Monday, November 23, 2009
You've been sued. It could have been prevented, or you could have at least had a solid defense to get you out. It's too late for that now.

That should grab your attention. That's the situation one glass shop recently found itself in, and shared what they learned the hard way so that the rest of us might avoid the same perils in the future. So, without going into the whole case, here are some takeaway points that we should all take to heart.

State your warranty clearly. Spell out what you do and do not cover, and for how long. Don't leave any room for "creative interpretations" that can be used against you. For example, this company's statement that printed on every work order and invoice read as follows: "Materials and Labor are guaranteed for one year. Insulated glass carries 5-year warranty from manufacturer, we warrant labor for 1 year." That statement is clear to people in our industry, but not so clear to outsiders. Worse, it leaves plenty of room for interpretation. In this case, the glass shop sold IGUs to a millwork company, who installed the glass in windows they were making. The glass company simply brokered the IGUs, buying them from a local manufacturer and delivering them to the millwork company. When the IGUs began to fail in the first year, the customer claimed that the glass shop was on the hook to cover their labor costs, even though the glass shop sold them no labor, because the warranty stated that labor was covered for the first year! Obviously, that was not the intent of the warranty, but the glass shop ended up with a fight on their hands, and it's a fight they could easily lose.

Avoid even the appearance of deception. The millwork company went on to claim that they were maliciously deceived by the glass company into thinking that the glass company was manufacturing the IGUs in-house. Again, the warranty statement at least implies that someone else is making them, but state it in writing on your quote for all to see.

Keep your Web site updated, and be careful what it says. This glass shop's Web site stated, "We keep all glass fabrication in-house!" But the shop doesn't make IGUs. Again, the intent of the owners was honest: they do fabricate their own glass (cut, polish, bevel. drill, etc.), and they don't manufacture IGUs and never meant to imply that they do. In hindsight, that distinction between fabricating and manufacturing could and should be more clear, lest it be used against them in court. Which it was. Read your Web site as an outsider, or better yet as a plaintiff's attorney, and see what could be misunderstood or twisted to use against you.

Choose your vendors carefully. Don't just buy on price. Does your IGU supplier have a professional operation, a clean plant and good equipment? Does your temperer routinely test their glass and log the results? Saving a few cents now can cost you in the long run, at the least in callbacks, and at worst in a jury award! If things go bad, you are going to have to explain how and why you chose that specific vendor.

Require insurance certificates from your vendors. This is the big one, the most important lesson here. The glass company in this case obtained a ruling against the IGU supplier requiring it to indemnify the glass shop. But the supplier did not have insurance in place, and no money with which to indemnify, so the glass company was left holding the bag. Don't just assume your suppliers are taking care of their business, require them to give you a certificate of insurance.

If you get sued or have a claim made against you, be involved. Don't just hand it off to your insurance company and hope that it goes away. Your insurance company is looking out for #1, despite what they might say. If there is a way for them to deny coverage, they will. They will choose an attorney for you, and that attorney probably gets a lot of business from the insurance company. Most attorneys take their obligation to you, the insured, seriously, but some might want to look good to the insurance company by identifying a way to get them out of the claim altogether, leaving you on your own. So, stay in the loop, ask questions, be involved, and be cooperative. You might also consider hiring your own attorney to look over the shoulder of the insurance company's attorney; this is an additional expense to you, but will keep everyone honest.

Our friend in this case ended up settling with the customer, but could have avoided a great deal of expense, time, and heartache if they had just known then what they know now! So now you know, and of course "you should not consider this as legal advice" and should talk to your own attorney about any and all of the above! In the end, the above is worth exactly what you paid for it.

--By Chris Mammen, president, M3 Glass Technologies, Irving, Texas
Sunday, November 15, 2009
I have spent a fair amount of time in Phoenix and never considered it a green, environmentally friendly city. The city, located in Sonoran Desert, far from its main water source, the Colorado River, sprawls 517 square miles and has a population of more than 1.5 million, ranking it the fifth largest city in the country and the largest capital city in terms of population. All of those people in all of that space use a lot of water and a lot of energy, particularly since average high temperatures top 100 degrees during the summer. And sure, it’s a dry heat, but I attended my sister’s college graduation from Arizona State University one May, and the temperature hit 115. I’ll tell you, once it’s over 100, dry heat or not, it’s just hot. Air conditioners hum to make buildings comfortable, sprinklers work to keep nonnative plants alive, and misters spray cool water mist onto shoppers in outdoor malls. Phoenix seemed to me to be an unsustainable city. And then I went to Greenbuild and learned quite the opposite.

The City of Phoenix hosted the 2009 Greenbuild International Conference and Expo, Nov. 11-13 in its Silver Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certified convention center. View a photo gallery of the convention center. The day-lit and glass-heavy convention center that features solar panels and sits just blocks away from the Valley Metro light rail is a perfect representation of the efforts Phoenix has taken to become an environmentally friendly and sustainable city.

"Greenbuild didn't come to Arizona by accident," Beth Vershure, executive director of the Greenbuild Arizona Host Committee, said in the Official Greenbuild 2009 Blog, according to a Nov. 13 U.S. Green Building Council release. "A strong USGBC chapter, the Valley's new light rail system, Phoenix's LEED Silver convention center addition and USGBC's recognition of Arizona's growing commitment to sustainability all factored into this decision."

According to a Nov. 7 Arizona Republic blog posting, Phoenix’s water usage has sustained the same level as a decade ago, despite the city’s population growth. Additionally, the city is beginning its 30th year of its comprehensive recycling program.

In March, the city government enacted the Green Phoenix strategy to make Phoenix “carbon-neutral and the most sustainable city in America,” said Mayor Phil Gordon in his letter for the convention catalog. “The Green Phoenix initiative … is a comprehensive, collaborative effort designed to leverage the Federal government’s emphasis on job creation, energy efficiency and economic recovery.”

If fully implemented, the three- to four-year plan would cut the city’s greenhouse gas emissions by 70 percent, equal to taking 80,000 vehicles off the road, according to a March 11 article from the Arizona Republic. The plan also includes building a solar power plant on 1,200 acres at the city’s landfill in Buckeye, Ariz., and transforming Phoenix into a “solar city” by installing solar panels and solar water heaters in existing buildings and requiring them for all new facilities. Home and business owners would also receive incentives for solar panels and weatherization, according to the article.

Is Phoenix green? You bet.

--By Katy Devlin, commercial glass & metals editor
Monday, November 9, 2009
According to the hundreds of glass company executives who have already responded to Glass Magazine's 2010 "State of the Industry" survey, the answer is "no" by a slim margin. But the jury is still out. If you'd like to participate in this important industry survey, you have until Nov. 23 to do so. We will reveal the final results for this question and many others regarding the financial health of the North American glass industry in the January 2010 issue. Click here to take the short survey. I look forward to sharing the results.

Jenni Chase, Editor, Glass Magazine
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Anyone who ever doubted the sincerity of “Safety first” corporate value statements need only look at recent industry events to see that the phrase is more than just a catchy slogan.

In fact, safety has been driving many of the most important developments in the auto glass industry over the last few weeks.

In Vegas, Cindy Ketcherside of IGD Industries won the first Carl Tompkins Distinguished Service Award from the AGRSS Council, in recognition of her long-time dedication to enhancing industry safety.

You’ve gotta' love the mantra she has made a part of her company’s fabric: “We’re not in the auto glass business installing ‘windshields,’ we’re in the safety business of installing ‘safety-shields.’ ”

Cindy gets it.

Also recently, Allstate Insurance rolled out a new Distinguished Performers Program to recognize and reward quality workmanship within auto glass shops--a welcome initiative that shifts the emphasis from price-driven coverage to safety and quality. The NGA has thrown our support behind the effort and will be encouraging other insurers to follow suit.

Allstate is getting it.

Harvesting--the unsavory practice of proactively encouraging unnecessary installations--is gaining national attention.

Safety is at the core of the harvesting issue, along with ethics.

And here at the NGA, one company joined the association last week with the explicit goal of getting 100 of their technicians NGA certified.

At the core of their motivation … you guessed it: Safety.

I think you get the point. Safety is top-of-mind for many far-sighted executives and companies committed to instilling best practices throughout their shops. They know it’s both the right thing to do and good business.

— By David Walker, Vice President of Association Services, National Glass Association
Friday, October 30, 2009
We are in the 4th quarter of the calendar year. What can you do to impact the current final weeks of 2009? It is at this time of year that many companies get off schedule. They lose their focus as holidays approach, the temperature changes, and preparation for winter begins. To use a sports analogy, most games are won or lost in the 4th quarter; most races are won or lost in the final meters.

Lessons from dad
Now is the time to implement strategies that impact the 4th quarter results while simultaneously laying the foundation for 2010. My father sold pots and pans door to door in 1940. Remember, the world was still in a depression and a war was in its inception in Europe. From Thanksgiving to Christmas he walked, without much success, from house to house trying to sell his wares. The week between Christmas and New Years Day is, in our culture, a slow time.

But dad needed money for tuition, so he decided to keep knocking on doors. He had his best sales week ever. It seems that there were many men who had either not gotten their wives a Christmas gift or had gotten them an unsatisfactory gift. He set company sales records. His company was so impressed that they offered him a full-time sales manager position. His company noted that he was one of a very few that worked that particular week. Most of his peers had quit for the year. Yet he was successful because he kept knocking on doors.

Now or never!
Now is the time to implement strategies that impact your 4th quarter results while simultaneously laying the foundation for 2010. Set some Big Hairy Audacious Goals for 2010. If you knew you couldn't fail, what goals would you set? Remember, though, these goals have to be measurable and have a specific time frame.

The two reasons people don't hit their goals are that they never really set them or they set them and forget them. So, write them down. Post them. Get pictures to remind you of them. Get someone to hold you accountable.

In a few weeks I will be meeting with 10 fellow glass shop owners. I will announce my 2010 BHAG and challenge them to participate. Start running the race for next year now. Get a head start on your competition.

Break the tape!
Don’t quit on this year! Keep “knocking on doors.” Keep “running the race.” Don’t “quit” before the end of the game. Will you finish with a burst of speed to hit your goals or will you limp across the finish? It’s up to you. Do something today to break the tape in 2009!

—Bill Evans, president, Evans Glass Co., Nashville
Monday, October 26, 2009
When I bought a home in 2005, banks were more than willing to finance the purchase. Some were offering loan amounts that exceeded my comfort level by tens of thousands of dollars.

Today, banks are much more cautious, and loans are hard to come by, say glass company execs. “From our standpoint, one of the most major challenges right now is the availability of money,” says Newton Little, executive vice president, Ace Glass, Little Rock, Ark. “Money is available, but [banks] want you to have more skin in the game than we think is reasonable,” he says.

It’s the banks, not the number of jobs coming in, that’s more of a problem, says Charlotte Broussard, owner and CEO, Universal Window and Door LLC, Marlborough, Mass. “This year, we are quoting more projects than we have in the last three years, with continual value engineering. After the engineering, unfortunately many banks are not funding the projects,” she says.

Credit will be instrumental for us to move forward, agrees Ed Sieber, president, Glass Doctor of Charlotte, N.C. “We’re going to need the capital to buy vans, equipment, etc., for when we do grow. Dina Dwyer, CEO, The Dwyer Group, was on Capitol Hill speaking before Congress to help free up credit for small businesses. If they can make some headway and free up some of the credit, it will enable us to be able to hire people back.”

Indeed, underwriting standards remain tight, according to a Sept. 9 “State of the Financing Markets” Webcast from Lincoln International LLC, with offices in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. “Conventional wisdom would say that the broader economy is out of the recession and company performance is improving; however, credit is available for only the highest-quality companies,” officials stated in the presentation. “The recent stagnation in loan volume and mergers and acquisition activity is due to a combination of lack of visibility into many borrowers’ future performance, and underwriting standards of lenders still providing capital remaining very tight,” they said.

Glass Magazine will delve deeper into the issue in the December 2009 edition and we'd like your input. How is the credit crunch affecting your business, and what effect has it had on your customer base?

—By Jenni Chase, Editor, Glass Magazine
Friday, October 23, 2009
Q&A; with Gary Jones, Manko Window Systems

I had a feeling of trepidation as I stepped into the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta several weeks ago for GlassBuild America: The Glass, Window & Door Expo, Sept. 30-Oct. 2. Would the trade show floor be a ghost town? Would exhibitors and attendees only talk about the dismal construction market and the glass industry’s suffering? As it turns out, my fears were quite unnecessary.

The exhibitors on the floor expressed optimism and touted new products and services. (See the article Looking beyond the recession to recovery.) And the attendees, while fewer in number than last year, were buyers and decision makers checking out the new offerings. During the show, I sat down with one such buyer, Gary Jones, president, Manko Window Systems, Manhattan, Kan.

Manko bought a fully automated insulating glass line from Lisec, Germany, that uses the TriSeal spacer from Edgetech IG, Cambridge, Ohio.

View a photo gallery of the line in action during GlassBuild America.

Tell me about the line.
This is our second Lisec line. We got one about 10 or 12 years ago for an aluminum box spacer, which was the most current tech back in those days. Today’s technology is the warm-edge spacer, and we selected the TriSeal SuperSpacer. We saw the robot last year at this trade show for the first time, and it was the first time seen TriSeal, an architectural version of the warm-edge SuperSpacer.

Why is the investment worth it?
If you’re not going to stay up with technology, you’re not going to have anything to sell, eventually.

Why did you decide to go with a warm-edge line?
Energy Star and the stimulus package has changed the U-value requirements for windows, and all products are affected, vinyl windows, aluminum windows, storefront and curtain wall. This change has made most manufacturers scramble to get caught up. Warm edge has been prominent in residential, and it is heading that way in commercial as well. Domestically, we are at forefront of bringing warm edge technology into the commercial market. It has been overseas for years, but domestically I think there is just one other automated line that does the TriSeal. But, we are going to see more warm edge in the commercial market. TriSeal is one method of probably three or four ways of doing warm edge.

This line also provides us with labor savings. It basically cuts our labor in half. We’re going from five to six people operating our other Lisec line to three to operate this new line. Plus, it will produce more glass in an 8-hour shift than the other line.

What are you hearing from the market?
Building owners and architects are looking for green, [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design]. They want the most energy-efficient thing they can get. Architects love [this technology]. We did too good of a job selling it for some projects before we got the line. We’ve been using their manual application for three or four months.
Monday, October 19, 2009
In recent years, architects have begun to see some of the many creative uses for glass, and they have incorporated more and more of it into their spaces. This was not by accident. Many companies in our industry have spent a great deal of money in getting our products in front of the architectural community. Even more money has been spent in the development of new glazing products to keep the momentum going in favor of "more glass" in buildings, even as energy codes have become increasingly stringent. In the end, we have all benefited. Even if your piece of the pie didn't grow, the pie itself did, whether you were directly involved in these efforts or not.

But now, this trend is in real danger of reversing, and fast! Several code organizations are attempting to reduce the use of glass in new buildings. For example, shortly after the GlassBuild America show left Atlanta, the ASHRAE 90.1 envelope subcommittee met there to discuss how it would meet its mandate of reducing energy consumption by 30 percent in 2011. Their solution? Reduce glass area by 25 percent while also tightening the light to solar gain ratio requirement on glass such that more than half of the existing high-performance glazing products won't qualify. Is it any surprise that our industry has no representation on that subcommittee? Thankfully, Glass Association of North America stepped in and mitigated some of the damage through their presentation to the subcommittee.

In the past, we all relied on the Glass Industry Code Committee to fight these battles for us. The GICC, however, is shutting down. GANA is picking up its torch, and the National Glass Association is fully behind its efforts. Now we need to get into this fight, as well; collectively, as an industry, our future is at stake. We need to come together with a strong voice, to support all the hard work that has been done to develop and bring to market strong products that can and should play an important role in energy-efficient buildings.

Now, I must admit that the preceding paragraphs just about fully exhaust my knowledge on this topic as of today; I just recently learned of the dangerous situation we find ourselves in. So please join me in learning about the issues, and in participating in our great industry organizations. GANA and NGA both have highly dedicated volunteers and staff that are working hard for you and me every day, so take the time to learn what is going on and how you can get involved! Read a Glass Magazine article on this issue.

--By Chris Mammen, president, M3 Glass Technologies, Irving, Texas
Friday, October 9, 2009
Opportunity for the glass industry in the emerging solar market has been the topic of much discussion for some time now. Big companies, such as Guardian, have already climbed on the bandwagon; small companies are looking for ways to get their piece of the pie.

I attended the solar seminar at GBA: The Glass, Window & Door Expo Oct. 1. Panelists at the seminar, moderated by Russ Ebeid, made amply clear that the solar market is a plumb opportunity for the glass and glazing industry.

"This is a huge growth opportunity,” said Steve Coonen, solar design consultant, Applied Solar, San Diego. “The glass industry hasn’t taken on this photovoltaic challenge yet. Why be afraid? Why not take it up as a serious opportunity to make money?"

The rest of the panel talked about PV in China; CSP in the U.S. and Spain; BIPV in Europe and North America, and about the current state of those different technologies and applications. Read the article.

The government is doing its share to encourage energy efficiency. It has provided $32.6 billion in funding to the U.S. Department of Energy through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. More than half of these funds went to the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy program office.

The Recovery Act also includes $2.3 billion to fund 30 investment tax credits for manufacturing assets used to manufacture advanced solar products. This program is run through the Department of Treasury and that department must certify the projects.

The act extends bonus depreciation as an incentive for manufacturers to invest in new equipment. Half the cost of the equipment is deducted immediately when the equipment is placed in service with the remaining amount depreciated normally.

The ASTM, for its part, has started work on a possible solar glass standard. Members of ASTM International Committee E44 on Solar, Geothermal, and Other Energy Sources, and ASTM International Committee C14 on Glass and Glass Products met with representatives of the U.S. Department of Energy Sept. 29 to develop and maintain “standards for glass and glass coatings for solar applications that include, but are not limited to, photovoltaic, solar thermal, and concentrating applications. The standards will address the characteristics that affect performance, durability and reliability.” Read the article.

Interested parties who want to participate in the ASTM standard process, should write Pat Picariello or Christine DeJong.

Seems to me like there has never been a better time to jump on the solar bandwagon. As Ebeid said at the GBA seminar: “I have talked about mega trends, especially those that illustrate how government regulations and product innovations combine to change the business climate irreversibly. Solar, if and when realized, is touted to be one of those game changers.”

What’s your take on this emerging market? Is this going to be like the dot-com bubble or is it here to stay?

—By Sahely Mukerji, news editor/managing editor, Glass Magazine
Monday, October 5, 2009
Talking to attendees and exhibitors at GlassBuild America: The Glass, Window & Door Expo, I repeatedly heard stories of companies involved in bidding wars where the job ultimately went to the lowest bidder without regard to the quality of its product or service. In one incident, a developer installed more than $1 million worth of windows, only to pull them out due to poor quality, said Charlotte Broussard, owner and CEO of Universal Window and Door LLC, Marlborough, Mass. “Out of fear, people are going after price and not [paying attention to] the quality of the product,” she said. There have been projects where Universal was underbid by 40 percent, and the company ended up going back and doing the projects over because the developer had to pull the original product, she said. “It is becoming a real problem.”

“Our customers are hard bidding jobs and [developers] are going with the best price,” said Tom O’Malley, vice president of sales, Doralco, Alsip, Ill. “The building owners are almost making it a bidding war to see how desperate people will get. Companies are taking jobs at prices that they shouldn’t be at. We’re obviously looking at our costs, but we’re not going to put ourselves in a position to go out of business. There are some people out there that are [putting themselves in that position],” he said.

Education is the answer to the problem, said Paul Weisblatt, technical director, Universal Window and Door. “We’re doing our best to educate the customer with regard to why they’re going to pay what they’re going to pay,” he said. “It costs money; you can’t compare [a value-added product] against a price-only product and expect to get the same performance.”

Has your company been involved in bidding wars where the customer has turned a blind eye to quality and gone with the lowest price instead? What are you doing to convince them that there’s more to choosing a product or service than dollars and cents?

—By Jenni Chase, Editor, Glass Magazine
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