation.”
Committed to Keeping Promises, Even During a Pandemic
“The global supply chain shortage is no secret to anyone who reads or watches anything at this point. And we ran into the exact same thing on the steel side,” she says. “There was no way for us to anticipate these shortages, but our raw steel costs went up over 300 percent.”
But Coffee is deservedly proud of the way ClarkDietrich handled the supplier price spikes. “When pricing shot up, we easily could have just raised everyone’s price and not helped anyone. We could have walked away from commitments and probably had an excuse to do it,” she continues. “But that was not the way ClarkDietrich does business. The way we handled the price hike has really set us apart from the rest of the pack. We delivered on any commitments that I made, or my team made, verbally or in writing. As financially painful as it was, this company did not walk away from any existing commitments.”
Changing Times Mean Changing Expectations for Commercial Construction
“What we’ve all experienced over the past year is unlike anything we’ve ever seen in the history of the metal framing industry,” Coffee notes. “So I recommend staying in touch with your local building supplies representative at Metro for the most up-to-date information. Pricing and availability are always changing. ClarkDietrich used to be able to turn products around in a day or two. But now our lead times can be as long as a month. Stay in touch with your Metro rep because the situation could change at any time.”
The ClarkDietrich Relationship with Metro Interior Distributors
ClarkDietrich has a close working relationship with Metro Interior Distributors. “Matt is very accessible,” Coffee emphasizes. “He’s very down to earth. And he just has a really special sense of humor. So anytime any of us get calls from Matt, we want to take them because he always makes us laugh.”
“We’ve known the guys at Metro for a lot of years, and they are an important distributor for us,” Coffee notes. “I met Matt and Frank years ago. They’re run like a family business, so it’s much easier to work with them. Companies like them are few and far between.”