glassblog

Monday, April 20, 2015

The best type of product to sell is one that is unique, delivers unparalleled benefits to its users, has no competition, and is in high demand. Such product innovation assures increasing sales at a high profit margin. Any company able to produce and go to market with products fitting this description truly becomes the “leader of the pack” in terms of their competitive position. However, the challenges associated with leading the market in terms of innovation may not be worth pursuing for every company.

For companies aiming to be the leader of the pack, the first consideration in product development is to determine the product’s function. Will it fill a current need in the market that is not yet being met, or is it intended to exceed the function of pre-existing competing products already accepted and used within your specific industry?

To build and sell a product that fills the need that is not already being provided for is the easier of the two options; it takes less time and less marketing efforts. Why? Because the market has a pre-existing demand for you to fill and as long as your product fits and is reasonably priced, people will buy it. The problem is that this category of market is limited and opportunities usually arise as a secondary factor of a primary product category needing assistance in the market place.

For the glass industry, I encourage you to keep tabs on the market place and look for niches of opportunity where you can provide a product that will fill a need that is currently not being met. Produce it, test it, price it right and communicate it’s availability to your targeted customer base. The distributors will come running, wanting to be part of the action.

However, success in this category of pursuit is usually short lived because the competition will come running too, to duplicate your efforts in a very short period of time at a lower cost. As a consequence, this aspect of being the leader of the pack requires you to be well on your way to a second product victory while enjoying the fruit of your labors from your first.

The majority of product innovations within the glass industry tend to fit within the second scenario (improving upon existing products). The upside of this pursuit is potential for higher profit margins. Additionally, it can take longer for the competition to catch up, particularly if you are able to secure some added market share protection through product patents. The real challenge, however, is the time, effort and money it takes to validate the worth of such a new product that will, in turn, yield sales.

Given the challenges and necessary investments, leading the pack isn’t right every company. Being part of the pack is just fine. Many organizations have made a deliberate decision to not be an innovator but, instead, a follower, and have made a nice living doing so. The theme to follow as a member of the pack is to provide a similar product to what is already in the industry, absent of any patent infringement, and make it for less money resulting in a lower resale price, and as comparable in performance as possible. The unfortunate circumstance in holding this position in the market is that you’re surrounded by tough competition that is on the very same mission and only one can maintain the low-cost-producer position at a time.

Carl Tompkins is national flat glass sales manager for Sika Corp., and the author of the book “Winning at Business.” He can be reached at tompkins.carl [at] sika-corp.com. For more information on product development and innovation, see Tompkins' article, “Lead the Pack in Product Innovation,” set to appear in the May edition of Glass Magazine.

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.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The “green” building process is a favorite subject of mine. That effort still has tons of growing still to do, especially in North America. But when I saw a recent report on the world’s twelve “greenest” buildings, it was exciting to see our continent well represented. Five of the twelve were in North America, including:

 

  •     Arizona State Health Services
  •     Manitoba Hydro
  •     Bud Clark Commons
  •     SUNY-ESF Gateway Center
  •     Packard Foundation Headquarters

If you supplied the glass and metal on any of these I’d love to know and learn more of what you provided and any challenges you faced. And congrats for being involved in something both incredibly cool and important.

Elsewhere…

  • Another aspect of the “green” side of things is solar, and I have said that product line is still in line to make an impact. And now thanks to a link from the always excellent Twitter feed of Ted Bleecker, there’s some evidence of growth on the residential side. While the business is not in the greatest shape yet, and this story surely leaves a lot to wonder about, the positive undertone is there.
  • Got tremendous news this week that the extremely talented Dan Plotnick of Guardian Industries was promoted to Architectural Sales and Marketing director for the Asia Pacific region. I am thrilled for him. Plus he’s at least one person on that side of the world that doesn’t hate me. It’s a great thing to see when good things happen to good people. Congrats Dan.
  • I started my research into the AIA show and the immediate thing that jumped out at me? Birds. Or more specifically bird protection. There will be several non-industry companies there with different options to protect the birds from the building envelope, as well as industry folks like Walker Glass showing their option for the architectural community to consider. This trend may actually grow faster than I expected.
  • I’ve written a few times on how I love the glass usage at Dulles Airport, so when I was there this week, I snapped a picture. Doesn’t do it justice, but believe me it's amazing. Glass everywhere and on everything. And I noticed several different logos this time, so the supply was surely spread around too. Overall just fantastic for a glass geek.

  • The great news from Apogee Enterprises on their strong year is also a good indicator for the industry at large. It’s surely a positive that one of the big signature players is experiencing significant success. And as for the Viracon segment and their great run, it’s no surprise given how dialed in Garret Henson and the sales team is there.
  • Last this week, a personal note. My teenage son has had his own blog focused on the world of professional wresting for a year or so. This week, he started to write for a big publication in that industry and got his first piece published. So incredibly cool, and I am beyond proud.

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, April 13, 2015

Once there were two companies that were located on the same street and serviced the same market. Both installed new countertops and replaced old countertops. Both had access to the same products from the same vendors at the same volumes and prices. They both had the same number of employees and the same equipment. They both had the same number of trucks and office staff with equally skilled salesmen. However, Company A chose to sell and promote standard countertop laminates, because in their opinion the products were less expensive and easier to sell. Company B chose to embrace a more elegant and beautiful granite countertop, although it was much more expensive. Both companies installed the same amount of product by the end of the year. However, Company B made three times the profit of Company A.

Rather than trying to win every project and fight over half a penny in price, Company B chose to upsell their clients and provide better solutions to their situation. The customer had a need to build value in their home and wanted to make it more beautiful. Company B knew this was the case and found a way to introduce granite choices for his customers. Salesmen were taught what to look for and who to seek out for potential business. Company B’s customers were so happy they referred more customers to him, and soon his marketing budget was cut in half. He had more business than they could handle.

While both companies lived and worked in the same city and served the same marketplace, Company B made a choice to embrace a technology that could enable his company to thrive while Company A scraped by, barely able to eke out a living.

Business owners need to ask themselves the following questions: “Am I overlooking a technology that could help my company become more successful? If so what might that technology be? How can I educate myself and my employees to sell more of it to help my business become more profitable?”

What if a Company B glass business across the street embraces value-added products, such as dynamic glass or other advanced glass technologies, as a means to solve the customer’s problems, but you do not because you think it is too expensive? Where will the customers go?

Chad Simkins is vice president of Pleotint and vice president of sales for Thompson IG. He can be reached at csimkins [at] pleotint.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, April 13, 2015

Events are crucial for networking and education, and if you are in the business, you need to make sure you are keeping up. We are about to enter the late spring show/conference season and there are three that I have marked on my calendar for importance and impact.

Coming up on April 29th is the 28th Annual Mid-Atlantic Glass Expo in Maryland. This event is always packed with many regional glass and glazing companies, and rarely disappoints. Then two days later is an event that I simply cannot wait to experience. I am getting to attend the iconic Garibaldi Glass Day on May 1st. Being a glass geek, I love to see and learn new things. What Garibaldi Glass does every year is simply brilliant, educating the industry and bringing so many stakeholders under one roof. Being there in person has me excited beyond belief. The final event on the schedule is the annual AIA Expo, this year in Atlanta. While I pick on our industry's over-the-top obsession for architects and their approval (we are like that needy child, desperate to catch the attention of the distracted parent when it comes to our need for love from architects), there is value to this show, because of the networking and new products usually on display.

In the end, making shows or conferences a part of your yearly marketing budget is a must. That budget absolutely must include GlassBuild America, because if you are not attending/participating in that show you are truly doing yourself and your business a disservice. Obviously I’ll have a lot more to say on that event as we get closer, but it does boggle my mind when people skip it and then wonder why their competitors are gaining or passing them.

Elsewhere…

  • Heads up with your e-mail folks. A very nasty and tricky virus is out there. Basically you will get an e-mail from a recognizable friend of yours. It will start off as “Hi, how are you and then ask, “have you seen this” and leave a link. And that’s it. That link is a virus to add to your computer. And this virus is so tricky that you truly think it’s from a friend. In addition, another version has a link telling you to review “an invoice” and that too is bad. Needless to say, you have to be on guard with every e-mail nowadays. If it looks wrong or different, it probably is…
  • Tremendous issue of Glass Magazine is out now, and once again the great team led by Katy Devlin knocked it out of the park. Like each month, it's time to give props to the best ad of the issue and this one was a no brainer. The new ad from GGI was spectacular. Just stopped me in my tracks. That is what you want from a magazine ad for sure. Congrats to all involved on that one.
  • Also congratulations to Rick Hamlin of Cupples on his new post as president. Rick is a fantastic person and a true gentleman. Rick for the last few years has moderated the Glazing Executive Forum’s popular “State of the Industry” panel with great care and style. So happy that he’s continuing to be recognized for his talents.
  • Last this week: book review. I just finished “Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo!” by Nicolas Carlson. It was solid--not quite as good as the last few books I have read--but if you want to get a feel for the way billion dollar companies make decisions, most of them bad, then you’ll want to read this. There’s also great inside insight on the configuration of Boards and volatile shareholders that's pretty enlightening. 

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.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Each year, the Window Safety Task Force of the National Safety Council takes the first full week in April to educate on the importance of practicing window safety year-round. National Window Safety Week is designed to increase awareness on helping to prevent window falls and the proper use of windows for emergency escape purposes.

Falls from a window can result in serious injury or death and pose an especially dangerous threat for children. About eight children under age five die each year from falling out a window, and more than 3,300 are injured seriously enough to go to the hospital, according to Safe Kids Worldwide’s 2015 Report to the Nation: Protecting Children in Your Home.

“It only takes seconds for a preventable window fall to occur,” said Amy Artuso, program manager for the National Safety Council. “To avoid these needless tragedies, it is very important for parents and caregivers to take steps to prevent home falls.”

Suppliers of window products for multifamily and single family applications can take an active role in educating customers about important safety measures to prevent falls through windows. To protect children, the Window Safety Task Force offers the following tips that manufacturers can share with customers:

  • When young children are around, keep windows closed and locked.
  • When opening a window for ventilation, use those located out of a child’s reach. For example, the upper sash of a double hung window.
  • Avoid placing furniture near windows to prevent young children from climbing.
  • Don’t allow children to jump on beds or other furniture to help reduce potential falls.• Don’t rely on insect screens to prevent a window fall. Insect screens are designed to keep bugs out, not to keep children in the home.
  • Supervise children to keep child’s play away from windows, balconies or patio doors. Keep play in the center of a room, if possible.
  • Install code-compliant devices designed to limit how far a window will open or window guards (with quick-release mechanisms in case of fire) to help prevent a fall.
  • Teach children how to safely use a window to escape during an emergency, such as a fire.

Click here to learn more about window safety, and read tips on promoting Window Safety Week over social media here.   

Angela Dickson is marketing manager for the American Architectural Manufacturers Association and is current chair of the Window Safety Task Force. 

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, April 6, 2015

Since my last post, two major energy efficiency efforts received big boosts. And despite our current comfort with lower energy prices, energy efficiency is crucial to our society and our industry. First, the Shaheen-Portman Energy Savings Bill was re-introduced and the odds of it being pushed forward are positive. If a bi-partisan bill like this can’t make it, then there’s no hope. Meanwhile, the Senate passed the Better Buildings Act of 2015, which will push commercial buildings to be even more energy efficient. More details can be found here, but suffice it to say, we have the products to get this done. And these are examples of why I have been so bullish on the dynamic space. That product line surely should be in the discussion with regards to these pieces of legislation.

Elsewhere…

  • Your monthly update on the Architectural Billings Index: the latest results had the index in the positive but the new project score did dip. Overall attitudes are still very positive when it comes to building and the economy. From my own view, I am seeing more cranes and shells of buildings in process than I have seen in years.
  • Folks, don’t forget to get your nominations in for the premier award program in our industry—The Glass Magazine Awards. Deadline for nominations is this week—April 10.
  • Birthday wishes to two cool folks in our industry: Lewis McCallister of Coral Industries and Jan Rogan of PPG.
  • A heads up to anyone who’s into SEO and websites: Google is making some big changes to their algorithms, specifically location coding. Back in the day, you could list your company and connect with every city you could think of, then just have it link back to your main site. In this new update, Google is devaluing websites that do that, potentially moving them down the rankings quite a bit. If you need more info, drop me a note.
  • The final agenda for Glass Performance Days is out, and those of you going to Finland for it will surely experience a serious overload of glass and glazing education. A few pieces to check out include the awesome Jon Kimberlain of Dow Corning going deep on hyperelastic materials, tech legend Chris Barry on spandrel defects (Chris will make serious news I believe with his findings), and the extremely talented Jim Gulnick of McGrory Glass with a solar power case study.
  • And speaking of Mr. Kimberlain, hopefully by that June trip he'll be over the Kentucky loss in the Final Four. The great 1976 Indiana team still holds the mantle of being the last college team to go unbeaten all year.
  • Last this week, one big item I have missed is the growth of Health Product Declarations in our industry. Slowly but surely there’s been a significant demand for these and many in our industry have jumped on board and are able to supply them. In addition having the document helps in the whole LEED v4 effort as well. I can honestly say I don’t know the process very well at this point, but I’ve decided to dig in and figure it out, especially with HPD 2.0 now in process. In any case it looks like this is a need that is here to stay for sure, so be aware.

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.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Dedicated to automation within the glass industry, the three-day 2015 Glass Processing Automation Days, held March 18-20 in San Antonio, hosted 14 machinery and software companies presenting solutions for automated glass processes. The event focused on the catchphrase "Automation, Integration and Innovation," and GPAD’s sponsoring machinery manufacturers and attending glass fabricators discussed the latest solutions for everyday problems.

So, what are the major drivers of development in software and equipment for the glass industry?  Presenters, officials from event organizer FeneTech, and attendees boiled it down to four factors: efficiency, cost, safety, and quality and value. 

  1. Efficiency.
    Every automated machine discussed during GPAD addressed the need for increased efficiency and production while reducing labor, handling and waste in the glass fabrication factory. However, one of the biggest new product announcements also addressed building end-use efficiency, with a solution for increasing building energy savings using the latest glass technologies. Michael Spellman and Hermann Frey of IGE Glass Technologies announced the new vacuum insulated glass fabrication line from LandGlass. While the concept of VIG isn’t new, the concept of using tempered glass for VIG is new, according to company officials. LandGlass has developed a solution that marries the demand for increased aesthetics with energy-efficient benefits. A LandGlass VIG unit offers heat and sound insulation equal to a studded insulated wall, anti-dewing properties, wind load resistance, high-performance and longevity to building facades, compared to the traditional IGU, according to the presentation given by Spellman and Frey.
  2. Cost.
    Closely tied to increasing efficiency is cost. Glass fabricators are seeking ways to reduce cost by reducing labor, waste or production time. One solution discussed during GPAD was Vitrosep’s automatic water filtration system, which needs no manual involvement while it continuously cleans and reuses water and coolant. “The more competition we have, the more efficient we must be,” says Josep Sais, general manager for Vitrosep. “Legislation is also becoming more difficult. Water treatment is important for combatting both.”
  3. Safety.
    By carefully considering each step of storing, loading and cutting glass, Turomas-Tecnocat has developed machines that integrate automatic and manual functions to maximize efficiency, but most importantly, increase safety in the workplace. Machine flexibility creates safer environments, says Javier Rios, communications manager of Turomas.
  4. Quality and value.
    Because customers are demanding more from glass—jumbo sizes, irregular shapes, etc.—glass fabricators are offering value-added products. Roberto Nori, general manager of Denver S.p.A. asks, “How can we eliminate tooling costs, handling costs and waste across these different machines? How can we achieve superior quality while also dealing with out-of-square, shaped patterns?” He says integrated, automatic machinery deals with the modern issues glass fabricators now face.

Bethany Stough is managing editor of Glass Magazine. Write her at bstough@glass.org.

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

Monday, March 23, 2015

Time is running out to nominate your best product or project for the 2015 Glass Magazine Awards, with the deadline to submit nominations coming up on April 10. 

Glass Magazine Awards will be given for the following categories:

  • Most Innovative Curtain Wall Project
  • Most Innovative Storefront/Entrance Project
  • Most Innovative Decorative Glass Project: Interior
  • Most Innovative Decorative Glass Project: Exterior
  • Most Innovative Glass Product
  • Most Innovative Curtain Wall, Window or Storefront Product (system or component)
  • Most Innovative Machinery, Tools or Equipment
  • Most Innovative Software, Website or Web Tool

More information about the 2015 product and project categories―in addition to instructions for submitting nominations―is available here.

Katy Devlin is editor of Glass Magazine. Contact her at kdevlin@glass.org.

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

Monday, March 23, 2015

There was a mix of economic-related news that populated my Twitter feed last week. First the good news, where on a link from Conners Sales (@ConnersSales) any initial fears about the awful housing starts number from last month were calmed. Basically the analyst called it “winter” and said to wait another month. That’s good enough for me. Then the bad news came up via Ted Bleecker (@TedBleecker) with a story on the scary debt situation in China. Surely one to continue to monitor especially since it will have a massive effect on the world economy. Both items will be big drivers and warrant following along.

Elsewhere…

  • Quick family note: I'm absolutely thrilled about my nephew Josh joining the fine folks at Pleotint. As any reader of this blog knows, I am a huge proponent of dynamic glazing and its usage and potential. Great to see Josh signing on to that world, and I'm very excited to see what great things they do together.
  • Last week I posed two questions at the end of my blog: one on ultra thin glass and one on the upcoming Apple Watch. I really was blown away by some of the insights I received, and learned a lot as well. The great Chuck Knickerbocker of TGP educated me on a few things including ETFE (Ethylene tetrafluoroethylene), which is being used in glazing areas on some really intense projects. Overall on the thin glass question, the issue of finding the sweet spot for usage was the theme. As for the watch, universally negative responses toward its success. Apple has not failed with a product launch in a very long time, so we’ll see if their winning streak is up or we’re all missing the boat here. Thanks again to all who responded!
  • Congrats and good luck to Margaret Brune who recently joined the tremendous team at Saand as a manufacturer's rep in the Michigan market. Once again a good match of company and salesperson. I’m glad I’m not involved in sales anymore, because back in the day I had to compete with Margaret and she crushed me on a daily basis…
  • Over in England there’s a very strong daily blog called Double Glazing Blogger, and the author had a post last week that was very interesting. The use of quadruple glazing in China, combined with a video of a 57-story building in China going up in just 19 days using the quad glazing system. Just crazy how things get done over there… I wonder, will the quadruple glazing run come this way? Given that triple glazing has not gained as much market share in North America as the experts predicted, I’d guess this one going mainstream is still far off.
  • And while on the subject of China (my gosh, three items related to China this week and none featuring me ranting…odd): a good look here at two all-glass skyscrapers designed by SOM. The key? Huge IGUs but oriented a little differently than we are all used to.
  • Programming note, no post coming from me next week, unless of course big news happens, which right now seems doubtful as it's pretty quiet out there. Next post coming first full week of April.

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.

Monday, March 16, 2015

“You never know the relationships that you're going to build over social media,” said Max Perilstein last week during a presentation at the BEC Conference. No matter the platform—Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, etc.—social media can offer glass companies exciting opportunities to create relationships, reach customers, and keep up with industry news. However, to capitalize on those opportunities, business owners need to know the options, understand the benefits, and put forth the effort. 

Below are 10 tips and considerations from Perilstein for bringing your business to social media. 

  1. Know the ‘why’ of social media
    “Why do this? It’s free PR. It’s a way to get your message out, to tell people what you are doing. It’s building your brand and helps you control your message,” Perilstein said. 
  2. Know your options
    A new social media platform seems to launch every week. Do some research to find out which platform is right for your company. Platforms that are currently big in the industry include Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and emailing programs such as MailChimp. Keep an eye out for Instagram and Pinterest as well, Perilstein recommended. 
  3. Remember to be social
    While social media offers opportunities to talk about your company’s activities, it also serves as a venue to communicate. “It's networking. Reach out, follow people, and get in conversations,” he said. 
  4. Get to know Instagram
    The photo-sharing social platform lets glass companies show off what they do best, in images. “We make beautiful, beautiful materials. We should show it off. I have a feeling this is something that is going to take off,” he said. 
  5. YouTube is more than videos
    “YouTube has hidden value—it is the second most popular search engine, after Google,” Perilstein said. 
  6. People do check those LinkedIn business pages
    Many users know LinkedIn is a great way to interact and network. However, it also hosts business pages. “There are people that look for businesses on LinkedIn. It’s another outlet—and it’s free,” he said. 
  7. Claim your Google profile
    Google offers a business profile that appears when users search your company. It includes address, hours and a description. Claim this profile to ensure that all information remains up to date and correct. 
  8. Name your social media go-to
    Make social media upkeep part of the job description for someone at your company. “You can do it yourself, or you can assign it to a person at your company. You can hire someone. Just know who is going to do it,” Perilstein said. 
  9. Make a plan
    “I recommend companies figure out the first six months before they begin. Don’t share all your content in your first week,” Perilstein said. 
  10. Stick to the plan
    “This is not going to happen overnight. This is part of a bigger plan—part of a growing online empire. You’re getting the word out about what your company does,” Perilstein said. 
Katy Devlin is editor of Glass Magazine. Contact her at kdevlin@glass.org.
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