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Monday, February 1, 2010
It's easy to remain committed when times are good. Everyone's busy, days and weeks run together as we go about our business, and we do the things we planned to do and are expected to do. Others do what they're supposed to do, just as we expect them to. Contracts are honored, customers pay, you pay your vendors, and everything trickles down and steamrolls ahead like it is supposed to. Sure, some people let you down. But for those of us who try to do what we say, doing so takes little effort or consideration.

But when times are tough, commitment requires more effort. Commitment becomes intentional. Commitment requires you to be ... committed.

I am reminded of this as I leave a meeting at the NGA offices. Times are tough at your association, a reflection and natural extension of the tough times in our own companies, industry, and country. So the staff's commitment is more noticeable now, although it has always been there and been taken for granted. They, too, are doing more with less. They are not doing the same with less, they are doing more with less. With a smaller budget and fewer people, they are putting out more and better products for us.

The training and education opportunities are top-notch, including myglassclass.com, the Glazing Executives Forum, Autoglass Technician Certification, and the new Window and Door Dealers Forum. Glass Magazine, Window & Door Magazine, and the e-news products have the best reporting and look at least as good as anything you will find on the news stand. And just wait till you see the GlassBuild America show in Vegas this September. Just like in your company, there are also more superstars behind the scenes making it all happen.

All these people are committed, and that is a choice they consciously make. Thinking about them brings to mind all the other committed people in my life: employees, suppliers, friends, and especially my wife, but this is a shout out to the amazing staff at the NGA. You might not know them, but they are hard at work for you and me, making this industry better and our jobs easier. Think of them when you read your magazine, or take an online class, or register to attend or exhibit at GlassBuild America. If each of us chooses to be as committed as they are, then our industry, the glass industry, will lead the way in the months and years to come. And we will all be better for it.

--By Chris Mammen, president, M3 Glass Technologies, Irving, Texas
Friday, January 22, 2010
Matt Rumbaugh, division manager, Education, Training and Certification, National Glass Association



Are you on Twitter? How about Facebook? Even if you're not, you probably know people that are. Technologies that people had barely heard of two years ago are now major factors in how they communicate, how they advertise, and how they learn.

In my role here at the NGA, I spend a lot of time thinking about how people learn. Specifically, I think about how glass people learn. The challenge I have is to figure what people in the industry need to know and the most efficient way for us to help them do so. One of the things I quickly realized is that there's never a single right answer. Thus, I started reaching out to friends in the industry for help and perspective. When I did, I found that in the glass business, more so than any industry I've been a part of, relationships matter. If there's an issue in someone's glass business, they're much less likely to read for the latest business bestseller or hire a high-priced consultant. Instead, they reach out to their friends. That's one of the major factors underlying the NGA's Glazing Executives Forum. Even though we work hard to bring in quality speakers and facilitators, we always hear back that the highest value people get from the event is the ability to network with their industry peers. I'm sure other industries are similar to a degree, but in the glass business, it's definitely true that peer-to-peer learning is the most effective strategy.

We even notice this during our weekly sessions for the Glass Management Institute. For those not familiar, GMI is the NGA's professional development program. We meet via weekly Web conference with some of the brightest minds in the industry, discussing topics like sales, estimating, and project management. One of the things we've found is that our students aren't just passive observers during this process; they use technology to facilitate the learning even more. If someone has a question during our session, they raise it in our online chat room. Often, before a speaker even has a chance to read it, a fellow student will jump in with an answer or a resource to seek out more information. Students have swapped thoughts on marketing techniques, estimating software and project scheduling documents.

That's where Facebook, Twitter, and their various technological cousins come in. I'm sure you handle a lot of e-mail and you're obviously savvy enough with blogs to be reading this. But if you haven't explored these technologies, you might want to take them for a test drive. I'll confess to being a little behind the curve with Twitter (I have an account, but I haven't done much with it), but I find Facebook to be useful. At first, I mostly re-connected with friends from high school and college. Pretty soon, though, I linked up with some industry people and e-learning experts. It's become a vehicle to easily share interesting articles, exchange thoughts and ideas, and get introduced to others. There are things I learn via Facebook that I wouldn't otherwise hear about. While I may not have gotten the hang of Twitter, others have. Amazon.com uses their Twitter feed to offer special rates to their followers. Ashton Kutcher used Twitter to raise awareness of Malaria in Third World countries. During last year's protests in Iran, Twitter was the most effective way to follow the events. Sure, there's a lot of silliness, but there's a lot of powerful business activity, too.

Lest you think I'm just here to be a shill, let me assure you, I'm not. It's just that as I look more and more into how people actually learn, it's platforms like these that catch my attention. We can write hundreds training manuals or online courses, but they'll never take the place of interacting with your peers. And technology is getting better every day at facilitating these connections for all of us.

If you do decide to jump in, check out the NGA on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @NatGlassAssoc. We'd love to hear from you.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Do you perform residential glass and window applications? Or install products at child care facilities? If so, it’s time to get up to speed on new lead paint requirements coming from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Starting in April, any contractor completing work in pre-1978 homes must follow the new procedures. Not doing so could result in fines up to $37,500 per day, per violation. Some folks have told me that they don’t expect much enforcement right away. But, $37,500? That’s nothing to sneeze at.

According to the new lead paint rules, contractors working on these older homes need to be trained and certified in lead-safe work practices, and take a series of additional lead-safe steps on the job site. Download the EPA’s compliance guide to see all the new rules. For the certification applications, click here. The EPA’s Renovator and Trainer Tool Box provides additional information.

These new requirements could have a pretty major effect on some glass and window companies. If you think your company might be affected, even for just a small number of jobs every year, read a full-length article from Glass Magazine about the rules, and check out the Window & Door Dealers Alliance lead paint Webinar on Feb. 9. April is going to be here soon; make sure you don’t get caught by surprise.

--By Katy Devlin, associate editor
Monday, January 11, 2010
Let’s focus on goals. The theme of this and succeeding blogs will focus on goals, goal setting, and goal achieving.

We have just begun a new calendar year. If you have not set one or more goals for this year, do it now. Several clichés come to mind: if you don’t have a target, you can’t hit it; you can’t take a journey without a map. They go on and on. Suffice it to say that goals are mandatory, both professionally and personally, for growth and for survival. Goal setting gives meaning to everything else. A goal has to be time specific and measurable.

Can you think of anyone who has achieved anything by just showing up for work and doing what is expected? People who achieve always plan to achieve. Achievers are very specific about where they want to go and when they will get there. Virginia Wade, the last British woman to win a singles title at Wimbledon, said she had dreams, but not well planned-out goals. Once she planned her goals, she won Wimbledon. She set her sights on a goal, planned how to get it, worked to get it and got it.

Find something you want. That will be the reward for reaching your goal. Set the goal. Once a goal is set, turn the goal into a plan. Once a plan is determined, turn the plan into action by taking whatever steps are required. Keep in mind that consistency builds momentum. I have set a personal goal to run 56 miles on my 56th birthday later this year. I have determined, with the help of others, a training program to build endurance and strength. This includes cross-training, running, adequate sleep, proper nutrition, encouragement from others, and more. I have a plan to reach my goal. I have begun turning the plan into action by running, cross-training, eating well, etc. Each little action builds confidence, which in turn builds momentum and makes it easier to take the next step toward the goal.

Our company has also set goals. One in five businesses grows during challenging economic times. We have set some growth goals and have made specific plans to achieve the goals. We are beginning to penetrate markets we have not traditionally entered. We are making new contacts with potential customers that need specialty glass items. We are breaking down revenue and profit numbers so that each of us understands how we impact them. We are working to create a “we can” attitude in lieu of a “but” attitude. We can measure our progress.

Set a goal! Set several goals. Set personal goals; set corporate goals. As we enter the new year, let’s have a specific destination. Don’t wait for all the traffic lights to turn green before beginning the trip.

A quote to remember and apply: “The will to win means nothing without the will to prepare,” said Juma Ikangaa, a world-class marathon runner from Tanzania.

—Bill Evans, president, Evans Glass Co., Nashville
Friday, January 1, 2010
2009 has wound down, leaving in its trail blood, sweat and tears. Arch filed for bankruptcy; Coastal Glass ceased operation; Oldcastle and PPG closed plants; PPG slashed 2,500 jobs; and AGC laid off workers. It was a rough 12 months, to put it mildly.

To add to misery, in 2010, glass and glazing folks will face challenges in the form of cap and trade and health care reform. In a rare Christmas Eve vote, Senate Democrats passed the health care legislation by a 60-39 margin. The House passed its bill in November, and officials say by February the two sides will sort out its differences and pass the final version.

Some have labeled the legislation a “government takeover of health care.” Read a story on industry professionals’ concern about the matter.

Meanwhile, by brokering a climate deal in Copenhagen less than a couple of weeks ago, President Obama has committed himself to push for comprehensive climate legislation in the Senate this year. To deliver on the pledges that the president made to other world leaders, it will be essential to enact a legislation to cap the U.S. carbon dioxide output and allow polluters to trade emission permits.

Not pleasant news for the glass and glazing industry, a major emitter of greenhouse gas. Read a story on how cap and trade could hurt the industry.

In the field of codes and standards, the proposed revisions to ASHRAE 90.1 could have undesirable effects on the industry. Read story.

However, all is not gloom and doom. The bright spot is the economy finally beginning to turn. At the Outlook 2010 Executive Conference in October, economists said housing starts will expand 26 percent in 2010. While single-family housing starts will rise 30 percent, multifamily starts will advance 14 percent.

Unfortunately, the picture is not as positive in the commercial sector, the economists at the conference said. The recovery in commercial construction has been pushed back to 2011 at the earliest, assuming that credit markets continue to improve and lending conditions become more accommodative. In 2009, the decline for commercial buildings in square footage was 54 percent, and in dollars down 43 percent. For 2010, the loss of momentum will continue, though the declines will ease as contracting retreats another 7 percent.

Overall, the level of construction starts in 2010 is expected to climb 11 percent, the Outlook 2010 economists said.

What are your lessons learned from 2009? Will you apply those this year to improve your situation? Tell me how.

—By Sahely Mukerji, Senior editor, Glass Magazine
Monday, December 14, 2009
As the editors and I conducted interviews for the January 2010 forecast issue of Glass Magazine, we spoke with a number of glass company execs about their plans to remain profitable in what forecasters predict will be a challenging year ahead. Several themes emerged, among them: cutting costs, diversifying product and service offerings, and extending marketing efforts.

We found that the economic downturn has spurred many companies to revisit their sales strategies as they seek out new customers. With this in mind, we are running a two-part series on outbound sales calls in Glass Magazine.

In addition to the written articles, available here and in the upcoming February 2010 issue, we've partnered with ContactPoint to introduce an interactive format on GlassMagazine.com that allows you to listen to examples of good and bad sales calls.

Here is one example of a sales rep effectively gathering information about potential future jobs.


Example 4: Identifying additional job opportunities




For more examples, click here. If you have recordings you'd like to share, please send them to jchase@glass.org.



—By Jenni Chase, Editor, Glass Magazine
Monday, December 7, 2009
It’s been more than three weeks since I returned from the Greenbuild International Conference & Expo in Phoenix, but the green dust certainly hasn’t settled. Maybe it’s all the press coverage about President Obama’s upcoming visit to the climate summit in Copenhagen, or maybe it’s the news that my alma mater was just named America’s Greenest Campus (Let’s go Maryland! *clap* *clap*), but I just keep thinking efficiency and seeing sustainability. And not even hacked e-mails and re-invigorated global warming skeptics can rain on my green parade.

While we (“we” being that universal we, meaning you, me, the lamppost, the industry, the nation, the world) still have a long way to go, I can’t help feeling excited and motivated about the environmental and energy-conscious strides that we have taken, particularly in the construction industry, just in the last decade.

These strides were made very apparent during a conversation I had at Greenbuild with Eddie Bugg, director of sustainable solutions, Kawneer Co., Norcross, Ga., about how the industry has “greened.” Kawneer has been involved with the U.S. Green Building Council and the Greenbuild conference since its inception, Bugg said. “We’ve been here since there were only early adopters. When USGBC hosted the first conference, we were there, with a card table and a couple of table-top samples.”

According to the conference catalog, the first Greenbuild was held in Austin, Texas, in 2002, and hosted a little more than 4,000 people. “Back then, we were an emerging movement, a collection of dedicated, passionate people who knew we were coming together around a good idea,” said Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO and founding chair of the USGBC, in the catalog. Attendance topped 27,000 at the recent Phoenix Greenbuild.

“Year after year, the number of exhibitors and attendees grows,” Bugg said. “This used to be considered a niche market. People weren’t sure it would stay around. During the last two years, it’s become evident that green is mainstream. … The direction that architects are going, the direction that the building industry is going, it is right in line with where Greenbuild is going.”

The mainstreaming of the green movement was emphasized by the USGBC’s theme for this year’s Greenbuild, Main Street Green: Connect to the Conversation. Hopefully we’re now at the point where individuals and companies have to decide to get on board or get out of the way. And from the large number of glass and glazing companies on the Greenbuild floor—about 100 by my count—it looks like the industry is getting on board.

Read more coverage from Greenbuild.

--By Katy Devlin, commercial glass & metals editor
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
One of the big names in aluminum storefront and glass fabrication tripped last week: Arch Aluminum and Glass Co. filed for voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Nov. 25, with the Southern District of Florida U.S. Bankruptcy Court. Court documents list the fabricator's assets at $0-$100,000, with $100MM-$500MM in liabilities, according to TrollerBk.com. The filing does not include Arch's Canadian holdings or Trulite.

Trouble had been brewing at the company for awhile. Arch had 28 facilities in 17 states and 2,400 employees, but in October announced it was "selectively closing or temporarily shuttering" facilities in: Kansas City; Rogers, Minn.; Nashville; and Sarasota, Fla.

According to a South Florida Business Journal report on Nov. 30, “The company said in a news release it would sell all assets to an affiliate of Grey Mountain Partners LLC (“GMP”), a leading private equity firm in Boulder, Colo. The company said it would seek approval for an expedited auction process with the GMP agreement as a so-called “stalking horse” bid, but it did not immediately disclose the bid amount.”

In an interview with Glass Magazine, Leon Silverstein, president and CEO of Arch, said: "It was the size and fall of the economy that caught everybody off guard. With sales down in excess of 20 percent, it is much harder to manage through."

The primary problem was not being able to restructure debt, Silverstein said. "We have a syndicated loan of seven banks. Just think about trying to get seven people to do something. And with the problems the banks have, with the regulators up their rear end, it’s just hard to do things."

What does Arch’s bankruptcy signify to the industry? In particular, to the commercial glazing sector?

At McGraw Hill Construction’s Outlook 2010 Conference Oct. 15-16, Robert Murray, vice president, economic affairs, McGraw Hill Construction, New York, said that the value of new construction starts in 2009 was estimated at $419 billion, a 25 percent decline that follows shortfalls of 13 percent in 2008 and 7 percent in 2007. The level of construction starts in 2010 is expected to climb 11 percent to $466.2 billion, he said. Read story.

However, commercial building construction is not out of the woods yet. Bankers are still tightening lending standards and affecting projects, Murray said. The recovery in commercial construction has been pushed back to 2011 at the earliest, assuming that credit markets continue to improve and lending conditions become more accommodative, according to the Construction Outlook 2010 report.

Max Perilstein, Arch's vice president of marketing, pegged commercial glass industry's recovery even further back. On Nov. 19, he wrote in his blog: “Some analysts see the commercial glass industry struggling until … get this … 2013! Seriously that was a prediction and the first I have seen that has not shown the uptick coming by the end of 2010. Just typing this boggles my mind, but we’ve had such a solid run for a long time, you just can’t fathom that some of the tough times could continue that long.”

What is your take on the market? Will more major players falter before we go on the upswing again?

—By Sahely Mukerji, Senior editor, Glass Magazine
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
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