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Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Much has been written lately about how poorly our federal government is run. And, to be sure, "official Washington" leaves much to be desired.

There is a nagging void at a number of levels.

Congressmen seem more focused on toeing the party line and raising money for re-election than on serving their constituencies. Combine that with a lame-duck administration whose leadership must be questioned (you don't know how hard it is for me to admit that!), and most of us are left with a yearning for someone – anyone! – who will inject some sanity into the madness.

The passage of the Wall Street bailout bill was important and necessary; but by no means does it resolve the many issues weighing on our nation.

In just a short three weeks, you and I will cast our ballots for the candidates we choose to lead our nation through one of its most challenging periods.

At roughly the same time, Steve Mort, CEO, Don's Mobile is being elected chairman of the National Glass Association. Among his key priorities, Steve is committed to unifying the various segments of the glass industry during his tenure. As Belron CEO Gary Lubner recently observed in a well-timed video interview, it would be good if our industry united under one banner. Well, you know where this writer’s heart lies. I believe it is safe to say that Steve and I are on the same page, too.

I know most of us are struggling to contend with a historically difficult economic environment; but I urge you not to waiver on your support of, or involvement with, the NGA. I’ve been encouraged by the commitment our members have shown to their association during this tough cycle. Now more than ever, we need all the energy and unity we can muster. Fortunately, the NGA has picked an opportune moment to be at the top of its game.

In the coming year, the NGA will underscore its leadership role with frequent, deliberative communications in a proactive effort to galvanize glass shops of all shapes, sizes and industry segments behind a common goal.

We will collaborate with like-minded groups, as always; but more importantly, expect the NGA to ramp up its commitment to you. That work has already begun with recent improvements to our magazines, MyGlassClass.com, NGA certification, GlassBuild America, the Glass Management Institute, and so much more. But, I’m pleased to say, the best is yet to come!

We should all pray that the same will be said for our nation. I certainly believe that is the case. That’s why I will be exercising my right to vote on Nov. 4; and I hope you will as well. I urge you to encourage your employees to vote as well. After all, our nation is at a critical crossroads. It’s more than the typical cliché to say that this may be the most important election of our lifetimes.

Vote well, my friend. And if you live in Chicago, vote often!

By David Walker, vice president, Association Services, National Glass Association
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
The news yesterday of the Dow’s morning plunge below 10,000 should have put me in low financial spirits. But, Michael Spellman, president of IGE Solutions Inc., Jupiter, Fla., helped me fend off my financial funk during a one-on-one interview when he gave a much-needed optimistic forecast for the glass industry.

“We’re very bullish about the future. We think the glass industry is going to keep growing, and we think IGE is going to keep growing,” Spellman said.

Watch the full interview from the floor of GlassBuild America below. Visit http://www.glassmagazine.com/ for more news from the show.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7q81ycBoco]
Thursday, October 2, 2008

The financial shock waves emanating from Wall Street to Main Street had me remembering more than my Great Depression history classes. This year alone, the glass industry has weathered sizeable storms. Unlike David Letterman’s Top 10 list, mine is no laughing matter, but there is an upside.





  1. The decline of the housing market


  2. The corresponding credit and financial crisis


  3. The rise of energy costs


  4. The tapering of China’s influence


  5. AGC’s float and coating plant closures; intent to sell fabrication business by year-end


  6. PPG’s force majeure notice; sale of its automotive OEM and replacement glass services businesses


  7. Retail auto glass consolidations such as Belron’s purchase of Diamond Glass and Cindy Rowe Auto Glass


  8. Glass, metal and other price increases


  9. The specter of a glass shortage?


  10. The promise of “green” or sustainable glass products and building design


I didn’t list it, but there’s talk of a slow-down in the commercial market; no surprise to industry veterans who have experienced previous business cycles. Meanwhile, does anyone remember a time of such variation in glass price increases? The law of supply and demand—fewer domestic float tanks producing glass, prices up for imported glass—holds true.



Of course, economic downturns also bring new opportunities. Companies trim down, go on sale and focus on products for the future, like solar glass. As I write this, suppliers to the industry are setting up booths at GlassBuild America in Las Vegas. Solar glass is just one of many new products and services on display. The show must go on, sales will be made and nimble, innovative glass companies will prosper.


- By Nicole Harris, publisher, Glass Magazine

Monday, September 29, 2008
Do you know enough about insulating glass certification? According to some industry experts, you should make sure you do.

IG certification is becoming increasingly important in the industry. The National Fenestration Rating Council, Greenbelt, Md., is currently working to incorporate IG certification requirements into its program. And, the Insulating Glass Certification Council, Sackets Harbor, N.Y., and the Insulating Glass Manufacturers Alliance, Ottawa, Ontario, are nearing completion of a harmonized IGCC/IGMA certification program.

Watch the video below to see highlights of interviews with IG certification experts John Kent, administrative manager for the IGCC; Tracy Rogers, technical director for Edgetech I.G. Inc., Cambridge, Ohio; and Margaret Webb, IGMA executive director.

For even more information, visit the Edgetech I.G. booth, #1934, during GlassBuild America, where Webb, in addition to officials from NFRC and Energy Star, will be available to answer questions about IG certification throughout the show. Learn more.



http://www.youtube.com/get_player


—By Katy Devlin, commercial glass and metals editor, retail glass co-editor, Glass Magazine

Friday, September 19, 2008
If you're like me, the events on Wall Street this past week took your breath away.

Once I steadied myself, I tried to ponder its full ramifications in the context of the future business outlook.

We're like that. We seek meaning from today so as to better understand tomorrow. As business people, we're always looking for that extra edge to capitalize on market opportunities and reduce our risk.

Well, get this. It's a fruitless exercise. At least if you subscribe to the wisdom of "The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable," by Nassam Nicholas Taleb.

The bestseller’s main thesis is that accurate prediction is enormously difficult, rendering techniques used to manage risk flawed because none deals well with the "Black Swan" – a metaphor for high-impact, hard-to-predict, random events.

In many ways, this past week was a Black Swan event. A rare (we hope) confluence of negative developments that produced out-sized consequences. A perfect storm of things we once thought were impossible, but suddenly, shockingly, became all too real.

Taleb’s point is that we don’t plan for events we regard as rare and improbable. And yet, such events occur much more frequently than we dare think.

When a black swan catches us unaware, we simply may need to gulp and brace ourselves, as most of us did a week ago.

After all, most of us have come to believe there will never be another financial collapse like the one that led to the Great Depression. Ha! Still believe that?

Let’s just hope the events of the past week are as close as this generation ever gets to such a seminal event. Indeed, we can hope; but we’d be foolish to assume it won’t be worse next time. Black swans exist.

So, how can we apply the lessons of The Black Swan to our business?

· Adopt a more conservative investment strategy;

· Avoid placing big bets based on forecasts. How often do we hear of bellwether companies revising their earnings outlooks downward? It seems there’s more every week;

· Act like a Boy Scout, not a Pollyanna. Be prepared. The worst case scenario can, and often does, occur.

· Remember that a Black Swan event might change the rules of the game for your business, fundamentally altering your long-term strategy. Don't lull yourself into thinking that once you’ve weathered the storm, everything will soon revert to business as usual. For example, now that the government is so deeply invested in the banking, insurance and mortgage sectors, the markets have only just begun to gauge the long-term implications.

· Be alert to variances from your projected start and end points on a key project or business launch. Understand that others in your value chain, including suppliers and general contractors, are subject to variances of their own. Slower-paying receivables at one end of the chain can quickly cascade down the line, disrupting schedules and compromising your ability to meet your own deadlines.

· Make plans to attend GlassBuild America where the industry gathers Oct. 6-8 to network and buy and sell. Opportunities abound, now that the swan appears to have flown away. I promise!

By the way, if you're looking for a good read on the plane ride out to GlassBuild America, I recommend "The Black Swan." I’ve only scratched the surface of its powerful and provocative insights in this entry.

Looking for some normalcy amongst all the madness? Don't look toward Wrigley Field. The Cubs just might be headed to the World Series. Now there’s a black swan event if we ever saw one!


By David Walker, vice president, Association Services, National Glass Association
Monday, September 15, 2008
I rode the same shuttle bus as Arthur Berkowitz and James Carroll of J.E. Berkowitz on my way to the Wyndham DFW Airport North Hotel last week. I flew into Dallas for the GANA Fall Conference Sept. 8-10. As the pre-Ike rain started pattering down and our bus picked up speed on the empty highway, we started chatting about ...what else? ... the state of the industry, latest projects and the hot products on the market. Berkowitz mentioned the Dulles International Airport project and the company’s latest product, decorative interlayers with SentryGlas Expressions from DuPont.

SentryGlas is a specific technology that uses an inkjet printer to print on to the PVB, Carroll said. The special ink is made by DuPont in conjunction with the makers of the printer. The surface of the SentryGlas PVB is ground differently than regular PVBs, he said. “If it’s too flat, the ink will run off. This PVB is specially prepared for ink adhesion; it allows the ink to stay where you put it.”

The technology allows you to take a picture and recreate it in a special software package. You can make the image larger or smaller. “You can do just about anything with this,” Carroll said. “We’re using Photoshop to maneuver the files.” You can put silk-screen patterns and put it in the PVB instead of the lami. You can pick any color you like. “The advantage is you can do this in different pieces and put them together to make one image,” Carroll said. “We’ve seen people looking into having their names printed on the building. It’s better to print on the interlayer than to silk-screen it on the outside of the glass.”

Berkowitz is a licensed dealer of the DuPont technology and is trying to market it as a Berkowitz/DuPont product. Other than Berkowitz, Pulp Studio in Los Angeles and Standard Bent in Butler, Pa., also are marketing SentryGlas in North America, Carroll said. “We’ve had it for about four months,” he said. “We have just now have begun to make samples and send them out. We’re working with a graphic designer as a contract employee. It’s very time consuming, depending upon how complicated the design is. We’re waiting for the dam to break.”

As the bus pulled into the hotel driveway, the rain drops were coming down big and fast. We jogged inside, and Berkowitz commented that there are no “standards” anymore in decorative glass. Architects want larger sizes and everything is customized, he said. True to the market trends, GANA began its decorative division in 2006. Read about a decorative presentation at the fall conference.

What are some of your hot products waiting to take off in the market? Drop me a line and tell me about projects using innovative and unusual glass.

By Sahely Mukerji, news editor/managing editor, Glass Magazine
Monday, September 8, 2008
I am in the president’s home state, in the city of Dallas, whose new slogan is “Live large. Think big.” It’s my first time in this city, and true to its slogan, I noticed the “large” and the “big” in various shapes and forms as soon as I landed: big hair, big cowboy hats, and dare I say, big chutzpah! As I was calling the hotel from the airport for a shuttle, a guy—in a cowboy hat—appeared from nowhere and without any introduction said, “Hey, you wanna’ go watch football with me and grab a few wings?”

Uh, excuse me!

The Glass Association of North America is hosting its fall conference in this ninth largest city in the U.S. with an area of 343 square miles and a population of 1,213,825. Per my Web research, Dallas’ skyline features quite a few gleaming towers, several of which are more than 700 feet tall. Here are a few head-turners:

The Renaissance Tower on Elm Street is a 56-story office tower, 886 feet high. Hellmuth, Obata and Kassabaum designed it in 1974, and Skidmore, Owings and Merrill renovated it in 1986.

The Fountain Place on Ross Avenue is a 60-story green glass tower, 720 feet high. The I.M. Pei & Partners designed the building and its construction was completed in 1986. Resembling a large multifaceted prism, the building’s various slanted sides give it a different profile from all directions.

JPJ Architects designed the formerly Maxus Energy Tower, recently renamed KPMG Centre. The glass walls of the rectangular 34-story tower create an illusion and make it look like its toppling over. The illusion is in the glass walls that seem to be sloping inward from top to bottom but in reality are straight. KPMG Centre is linked by a skywalk network to the parking lot.

I.M. Pei & Partners designed the 49-story Energy Plaza skyscraper on Bryan Street. Sheathed in glass the building is based on a design using three triangles. The communications tower at the top of the building is modeled after Paris' Eiffel Tower.

The soaring Reunion Tower, part of the Hyatt Regency Hotel complex on Reunion Boulevard, is a column topped by a geodesic and glass dome complete with an observation tower, restaurant and lounge.

Plenty more such shiny stunners are in Dallas, including the all-glass high-end condo, Azure, which I won’t be able to admire in person given GANA’s packed agenda. I’m still tickled pink to be in Gee Dubya country, right in the middle of those folks who were chanting "Drill baby, drill" at the Republican convention last week, while an ex-mayor made fun of community organizers.

"Community organizer. Wha?" Live large, think big! Yeehaaw.

By Sahely Mukerji, news editor/managing editor, Glass Magazine

Read a report from Day One of the GANA Fall Conference.

 

Friday, August 29, 2008
As a consumer, I’m frustrated with the lack of customer service I too often encounter in the retail world. For example, I recently set up appointments with some local contractors to get estimates on a new backyard fence. I scheduled the first estimate during my lunch hour, anticipating the contractor and I would have plenty of time to discuss the job before I had to get back to work. I arrived home at 1 p.m. and waited … and waited … and waited. Thirty minutes later, the contractor—who shall remain nameless—knocked on my door. Not only did he fail to apologize for wasting my time, he didn’t acknowledge he was late! I decided I would not be using his company’s services, regardless of how low their bid.

There is a lot of discussion in the glass industry, particularly on the automotive side, about how retailers are stealing business away from their competitors by offering rock-bottom prices. Maybe I’m unusual, but a low price is not the first thing I look for in a service provider. I want prompt, quality service; I want friendly CSRs; I want a company to give me a reason, other than price, to use its products and services.

At Creative Mirror & Shower in Addison, Ill., that reason is the highly qualified staff. “We feel that product knowledge is a massive advantage for us,” explained President Mark Pritikin in an interview for the “Showrooms as sales tools” article in the upcoming October issue of Glass Magazine. “When you come into our stores, you talk with knowledgeable people.”

What reason do you offer customers to frequent your shop? If the answer is price, you might be in trouble. If it’s something more powerful, I’d love to include it in our ongoing “Poker Play” series on how retailers can improve their businesses. Please email me at jchase@glass.org. Help me out: Is quality service really too much to ask for?


—By Jenni Chase, senior editor, retail and auto glass, Glass Magazine

Monday, August 25, 2008
My dad always told me to “trust but verify.” A safer piece of advice today, in the scam age, might be “doubt until verified.” There are Internet scams, identity thefts, pyramid schemes, charity frauds and, of particular concern for the glass industry, ordering scams.

I received an e-mail last week from Chris Thornton, president of Ace Glass Inc., Montgomery, Ala., saying his shop had been targeted by scammers. After several emails back and forth, Thornton identified the fraud and stopped the order before the company lost any money. Many shops have not been so lucky.

For several years, scammers have targeted the glass industry with fraudulent orders that could cost a company thousands of dollars if not caught in time. And, there is little or no protection for companies once they have been scammed.

“The main thing to get this stopped is education within glass companies. Recognize the patterns,” David Furlong, investigator for the Utah Division of Consumer Protection said in a September 2007 e-glass weekly article.

To help glass shop owners keep up with frauds and scamming techniques, we have created a Scam alert page on GlassMagazine.com. The page contains a list of the red flags for fraud, links to related scam articles and copies of fraudulent orders sent to glass shops.

E-mail me at kdevlin@glass.org to submit your information to the Scam alert page.

—By Katy Devlin, commercial glass and metals editor, retail glass co-editor, Glass Magazine

Monday, August 4, 2008

It’s not quite like being a kid, but I still enjoy this time of year. A trip to the beach, a good book, even sweating in the lawn. Summer always seems to be a good time for reflection, learning, planning...

For example, the other day I spotted a piece of sea glass. Yes, sea glass.

You know, those irregular shards of glass that, after years of pounding and molding by the ocean, eventually wear into smooth collectibles. Indeed, one man’s trash truly becomes another’s treasure.

Time does just that. It changes the mix and shape of things. And much like shards of glass cast about by the sea, businesses are shaped and buffeted by the relentless forces that surround them. Change is inevitable.

I recently watched a video interview in which a leading industry CEO proclaimed that the auto glass industry is in crisis. He went on to make a number of poignant observations that, no doubt, can all lead to such a dramatic conclusion.

So while I hesitate to disagree with such a notable senior executive – whose experience and knowledge of the industry dwarfs my own – I’d like to offer a slightly different take: The auto glass industry is not so much in crisis as it is facing a "tipping point."

You know well the immovable forces shaping your business:
· Shrinking insurance reimbursements, which now force you to work with
two penny-pinching customers: Joe Consumer and Mega Insurance Co.
· Networks
· Unstable pricing
· Tighter margins
· Competition from other market segments
· Mergers and consolidations
· And sadly, in many cases, outright business closings

While all of the above might reasonably be classified as presenting a “crisis,” I believe these transformative developments are simply accelerating a natural weeding-out of winners and losers.

Which brings me back to my summer reading. You won’t be surprised to learn that I just finished a terrific read called, drumroll please ... "The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference" by Malcolm Gladwell.

Gladwell defines tipping points as “the levels at which the momentum for change becomes unstoppable.”

He discusses how messages and behaviors spread like viruses, starting as a series of small movements. They cut through the clutter, and eventually stick, creating a new context to which the winners will adapt. Those who are unable or unwilling to adjust lose.

In my travels, I have visited a number of successful auto glass companies. These firms are adapting to the changes that envelope them. They are winning, not just with hard work and persistence – traits that always define winners.

They are rising above the competition with superior quality (supported by a commitment to employee training) and best-in-class marketing. (Shameless, but relevant, plug: You can see many of these companies at the National Auto Glass Conference next February in Orlando.)

Here’s a question to ponder: Are you facing a tipping point? If so, you’re not alone. It’s time to invest in the things that can push you into the winners’ category. Quality … top-notch marketing … training …

While you’re at it, you may want to pick up "The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Difference." After all, it’s the summer!
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