Tuesday, December 13, 2011

During a recent factory tour, the VP of operations paused in front of a wall of employee photos to tell me how his company rewards money-saving ideas. “I got $6,000 last year for mine,” a customer service manager chimed in behind us. It’s not a new idea, but it seems too simple and too good not to do it.

It goes like this:

Install a suggestion box in the break room to solicit money-saving ideas. Once approved and implemented, half of the first year's savings is paid to the employee in cash.  Since 1994 at this particular company, the effort has yielded annual savings of $1,500,000 and payments to employees of $750,000.

You’ve heard it before: the men and women doing the work know best how to get it done efficiently. Moving into another hallway closer to the factory, I noted the rows of bulletin boards showing production output and other stats, current and historical, for all to see—another indicator of an involved workforce.

We donned glasses and ear plugs to enter the plant, and I surveyed the floor and workstations. Tidy and clean. Check. (You should know that I judge new friends and companies by how clean their kitchen and factory floors are.) I was also impressed by how the technicians looked up, gave us a quick nod and smiled. I asked how new machinery and tool selections were made. No surprise: The technicians choose, and thereby “own” the machine and the process.

What excellent glass company was so impressive in the face of fluctuating job scheduling, production crunches, costly lulls and capital investment in a tough economy that requires fresh ideas to stay alive? Not a glass company at all; it was Glass Magazine’s printer, Dartmouth Printing. They even provided the page from their policy manual so I could share it with you as a template. Click here to download The Employee Suggestion Program PDF.

I forgot to ask to see the suggestion box—lunch boxes were waiting—but like the factory floor, I know it is dust-free and primed to give back.

Harris is publisher of Glass Magazine and vice president of publications for the National Glass Association. Write her at

Monday, December 12, 2011

The latest issue of Glass Magazine features a tremendous column by Julie Ruth on the code process. Simply put, everyone should take a few minutes to read it. Thanks to efforts from people like Julie, our industry still has a voice. But she points out that voice could have been silenced and sometimes isn’t as strong as it needs to be. No matter how you feel about the codes or their facilitators (and those who know me, know I have passionate feelings here), they are a major player in our world and will only become more so. The moral here is no matter what vehicle you want to take through the code process (yourself, trade organization, suppliers, collaborative, etc.) it’s important that you do.


  • Another year and another round of the Solutia World of Color Awards. As I noted when this was created, I loved the idea and overall concept. The jury was just announced, and the team at Solutia did a great job identifying some super people. Programs like this and YKK's YouTube video contest are great and positive interest builders for our industry. Props to Aimee Davis and team, and good luck with the contest!
  • And speaking of kudos, I'm also sending them north of the border to Danik Dancause and Matthew Christie on their new promotions at Walker Glass. I have known Danik for awhile, and aside from being the best-dressed guy in our industry, he is an absolute talent. As for Matt, a very sharp guy that I met for the first time at GlassBuild. I can tell you that after we met, he basically figured out that I am nuts. So that alone proves he has brains! Good luck gentlemen.  
  • Who are you taking in the LSU-Alabama game? I just wish there was a playoff in college football. Can you imagine THOSE bracket contests? Wow.
  • For you folks who love architecture, how about this great blog post on 15 architects who changed our world. Really good stuff, even if you just look at only the pictures.
  • Last this week, back to the world of sports. Those of you who may be fans of Indiana University basketball, congrats on the return of your team to national prominence. IU upset #1 Kentucky on Saturday with a buzzer beater and looks to be headed in the right direction.

Read on for links and clip of the week...

The author is founder of Sole Source Consultants, a consulting firm for the building products industry that specializes in marketing, branding, communication strategy and overall reputation management, as well as website and social media, and codes and specifications. E-mail him at

The opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Glass Association, Glass Magazine editors, or other glassblog contributors.

Monday, December 5, 2011

This past February when the president announced his Better Buildings Initiative, it sent a positive jolt through the industry. Fast-forwarding to the present, last Friday brought news of the next step: a presidential memorandum announcing the Better Buildings Challenge. This latest effort features a ton of very powerful companies and a lot of cash from them that really should push things in the right direction. The initiative now has $2 billion to use to upgrade federal buildings, as well as another $2 billion of private money (from those powerful companies I hinted to above) for energy efficiency projects in existing buildings. The improvement of existing buildings is a biggie as it plays into the hot retrofit segment. It also fills the huge hole that we have as a society in the form of older buildings that suck a ton of energy thanks to outdated and underperforming products. Hopefully, this initiative does not get bogged down or stuck in a game of political football. Too much good can come from it.


  • I got painfully lost last week and did not have my GPS. All I can say is the GPS is the greatest invention ever. I will never get into a car without it. Plus, that means I'll never get to do the TV show "The Amazing Race" because I have zero sense of direction.
  • The sale of Southwall to Solutia was formally completed last week. It will be fun to watch how this plays out. There's potential for some great synergy. I'm not sure how it will work, but teaming the likes of the awesome Aimee Davis and Julie Schimmelpenningh of Solutia with top performers like Bruce Lang and Tom Marsh at Southwall creates some insane possibilities.
  • This past Thursday, the U.S. Senate passed the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act that contained an amendment to buy American-made solar products. The Buy American Solar Amendment will ensure that "Buy American" requirements apply to all photovoltaic devices that supply power to Department of Defense property or facilities. This will be big because the Department of Defense will be required to comply with this act. It also closes a previous loophole that amazingly allowed these properties to buy products from foreign entities. This could be a nice boon for the U.S. solar segment and for the folks in the glass industry who are working in it.
  • Just a heads up on some fantastic technical resources available: Glass Magazine has some very helpful pieces available here. All I can say is it never hurts to have the knowledge. The smarter you can be in this competitive landscape, the better.
  • Thank you to all who checked in on my brother on his hospital adventures. He was just released and is now taking the road back to recovery. Slowly but surely he'll be back at it, and hopefully no more issues come up!
  • Normally, this would be in the links section, but this piece was too good. A very interesting read on the great depression, the "banksters" and the guy who brought them to justice. Very ironic as some parts of history really do repeat!
  • Last this week: college football is winding down... and lost amongst the wild weekend of games was my alma mater Ohio U choking at their chance to win the MAC Championship. Brutal. Ohio had a 20-point lead at half, only to lose 23-20 at the gun. Fellow Bobcat and AGC Sales icon Rodger Ruff had to witness the carnage in person. Hopefully he's recovering, because that was painful. 

Read on for links and video of the week...

The author is founder of Sole Source Consultants, a consulting firm for the building products industry that specializes in marketing, branding, communication strategy and overall reputation management, as well as website and social media, and codes and specifications. E-mail him at

The opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Glass Association, Glass Magazine editors, or other glassblog contributors. 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

It's been nearly two years since the National Fenestration Rating Council officially launched its Component Modeling Approach program. NFRC created CMA to make it easier to rate, certify and document U-factor, solar heat gain coefficient and visible transmittance values for nonresidential fenestration.

Today, California's nonresidential building energy codes (Title 24) require the use of CMA, default rating values or simple equations to demonstrate compliance with its fenestration energy requirements.

Unlike NFRC's temporary label for residential products, the CMA program does not label each product. Instead, NFRC lists the certified values for CMA-rated products on a single document for the entire project, called the label certificate. NFRC issued the first label certificate in April 2009 to a research center at Utah State University in Logan.

Since then, NFRC has issued label certificates to projects in more than a dozen states, including K-12 and university buildings, recreation and community centers, residential projects, military buildings, healthcare facilities and even a performing arts center in Las Vegas. We are seeing a notable level of CMA activity in Utah and Washington, particularly in Seattle, among the cities at the forefront of sustainable building.

CMA can be used to rate commercial windows, doors, skylights, curtain wall and storefront. The process to get a label certificate involves just a few steps. First, the design team uses pre-approved, NFRC-rated components (frames, glazing and spacers) to configure a product in the CMA Software Tool (CMAST). After determining the appropriate design reflecting project specifications and local energy codes, CMAST generates energy performance ratings for the whole product. At this point, the ratings aren't certified. To become certified, the party responsible for meeting fenestration energy codes on the project (who we call the specifying authority), has an NFRC-Approved Calculation Entity (ACE) certify the ratings and issue a label certificate to be used for code compliance purposes.

CMA uses NFRC 100 and 200 procedures – required by both ASHRAE 90.1 and the International Energy Conservation Code – to generate U-factor, SHGC and visible transmittance ratings. CMA can also be used for LEED projects, because they require ASHRAE 90.1.

What's next for CMA? Some NFRC members have expressed interest in expanding the program to the residential sector. In response, NFRC recently created a task team to explore the possibility.

The author is CEO of the National Fenestration Rating Council. He has been involved in developing product and performance standards for the window and glass industry for more than 25 years. Write him at