glassblog

Monday, June 25, 2012

Tough times persist for those in the construction industry, with the Associated General Contractors of America reporting 27 states and Washington, D.C., lost construction jobs in May, more than at any point since June 2011.

And while the glass industry continues to experience job losses of its own--within the past two years, at least six contract glaziers have closed their doors--there is some encouraging news on the employment front. 

According to Glass Magazine's Top 50 Glaziers annual survey, glaziers began adding to their workforces in 2011, with 62 percent of respondents reporting an increase in employees from 2010. This is in stark contrast to the previous year, when the majority of respondents reported a decrease in their workforce. 

It might be too early to label this an "upward trend," and the Top 50 Glazier statistics do not include employment figures for those firms that went out of business. But, it does mark the second year in a row in which employment stats among the Top 50 Glaziers moved in a positive direction, and that's a start.

Chase is editorial director of Glass Magazine, GlassMagazine.com and e-glass weekly. Write her at jchase@glass.org.

Monday, June 25, 2012

I am starting off with a non-industry topic this week because it really shook me up. It is the insanely depressing video of a 68-year-old bus monitor being verbally abused by the middle school-aged kids on her bus. The whole entire scene was hard to watch and stomach. Quite frankly, it scares me as a father and worries me that my children are headed into a world with these kids as their “peers.” Meanwhile, the video has gone viral, and many people are stepping up to show appreciation for the woman who took this abuse. But it has also brought out even more crazies sending death threats to anyone associated with the school. So this thing continues to mushroom, and I guess we know where these kids get it.

But back to the original sin here: the vulgar treatment of the bus monitor, who by the way has been a picture of class and grace in the days following. Those kids are the future, and at 12+ years old they are way off the right path. This wasn’t some “kids being kids” sort of approach in my mind. This was off the charts. The respect level is non-existent, and that is a core value that is gone. This is lax parenting and too much of the negative ills in our society showing in full bloom. These children are the same age as my kids, and I would be devastated and mortified if my kids would take part in this. I would hope my wife and I have taught and raised them better. We can only hope that with this going on all over the world right now that a lesson can be learned.

Elsewhere…

  • If the above wasn’t depressing enough, last week in the glass and glazing world surely was. The latest Architecture Billings Index came out, and it was horrible. But worse than the numbers was the comment from Kermit Baker, AIA's chief economist: "For the second year in a row, we're seeing declines in springtime design activity after a healthy first quarter," he said. "This should be an alarm bell going off for the design and construction industry. ... The commercial/industrial sector is the only one recording gains in design activity at present. And even this sector has slowed significantly. Construction forecasters will have to reassess what conditions will look like moving forward.” That quote is worrisome, especially the end. I don’t think these construction forecasters have a clue really. Sometimes, I think they create these numbers from thin air to give me something to blog about. Anyway, we’ll see how this progresses. The first milestones to really watch are next spring. That is the stretch where the ABI was connected to when it ran positive for several months.
  • What else was bad this week? The other tracking measurement we use, the new Dodge Momentum Index, came down as well, off 1.2 percent from April. The latest construction material and construction employment reports both went down as well.  Oh, and while we’re lamenting the week, it ends with a report that we are now at the lowest rate of homeownership in 15 years.
  • And while we are at it, China warned that it was running out of its rare earth materials, a scary announcement for our glass and mirror makers, especially since I think that it’s a way for the Chinese government to revitalize its economy by limiting supply and thus raising prices. (Did I just write a sentence that said the Chinese government would promote higher prices? What is happening to me? I have no issue at all with raising prices, I do take issues with artificial shortages.) So while I seriously doubt they are running out, this “news” has the potential to disrupt our world while the posturing goes on.
  • And lets grab some salt for the wounds. We also had another glazier go bankrupt, and it won’t be the last, unfortunately. And speaking of bankruptcy, we just passed the year anniversary of Vitro America’s bankruptcy sale finalization. There’s surely a lot to say on that one, but I’ll refrain other than to say it sure has been an interesting 12 months. Hopefully, next week gets better.
  • Last this week, congrats to my good friend Manny and all of the Miami Heat fans. (And for some who hate LeBron and the Heat this could be considered part of the “bad week” mentioned above!)

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 MaxP@SoleSourceConsultants.com.

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.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Very interesting study released by PPG Industries at the end of last week. They commissioned a study of architects, and it covered a wide range of subjects. The headline piece was that the architects surveyed expect building integrated clean energy sources to increase. However, I think that is a folly somewhat. I think most architects want to do the right thing, but in the end simply can’t because of costs, supply, sources, etc. If, however, this can happen, and architects are able to get these net zero style products in the specifications (and through the value engineering built to knock them out), we’ll surely be on a great path. Long way to go, though.

There was one other item from the study that truly stunned me too. PPG actually finished 5th in name recognition. Maybe it’s because I grew up in Pittsburgh, or maybe it’s my respect for such wonderful PPG folks like Keith Pettigrew, Jan Rogan, Glenn Miner, and so on that I always thought they would be one or two. But, in this survey they trail USG, Armstrong, Kawneer, and CertainTeed. Kawneer I could see, the others, since they are out my world, were major surprises. Nonetheless, an intriguing read.

Elsewhere....

  • Hope everyone had a great Father’s Day. A favorite part of this industry is how many fathers and sons are in it together, so this holiday really means a ton in our world.
  • Heard through the grapevine that NeoCon, the big decorative show was solid, but not spectacular. Guardian really made a heck of an impression with a big social media push that led to good crowds at their booth. No doubt those guys have really committed to using the online world to help drive business/awareness. Also from the show, I was sent pictures of the GGI booth, and it looked impressive, and otherwise was able to keep up on the rest of the goings on thanks to the excellent twitter feed of ICD Coatings’ Steve O’Hollaren (@SteveO_ICD).
  • Want to know a frustrating scammy sort of deal? I was due an upgrade on my phone, so I went in and got a new one. All was fine. Got the new phone and life was peachy. But then my bill came and I saw this $30 charge for an “upgrade fee,” something no one had told me. Evidently it’s a legit charge in their minds, but pretty dastardly and wrong if you ask me.
  • Looked like some serious work got done, as always, at the recent IGMA meetings. I love the focus on the NREL testing and thermal stress piece. To me all of the technical work done there has some serious importance in our world and everyone who isn’t attending and involved should be happy that those who are there are looking out for our best interests.
  • Last this week, thanks to friend of the blog and very happy Kings fan Joe Carlos of TriView Glass. These are giant portraits printed on grass. Not glass, but GRASS. Crazy..

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 MaxP@SoleSourceConsultants.com.

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, June 11, 2012

The news that LEED version 2012 will be delayed for rework did not surprise me in the least. I have been on the side of hammering LEED for a while now, and have not been alone in that opinion, and now it’s obvious that the folks behind this green rating system realized they needed to get some things in order. Hopefully this next generation of LEED, to be named LEED v4, will be a better program for all. From our industry perspective there’s still a ton of confusion about what variation of LEED we are actually on. Every day I see requests come over that range from early versions to things that I don’t know even exist. When that continually happens, you know there’s some serious disconnects. And that does not include the holes in LEED, as it is. Anyway, its good things are being addressed; let’s hope this additional time brings improvements.

By the way, the best chance you have to get into a serious understanding of LEED 2012 (v4) is at the Glazing Executive Forum with the excellent Paul Nutcher presenting. Seriously, a must attend.

Elsewhere…

  • Got my issue of Glass Magazine this week with the iconic Top 50 Glaziers as the feature. Great reading, as always. Also kudos to the designers there too, as the layout was very clean, classy and interesting. Really impressive.
  • Insanely bizarre article about Solar Panels that are being built to work underwater. My first thought was that it sure would be nice to perfect the ones that are for buildings first. My second thought after reading this article was the pure amazement that 2,500 people work at the Naval Research lab. Doesn’t that seem a bit high? 2,500 people?
  • Ever see the commercial where the lady is sitting in a tub watching a movie on her iPad? Am I nuts here but there’s no way I’d take an expensive electronic product anywhere near a tub. Do any of you do that?
  • Very sad that “I’ll Have Another” was scratched from the Belmont Stakes. Really wanted to see him run for the Triple Crown. I am starting to think I may never see another Triple Crown winner in my lifetime.
  • A tremendous honor for three PPG scientists for their developments on glass advancements. People pick on our industry all the time, but the technical developments are happening almost daily, and this recognition proves it.
  • The annual Neocon trade show is this week in Chicago. While I will not be there I will have my contacts in attendance and giving me a flavor. This show has the extreme decorative flavor that has become a growing segment in our world. I’ll give my recap via my contacts next week.
  • Last this week; the “Road to GlassBuild” blog that gets linked to on e-glass weekly is now going to be weekly with more frequent updates. Some great video spotlights, Q&A’s and news about the show. You can bookmark the site by going there now.

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 MaxP@SoleSourceConsultants.com.

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, June 11, 2012

Last week I had a shoe situation. After my morning workout at the gym near the office, I reached for my shoe bags and discovered I packed two different shoes.  I was 20 miles and two rush-hours of traffic away from their respective mates. Unmatched, they were still preferable to my sweaty sneakers, so I put them on. 

As I walked out of the locker room, I prepared myself with a few anticipatory quips: “I couldn’t decide this morning; which do you like better?” and, “Yes, I have another pair just like these at home.”

Turns out, not a lot of people noticed. Not in the office elevator, not in my first meeting of the day, not in the kitchen getting coffee, not in the deli buying lunch.  It got me thinking about what seems obvious to some and yet not apparent to others. 

The day before I was at a meeting in Philadelphia (hence the shoe bags) presenting results of a recent Window & Door magazine survey about “new opportunities.”  In my presentation and the one that followed by National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) director of market research, Ed Hudson, there were at least two instances of what I refer to as “obvious, not apparent.”

When asked where they see new business opportunities in the next few years, vinyl window and door manufacturers indicate they are staying focused on the tried and true residential remodeling and replacement market. This is despite indicators that growth is projected in single-and multi-family new construction and even bigger gains for commercial windows, according to the annual market study prepared by Ducker Research for the American Architectural Manufacturers Association and the Window & Door Manufacturers Association

Hudson’s excellent presentation cited a recent NAHB study on consumer views on green home buying & renting. When asked, almost half of purchasers and renters responded: “I want an ‘environmentally friendly’ home, but I would not pay more to purchase/rent one.” 

Now, if you’re in the construction—or any—business, you’re probably saying, “this is obvious. Everyone wants more bells and whistles, more value, more whatever without paying extra for it.”

Meanwhile, many suppliers have been selling “green” for many years. Words and phrases such as energy efficiency, durability, low maintenance, comfort and healthy indoor environment are already incorporated into products and how they are marketed, and all of them are strong decision factors among buying and renting consumers. 

And yet, 55 percent of builders surveyed in the same study, who are very likely already building and marketing homes that are energy efficient, durable and low maintenance, responded this way about their intentions to build “green”: “No interest in going green” to “considering going green” and “learning how to build green.”

According to NAHB, the average cost increase of a “green home” over a standard home is 2 percent, which doesn’t seem very high, especially if builders are already incorporating green features.

Is there a disconnect, or are we missing the obvious business and marketing opportunities?

Whatever it is, noticing is a good start.

The author is publisher of Glass Magazine and vice president of publications for the National Glass Association. Write her at nharris@glass.org.

Monday, June 4, 2012

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don't know which half.”
--John Wanamaker

The earth continues to shift constantly beneath our feet with the force and chaotic motion of a 9.5 earthquake.  In this case, I’m talking about changes occurring in advertising and marketing. 

Only a few years ago, the local glass dealer with the largest yellow page in his market won the marketing battle.  Maybe the building products dealer who had the best advertising mix of newspaper, radio and TV ads won in his geographic market.  These days, it’s hard to determine what media methods help manufacturers appeal to architects or what marketing motivates consumers to buy shower doors and replacement windows.  The question, “What advertising really works for my company?”, is still relevant, but the 60-year-old answers that executives learned in Marketing 101 are constantly, and relentlessly, changing.

Print media is barely hanging on as the ADHD generation doesn’t know how to hold magazines, books or newspapers in their smart phone-filled hands. The way we sell and communicate with one another has progressed from snail mail and phone to fax, to email, to texting, to social media. Fenestration’s largest manufacturers don’t bother to display and sell to us at our own industry’s trade show anymore … they go straight to the architects since they don’t trust dealers to sell and don’t want to hire architectural reps. Static signage and billboards are being replaced with active LED Blade Runner-like digital billboards to appeal to those of us with shorter and shorter attention spans.  The good old reliable direct mail tactics that replacement window companies have used are still only marginally effective, and phone canvassing is all but gone.  TV ads are less effective with the rise of cable and satellite station proliferation, and radio markets continue to fracture. Online advertising’s effectiveness is questionable, as we tune out banner ads and annoying pop-up ads.  "Going viral" doesn’t mean you’ll sell anything.

Being at the top of a Google search appears to be your ticket to marketing success for now.  Why?

While all advertising methods might continue on, traditional marketing appears to be declining in response to the consumer seeking real information online about products and services they’re considering.  In other words, the smoke and mirrors of advertising targeting an unsuspecting public are being pushed aside.  Now, we’re educated, qualified buyers who just want the facts so we can buy and be done with it.

Why do some linger at the top of Google’s organic search even when other companies invest money in Google Adwords or other tactics designed to push them to the top?  Because the top company’s brand awareness with clients continues on, often because of that company’s diligent customer service.  People receive real value and continue to ‘click through’ to those companies that really deliver.

I would appreciate comments from those of you who are effectively using social media.  Please share how you’re doing it and why you think it’s working for you.  I still can’t get how Facebook and Twitter will help me sell glass and windows.

“If advertisers spent the same amount of money on improving their products as they do on advertising, then they wouldn't have to advertise them.” -Will Rogers

Rod Van Buskirk is the third-generation owner of Bacon & Van Buskirk Glass Co., with locations in Champaign and Springfield, Ill. A past NGA Chairman, Rod looks at the industry from the middle of nowhere, steals ideas from anyone he can and pretends to know what he’s talking about. Rod invites your comments as you are certainly smarter than he is.

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, June 4, 2012

Very sad and frustrating news over the weekend, when it broke that solar player Konarka was filing for Chapter 7. Konarka, as some of you may remember, was poised to become a major player in our industry before the adventurous circumstances of 2009 took place. Yes, I am extremely biased, but I really did see a strong potential for the Konarka product in specific parts of the building envelope. And I still do. They had some of the right pieces but just could not get over the hump. I would bet though, you have not heard the last of them or the product they developed. There is simply too much potential.

As Guardian proved at the AIA show, there’s still an appetite for solar material in our world, and work continues all over the place to get more and more products up to speed. So while this is tough news for the movement, I will stay positive.

By the way, I think it is absolutely laughable that people compare what happened at Konarka to what happened at failed solar manufacturer Solyndra. Not even close folks. But because there are some minor similarities, people will run with it… Sadly, that’s the world we live in these days.

Elsewhere…

  • The start of hurricane season is here, and the predictions are for at least one to three “major storms” to hit. With how insane this year has been weatherwise (no snow, but yet Friday night in Michigan it was 46 degrees at my house), anything is possible. So those of you in hurricane alley, hold on.
  • And this is the year we will look back on the hurricane that changed the glass and glazing industry. Hurricane Andrew hit 20 years ago this August. That incredibly devastating hurricane helped push and legitimatize the major hurricane codes that many follow today. And with those codes came a new product segment, one that still does quite well, though more saturated than ever unfortunately. In any case, let’s hope that we don’t have anything like Andrew in 2012.
  • Very negative moment this week: the depressing jobs report and the entire rancor surrounding it did shake me up. I have been hanging on the optimistic side, but when the construction segment is absolutely miserable in these reports, it can’t be anything but depressing. 28,000 people lost their job in the construction sector last month. Horrible.
  • And while we’re all down, how about the story that came out this week that healthcare costs will probably rise 7.5 percent in 2013. Seriously? Here’s the miserable evidence.
  • Very happy to see the excellent Glass Magazine “Great Glazing” series give some love to the United Hospital in West Virginia. I know a lot of the people who supplied on that project and I’m thrilled they got some pub. Here it is, in case you missed it.
  • Really cool list here: 30 “famous” people with law degrees you may be surprised by. None of them, by the way, are as great as the legendary barrister Mr. Kim Mann or my pal of BEC fame Rick Kalson. Numbers 17-19 were surprises to me for sure.
  • Last this week, a happy birthday to my sister, also known as the Queen of Nordstrom. She’s now been out of the glass industry for a couple of years and is still thriving. I think between her and Scott Surma, they are the only two folks I know of who have escaped this world and stayed away…

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 MaxP@SoleSourceConsultants.com.

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.