GlassBuild America 2016: Growing Toward the Future

By Katy Devlin, with reporting from Bethany Stough and Wendy Vardaman; Photos by Robb D. Cohen Photography & Video
December 4, 2016
COMMERCIAL, RETAIL, FABRICATION : TRENDS

TOTAL REGISTRANTS: 8,726

The glass industry dates back centuries, with many companies touting generations of history. However, the industry on display at the 2016 GlassBuild America: The Glass, Window & Door Expo had its sights firmly set on the future. Taking center stage in Las Vegas, Oct. 19-21, was an industry that is ambitious, innovative and optimistic; one that is expanding, investing and evolving to serve a quickly changing market. “There is great history in this industry,” says Laura Biason, director of GIMAV, the Italian Association of Glass Processing Machinery and Accessory Suppliers, which hosted the Italian Pavilion at Glass- Build. “There are many companies [for whom] the glass tradition is millennial. Even among those companies, their approach is innovation. They bring their long tradition and passion to glass together with cutting-edge technology.”

The latest developments of the accelerating and evolving glass and glazing took center stage during GlassBuild over 147,290 total net square feet of exhibit space. About 440 exhibitors, including 154 international companies and 107 first-time exhibitors, displayed the latest advancements of the industry— from automated machinery and equipment to high-tech software and apps, and from next-generation glasses to higher-performing systems and hardware.

TOTAL EXHIBITORS: 438

“The economy is good, but competition is fierce. In order to survive, manufacturers and their customers have to evolve and innovate,” says Lars Knudsen, managing director, Rolltech. “Those that do survive, and those that don’t fail.”

Popular on the show floor were innovations that address the industry’s ongoing labor shortage. With fewer skilled employees to work factories and jobsites, machinery and equipment suppliers are developing systems that maximize automation and minimize worker handling.

“Our innovation is finally coming into fruition,” says Jay Campbell, glass solutions specialist for Billco Manufacturing. “It’s exciting to have new products. Companies are buying now. They want new machinery. We are working to make the best machines that meet our customers’ needs at a cost they can afford.”

End products are also changing. Customers want more custom options and decorative possibilities. Officials from Dip-Tech, for example, say the company is working to demonstrate how glass can be used in lieu of other building products. “Glass can replace lots of surfaces— marble, stone. It’s an opportunity for the designers. We are developing our products to replicate more surfaces to use glass instead,” says Shirley Segev, corporate marketing manager.

Customers also want multi-purpose, better-performing products, a trend that will continue to grow, says Cevin Moberly, product manager at CMS North America. “I anticipate the industry will see lots of new projects involving ‘mashups,’ for example glass mixed with ceramics, changing the properties of both. The future is full of hybrid products,” Moberly says. “Adapting to change is critical to survival.”

HOURS OF EDUCATION: 14.25

Industry growth

In addition to innovation, the show also highlighted the industry’s strength and growth. After years of more tentative growth following the recession, companies are investing and expanding, according to exhibitors.

“The economy is rolling. Buildings are being built, people are buying,” says Frank Metelmann, president of Decon. “We can sell product, because there are more than enough projects out there.”

“Capitalization is always the last to make a comeback. The traffic at this show is evidence that the market has come back, and companies have really responded with investments in new capital equipment,” says Bill Briese, engineering manager, GED Integrated Solutions.

“Five to 10 years ago, customers were focused on keeping their doors open and investments were out of the question,” says Pete deGorter, vice president of DeGorter Inc. “Most conversations, whether for equipment or supplies, were focused solely around price. This sentiment has [receded] during the last two to four years. The strongest survived and were well positioned for growth with lean balance sheets. … Companies are looking to grow sales. … Price is no longer the determining factor, and I see a returning to the mindset of quality and reliability first.”

Most exhibitors report they are confident that growth will continue for the near future, despite some concerns about the state of the market after the election. “We expect to see two years positive growth, even after the election,” says Decon’s Metelmann.

“People are spending money. There is some fear about the election, but the economy is great. We [were] ambushed at the show. A lot of people [were there] and looking to buy,” says Michael Frett, sales director of MyGlassTruck.

“We’re in a market that is allowing growth. It’s a fun environment because everyone is doing well, but no one knows when it will change. We just have to keep innovating, keep pushing,” says Jon Close, vice president of sales for Linetec.

To meet growing demand, many companies are expanding to increase capacity.

Linetec officials say the company added 200 employees in 24 months—an increase of 50 percent—and added capacity for anodize and paint lines, to keep up with demand. Officials from JLM Wholesale say the company is expanding its Texas branch, and officials from Haffner say the company opened a North American branch in Dallas. Other companies announcing expansions include Wood's Powr-Grip Co., which is expanding its facility and hiring additional employees; and AmesburyTruth, which announced plans to construct a center of excellence manufacturing facility in North Carolina.

“We’re expanding our footprint and investing in infrastructure because there is projected growth,” says Mike McCann, AmesburyTruth’s senior vice president of sales and marketing. “We have optimistic customers, and we are optimistic for 2017.”

GlassBuild America is presented by the National Glass Association, and the Window & Door Dealers Alliance, along with association sponsors, the American Architectural Manufacturers Association, the Glass Association of North America, and the Insulating Glass Manufactures Alliance. GlassBuild America 2017 will return to Atlanta, Sept. 12-14, at the Georgia World Congress Center.

NEWS FROM THE SHOW

NGA Relaunches MyGlassClass.com

During GlassBuild, the National Glass Association announced the relaunch of the new MyGlassClass.com, an interactive and easy-to-use online training resource featuring updated course content designed to help companies train their workforces and “tame the worry beast.” To learn more, visit MyGlassClass.com.

Legacy Exhibitor Award Winners

The first-ever Legacy Exhibitor Awards were presented Oct. 19 to eight exhibiting companies in recognition of their more than two decades of continuing tradeshow participation and support. The NGA\WDDA board of directors, select staff members and drummers from the Clark Chargers Marching Band from Clark High School in Las Vegas led a celebratory procession through the tradeshow floor to present each company with its award.

The Legacy Exhibitor Award Winners include: Billco Manufacturing; C.R. Laurence Co./ U.S. Aluminum, crlaurence.com, crl-arch.com; JLM Wholesale Inc.; Palmer Mirro-Mastic; Salem Flat Glass & Mirror; Select Hinges; Sprayway Inc.; Wood's Powr-Grip Co.

Best in Show 2016 Winners

At GlassBuild America in Las Vegas, six companies were honored with recognition of “Best in Show” for their overall exhibit presence. An anonymous panel of industry participants representing every aspect of the glass, window and door industries served as judges. The judges viewed the exhibits in the normal course of their show experience. The winners for 2016 are:

GANA to Pair Fall Conference with GlassBuild America 2017

Officials from the National Glass Association and the Glass Association of North America announced a new collaboration that brings the GANA Fall Conference to GlassBuild America, Sept. 12-14, 2017, in Atlanta.

“GANA and NGA have a common goal to increase learning and business opportunities for our respective members and attendees,” said Nicole Harris, NGA president & CEO. “GANA has been an association sponsor of GlassBuild America since its inception and we’re pleased to have them host their fall conference with us in 2017.”

“Moving our fall conference into a larger industry gathering such as GlassBuild America allows us to share the important technical resource work we do with the entire supply chain,” said GANA Board President Stanley Yee, Dow Corning. "We look forward to adding value to the industry through this new collaboration.”

2017 FORECAST

ECONOMIST KEN SIMONSON FORECASTS GROWTH, ADDRESSES LABOR CONCERNS

Total nonresidential construction is expected to continue to grow through at least 2017, according to Ken Simonson, chief economist for the Associated General Contractors of America. Simonson spoke Oct. 19 at the Glazing Executives Forum during GlassBuild America: The Glass, Window & Door Expo in Las Vegas.

Nonresidential construction spending, which increased 5 percent in 2015, is expected to finish out 2016 up 5 to 8 percent year-over-year. Simonson says he expects growth in the segment to range between 2 and 6 percent in 2017.

“What we hear from contractors is that things are on track, and they expect to stay busy through 2017,” said Simonson to the group of more than 160 attendees. “For 2017, we think we will continue to see growth, though it is likely to taper off.”

Within the nonresidential category, the commercial segment (retail, warehouse and farm) is expected to increase 7 to 10 percent in 2016, and is forecast to increase at a slightly slower 0-to-5 percent rate in 2017, according to Simonson. Office construction, which saw 18 percent gains in 2014 and 22 percent gains in 2015, is expected to finish out 2016 strong as well, with 19 to 22 percent increases in spending. The segment will continue to see growth in 2017, though at a more tempered rate—5 to 10 percent, he said.

“The office segment is up 22 percent in the first half of this year,” Simonson said. “We're still hearing major announcements about new buildings, and this will continue through 2017. However, it’s different than what it was before the recession. We’re not seeing office parks, but more building happening in downtown areas.”

The institutional categories—education and health care—have witnessed several years of slow to moderate growth. This will continue into 2017, Simonson says. Educational construction spending will close out 2016 with 3 to 6 percent gains, and will see 2 to 5 percent increases in 2017. Heath care, which is expected to see gains of just 0 to 3 percent in 2016, will increase an estimated 3 to 8 percent in 2017, he says.

While the construction market will continue to enjoy growth in the coming year, Simonson warns that labor will continue to be a challenge for companies. During 2009 and 2010, the construction industry saw 1.5 million jobless claims. Today, the number is about 500,000. “This is at its lowest level,” Simonson said. “If someone says they are out of work and looking for work, there is a reason a construction firm hasn’t hired them, because they need workers. … Companies are having to keep jobs posted longer. And, while the industry is hiring people, the people they are hiring are not experienced construction workers.”

Along with hiring challenges, construction firms should also brace for increasing labor costs. Wages are increasing at a 2.6 percent annual rate. “We continue to see that average level of pay go up,” Simonson said. Pay increases are even higher for experienced workers. “If we narrow the average pay increase to people with the experience level that you want, you’ll see much higher total compensation,” he said.

Simonson also noted changing material costs, which could pose challenges for some glazing contractors. Glass costs are increasing, with prices steadily rising at about a four percent annual rate. However, aluminum costs have stabilized.