2020 has been a challenging year for all of us. At Reliance Foundry, we know our challenges have not been like those people working in the public. We have been awed by and grateful for all the phenomenal strength and commitment of first responders and essential workers.
Those of us that could began working from home in the spring, turning dens, living rooms, and kitchen tables into home offices. Colleagues still going into work have negotiated social distancing and masks without complaint. We’ve heard that many of our customers are being challenged by the change of pace, as projects have slowed or gone on hold.
Yet amid all the change and uncertainty, we discovered that we were more adaptable than we’d known. With some facilitation and experimentation, we pulled together, tightened belts, and made do. Our HR director and leadership managed to keep up morale with pre-recorded videos, online social chats and games, and the occasional all-in video party. We brought new team members in over Zoom, launched new product lines, innovated into smart-cities lines, offered remote demos, and settled into a new way of working.
We certainly hope that 2021 will bring a new, less anxious normalcy. Yet we’ve gained some gems in the tough times, and some of the things we’ve learned along the way will follow us as the post-Covid world restarts.
At this time of year, we take a moment to reflect on our standout trends, and imagine where we’re going in 2021!
Fastest growing line: crash-rated bollards
We introduced crash-rated bollards in April, and they’ve been a hit (pun intended). Our top seller in this line is the R-1009-04, which is the equivalent to the DOD rating of K4 security pipe.
The 04 is rated to stop a midsize, 15,000-pound truck, moving at 30 miles per hour, within 3 feet.
The R-1009-04 comes with a removable model so that a perimeter can be secured while still allowing for authorized access by vehicle. Large stadiums and other venues have peace of mind with removable crash-rated bollards. Trucks can be allowed into the perimeter to bring supplies—but by show time, the fans will be fully protected with a rated, secure perimeter.
Best seller: stainless steel bollard covers
R-7301 Bollard Stats:
Height: 36 in
Body Diameter: 6-1/4 in
Base Diameter: 6-1/4 in
Weight: 25 lbs
Material: 316 Stainless
Finish: Satin #6 Buffed
Max. Inner Pipe Diameter: 4-1/2 in
Max. Inner Pipe Height: 34 in
Stainless steel is the metal of the moment. Raw, it’s got a beautiful silver-gray luster that matches many modern styles. It has the strength of steel, but with added chromium, it’s got inbuilt corrosion protection. For chemically challenging environments in which bollards are exposed to high salt or other chemicals, a powder coat or IronArmor finish over stainless steel offers double the protection.
Our stainless steel covers are popular because they add an attractive look to security posts and crash rated bollards. This cover, for more slender security pipe, is often placed indoors, around utilities, or in parking lots. It’s too small for our crash-rated line, which are installed in places that might experience direct vehicle attack.
Top decorative styles: the R-7539 (Classic) vs. the R-7576 (modern)
R-7539 Bollard Stats: Height: 35-3/4 in Body Diameter: 5-3/4 in Base Diameter: 5-3/4 in Weight: 75 lbs Material: Ductile Iron Max. Inner Pipe Diameter: 4-1/2 in Max. Inner Pipe Height: 31 in
Every year, our R-7539 classic pawn-styled bollard is a top seller. It’s a stylish bollard with both old-world quality and design. Like our line of cannon bollards, pawn-style bollards are often matched with red brick edifices or neo-classical design.
However, 2020 was a year where institutional budgets were curtailed. Large cannon bollards and the smaller pawns took a back seat. Commercial construction projects already in process continued.
Our residential and commercial customers often choose a modern-style bollard. This year, the R-7576 was the top seller in decorative, by a wider margin than any year before. In the past, we’ve seen this family of bollards gaining popularity, but this is the first year any single one stood out as our best seller.
Yet the classic pawn, for all the headwinds of the year, held on to #2 in decorative/architectural.
Best bike parking: bike lockers—for the second year in a row!
In 2018, we predicted that bike lockers might be a future breakout winner in bike parking, after seeing it trending upward in California. Not only did that prediction come true in 2019, we see the bike locker’s functionality and security winning it top spot in our bike parking line for a second year. Of course, to compare the bike locker with bike racks is a bit unfair, since they’re used for different purposes. Bike racks are generally used for parking of less than two hours; lockers are the stash-and-go solution for long days and lots of gear.
Best hardscape: detectable warning plates
Detectable warning plates are bought in modules that click together easy during install. In this way it is difficult to call out any one piece and call it the best seller. Still, in hardscape, this was the overall standout product, suggesting that accessibility is a top priority for many municipalities and facilities. (Check out our post on the invention of detectable warning plates, originally called ‘tenji blocks.’)
How’d we do predicting 2020?
In 2019 we noted some growing trends that we thought might grow in 2020. How’d we do?
Our hardscape line was new to us last year, and so we’d gambled on the prediction that our Greek Key trench drain would be a popular seller based on our love of the design. It turns out that customers preferred our Tidal Wave trench! This style is a lovely design that captures the feel of flowing water, and is therefore apropos for trench drain, and we have no trouble seeing why it was the most popular. (We still love the Greek Keys though…)
We’d noticed a growing trend in black powder coat on bike racks, but that reversed somewhat this past year, with stainless selling more strongly. Some of this seems to be where the bike racks are going in: cities with a lot of red brick still love a black accessory.
Our predictions were that our plain columnar bollard line would see continued interest and growth. This proved true; our top sellers are all very simple styles. Modern architectural styles dictate some of that choice. However, in 2020, some of our customers may be making simple choices due to a constrained budget. Fortunately, bollard covers are easy to upgrade!
Looking forward into 2021
We are excited to be moving confidently into our mandate of “making places people want to be.”
We are very excited to introduce our Smart Cities line, and to help develop innovative uses to help cities function easily and optimally. With our innovative Levaware and Audiotrace IoT systems, municipalities can solve issues before they turn into emergencies. Levaware attaches to traditional castings, bridges, or other infrastructure, to watch water, trash, or snow levels rising. When thresholds are passed, the system sends notice to city works. Our Audiotrace systems can monitor noise for bylaw infraction, providing an audio trail to help manage complaints. It’s especially useful near construction and pile-driving, or large public venues. Our prototypes have been tested locally, and after their successful implementation, we are looking forward to making these products more widely available.
We are hoping 2021 will offer widespread economic turnaround after the tough times of the past year. We suspect municipal projects will be a necessary part of that revitalization. We are ready with our more traditional cast products, like our cannon and pawn bollards, and our more modern lines in steel or stainless.
Bike lanes may get some love in municipalities this year. Many people converted to cycling during Covid, and enjoyed the additional exercise benefits they got through that form of transportation. Our tough flexible bollards are a safe choice—they don’t rip off quickly like traditional polyethylene delineators—but we are also preparing to offer narrow and heavy planters, to allow cities to easier create separated bike spaces.
We’re also excited to be working on new site furnishings line. We’ve started with benches and bins. We’re happy to source or create furnishings to help our customers have an easy, one-stop-shop experience.
By 2022 we hope also to have an easy online cart for our clients (though we certainly hope we’ll still get to talk to our customers occasionally!)
Happy New Year, Everyone –
All the best for 2021!