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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
Monday, October 5, 2009
When a colleague forwarded me this video of what appears to be a primitive bullet-resistant glass demonstration, three thoughts came to mind:

1. Is this video real or fake?

2. This woman must really trust this gentleman's marksmanship.

3. When selecting a product or service, there's no substitute for experiencing its capabilities firsthand.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ezBdC6l3LRU]

At GlassBuild America: The Glass, Window & Door Expo, attendees had the chance to do just that--try out products firsthand--as almost 400 companies took the show floor Sept. 30 through Oct. 2 in Atlanta. While the live demonstrations weren't as nerve-wracking, they were educational.

Visit GlassMagazine.com to see photos from the trade show floor and read about attendees' diversification plans, thoughts on the state of our industry and expectations for the year ahead.

—By Jenni Chase, Editor, Glass Magazine
Monday, September 28, 2009
Glass is not just a means of enclosing a building or home; as the following examples illustrate, it can also be a conduit for personal expression.
German firm Project Blinkenlights is transforming building façades into digital art installations using computer-controlled lamps placed behind darkened windows to create large-scale animated images on glass façades. As part of its most recent Stereoscope installation in Canada, people also were able to play video games on the side of Toronto City Hall using their mobile phones.
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q_LxikyXpFU]
Similarly, fellow Germans UrbanScreen Gmbh & Co. create “custom-made virtual skins“ for urban surfaces by projecting digital, large-scale images and messages on building exteriors. The firm points out on its Web site that “every installation’s central starting point is the architecture.”
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3h3D6dCLAeo]
Too often, the general public sees glass as a simple daylighting solution. That attitude is changing, however, as people encounter glass in unexpected, innovative applications. I encourage you to read our 2009 Crystal Achievement Awards coverage to see how the minds of the glass and architectural design communities continue to produce innovative architecture that inspires not just our industry, but others who look to glass as a vehicle for creative expression.

—By Jenni Chase, Editor, Glass Magazine
Monday, September 21, 2009
My wife and I enjoy watching America’s Got Talent. It’s amazing to us how many people have a talent that has been hidden from most of America and the rest of the world. That television show made me realize that everybody has talent. It may not be entertainment talent; it may be some undiscovered administrative, sales, marketing, installation, or creative talent. Every company has a hidden talent reservoir.

Business is going through a belt-tightening/downsizing period. Many businesses are anticipating 2010. As businesses plan for 2010, part of the strategy should include the appropriate use of the surviving workforce. Take a fresh look at all employees. Imagine what their hidden strengths may be. Ask them about their hobbies/interests. Identify those with obscured talent and/or untapped potential.

How can a business use someone’s talents in previously unused ways? How can a business use them to strength the company? The key is to create an opportunity for them to showcase their talent. Evans Glass Co. has an employee that began in clerical role. We discovered she had the knowledge and ability to network on the Internet and create links back to our Web site. She is also very adept at creating glass sculptures, tables, and ornaments. She is opening a previously unimagined market for us.

If your business does not have any talented people or leaders, then it is time to go find some. There are displaced unemployed people looking for a chance to showcase their talents. If they have been unemployed for some time, they may not demand a high salary or wages.
It is time to plan for your company’s growth in the coming year. Your growth centers on your people. See people as they can be, not as they are.


—Bill Evans, president, Evans Glass Co., Nashville
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Autumn brings us many things each year ... football, falling leaves and the return of Congress from summer recess. Ah, it's that time of year again. Autumn has a feel all its own. We get the sweet aroma and “crunch” of dried leaves on the ground. Not to mention the smell of burgers and dogs on the grill as tailgating fills the air at every football stadium across America.

Meanwhile, the smoke from “pork” filled bills emanates from the halls of the Capitol building. Hmm ... let's peek at what is possibly going to be delivered from Congress this Fall.

When asked why he runs the ball more than passing in his offensive sets, legendary Michigan coach Bo Schembechler famously retorted: when you pass the ball, three things can happen, two of which are bad (incomplete pass or interception). I feel the same way about the upcoming Congressional session. Three things could happen with major impact, and I’m just not sure where that will leave us.

Congress has never faced a more critical agenda, most of which might turn out to be bad for our business interests—the outcome of the health care debate; cap and trade; and the “Employee Free Choice Act" or card check.

We’ve discussed most of this before in blogs and in articles. However, I do want to speak about the health care issue that dominated the news this August and is sure to influence our planning over the next few years.

We will all know the outcome of this contentious issue soon. Congress seems to be moving forward toward a solution of some kind (Public option or not? Universal coverage or limited to a smaller pool? Etc.). Regardless of the specifics, it is safe to assume that the final cost will be passed along to average Americans and businesses in the form of tax increases as the bill has to be paid somewhere along the line.

Regardless of the specifics of the final bill, my real question involves timing since most of the bill won’t take effect until 2013! Your thoughts?

Another hot topic, energy mandates will be debated at the Energy Efficiency Town Hall Forum at GlassBuild America: The Glass, Window & Door Expo Oct. 1. Be sure to join us for this must-attend event. You’ll hear first-hand from industry participants on a number of issues posing opportunity, and risk.

Remember to exercise your rights as a citizen and contact your representative or senator. Regardless of what side of the argument you support, it is our right and privilege to participate in the debate. Or, if you want to speak your mind here, post your thoughts below.

PS: The glass community lost two of its finest businessmen in recent days. Tom Lee Jr., of Lee & Cates Glass in Jacksonville, Fla., and John Whitlatch, president of Matkins Auto Glass Inc., Greensboro, N.C. Both were instrumental in shaping the industry, and each legendary at mentoring many in the industry. To us, John was a past president of the National Glass Association and Tom Lee Jr. was an NGA Community Service Award winner, a distinction worthy of a champion. What's more, they were our friends. Each will be remembered, and our heartfelt prayers extended to the families of each.

— By David Walker, Vice President of Association Services, National Glass Association
Thursday, September 3, 2009
While I support the U.S. government’s efforts to stimulate the economy through legislation such as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, I have to admit that sometimes I find myself asking: what’s in it for me? I missed out on the first-time homebuyers’ credit; my car didn’t qualify for the Cash for Clunkers program; and although I’d like to take advantage of the tax credits available for improving the energy efficiency of my home, a major remodel isn’t a possibility right now. I know I will benefit from these stimulus efforts in the long run, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little envious of the $8,000 check my new neighbors just pocketed!

So, while I continue to navigate the ARRA to see how it can benefit me personally, I’d like to point out one area where it can help small businesses that may have struggled financially last year.

Under the ARRA, small businesses with a net operating loss (NOL) in 2008 can get a refund of taxes paid over the past five years instead of the usual two. To qualify for the new five-year carryback provision, a small business must have no greater than an average of $15 million in gross receipts over a three-year period ending with the tax year of the NOL. Businesses with more than $15 million in gross receipts still qualify to carry back their 2008 NOL for two years.

“The new net operating loss provisions could throw a lifeline to struggling businesses, providing them with a quick infusion of cash,” said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman, in a release.

You’ll need to hurry if you want to take advantage of this option, however. Calendar-year corporations that qualify as Eligible Small Businesses (ESB) must file a claim by Sept. 15. For individuals--sole proprietors, individual partners and shareholders in an S corporation that qualifies as an ESB--the deadline is Oct. 15. More information is available here.

—By Jenni Chase, Editor, Glass Magazine
Monday, August 31, 2009
It seems this recession has sent scammers into overdrive. Maybe they hope that companies struggling to stay afloat during the slow economy will be easy targets for scams, perhaps taking business they would avoid during better times. Or maybe the scammers themselves are feeling the economic pinch (not that my heart bleeds for them).

These scammers are stepping up their efforts to steal from legitimate business owners, often using a fake shipping company scam, and companies need to be on the lookout. The recession is hard enough already—don’t make it worse by losing thousands of dollars to these folks.

On average, I receive two emails a week from business owners reporting they have been targeted with fraudulent orders (for the most part, they have identified the scam in time). Jorge Morales, general manager at Dimensional Plastics Corp., Hialeah, Fla., wrote in a recent email, “I get hit by these scammers at least two to three times a day. … Today, one actually called me!”

Rich Yergovich, sales and marketing manager for Kingston Printing, Eudora, Kan., said, “I got two in one day. Both smelled bad from the start, but I responded with a polite estimate. When I got a response with a request to contact Mobo Shipping in order for my product to be shipped to Singapore, I knew there was a rat in the kitchen. The very minute someone wants to send printed material to a foreign country you have to know something isn’t right.”

The scammers have even started to email me directly, trying to place glass orders supposedly for orphanages, churches or schools in other continents.

If you know the warning signs, the scams are easy to identify. At Glass Magazine, we set up a Scam Alert page listing the red flags for fraud. Make sure you and everyone at your company knows the warning signs. And, most importantly, trust your gut. If it seems fishy, it probably is. Legitimate customers won’t be hesitant to provide basic additional information. Legitimate customers won’t insist on the use of their preferred shipping company when it costs thousands of dollars more to do so. And legitimate customers won’t force you to take a great financial risk to complete their order.

To learn more about the red flags, read examples of fraudulent orders and get information about reporting scammers, go to the Scam Alert page. To read more in-depth information about the shipping company scam and see numerous comments from business owners who have been targeted, click here.

--By Katy Devlin, commercial glass & metals editor
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
A recent survey of senior U.S. manufacturing executives examines their midyear outlook for the U.S. economy, attitudes toward the proposed cap and trade legislation, and current international presence and expansion plans. Baker Tilly commissioned the survey and KRC Research conducted it. Overall, the survey indicates a tale of two manufacturing sectors: the winners and the losers.

Three-hundred senior executives of small, medium and large U.S. manufacturing companies participated in the survey through telephone calls between June 2 and June 22, 2009. Here’s a snapshot of the survey’s key industrial economic outlook findings:

Cautiously optimistic – Nearly six in 10 senior manufacturing execs (57 percent) have a positive outlook for the U.S. economy over the next six months, but slightly (51 percent) more pessimistic about the outlook for the manufacturing sector.

Rightsizing – Over the next six months, 70 percent of manufacturers said they plan to keep staffing levels the same.

Brighter days ahead for some – About half of executives (49 percent) expect their firm’s performance to decline, with 12 percent (disproportionally small businesses) saying their firm is in danger of failing. Customer demand is cited as the top challenge to growth, followed by access to loans and credit, over the next 12 months.

Economic survival strategies – Over the next 12 months, the majority of manufacturing execs expect to reduce costs across the board, such as operational (80 percent), supplier (65 percent) and labor (51 percent).

Staying the course – Despite pressure to reduce costs, executives are continuing to invest in their companies. The most common investments are in quality improvement systems (51 percent).

Bargain hunting – Among executives with plans for M&A; activity, 85 percent report no change in their plans, 12 percent plan to increase and 3 percent plan to decrease it. Among executives whose firms derive some revenue from outside the United States, 80 percent said most of their new customers over the next three years would come from domestic markets. However, more than one in four executives from large manufacturers cited most of their new customers will come from outside the U.S. during the next three years. For companies that conduct business overseas, China (44 percent) and Mexico (40 percent) were cited as countries that will play an increasing role in their global growth strategies during that same period.

The survey also showed that most manufacturing executives (59 percent) generally oppose legislation that includes a greenhouse gas emissions cap and trade system, but a sizable pocket of soft support exists among some executives (32 percent), especially those who are more optimistic about the U.S. economic recovery and the manufacturing sector.

See the executive summary of the report, and let me know your thoughts for the next six months. Are we done with the worst yet, or have we still not reached the bottom? Are we ready to take off and soar high? Will it be an easy or difficult takeoff?

—By Sahely Mukerji, news editor/managing editor, Glass Magazine
Monday, August 17, 2009
Every Memorial Day for at least eight years, my wife, Linda, and I have traveled to Tegucigalpa, the capital city of Honduras, for a week to be part of a medical and missionary team from our church, Fellowship Bible Church of Little Rock. We go out into the city and set up a site with doctors, dentists, an optometrist, a pharmacy and a children’s area. The peoples’ physical needs are the draw we use to then address their spiritual needs, which are our true focus.

This year is particularly special, as we will travel to Honduras at least three times to help build a new mission home for World Gospel Outreach, our yearly host.

On July 14, Linda and I traveled to Tegucigalpa with two ACE Glass Co. associates, Blake and Isaac; our good friend, Johnny; and our middle son, Chris. Amidst the political turmoil, we set out to install the aluminum, single-glazed windows that had been sent a few weeks before our arrival via an emptied Dole banana container going back to Honduras.

In 3-1/2 work days--with occasional help from two very energetic Honduran men, Antonio and Caesar-- we installed 200 window units. Isaac, being bilingual, instructed four Honduran men, believed to have some caulking proficiency, how we wanted the backerod installed and the bronze GE Silpruf applied. They turned out to be pretty good caulkers and are reported to be doing a fine job in our absence. We’ll find out personally when we return in September.

We have about 40 remaining windows units to install in the basement and two other buildings; the holes weren’t ready in July. We will then install a beautiful executive office entrance provided by Alpha Door & Rail and M3 Glass Technologies with DecoTherm logo and 18 Vistawall Oldcastle aluminum doors, frames and sidelites.

These trips are very rewarding personally, and the Hondurans are vocally appreciative to have us help their country and them. Their smiles and laughter are infectious. You can’t imagine how economically poor they are until you experience it.

By Newton Little, executive vice president and co-founder, ACE Glass Co., Little Rock, Ark.
Monday, August 10, 2009
I just got back from a two-day trip with my two partners to visit a colleague in the glass business 1,500 miles away. Some would say that now is not the time to spend money on flights and hotels, and that they can't spend time away from their businesses when times are tough. I say that it has never been more important than it is now! None of us can just keep doing what we have always done and hope to thrive, or even survive. Now is the time to tap your network for all kinds of ideas: new products, new applications for old products, management techniques, efficiency improvements and more.

Some business owners fear they will send the wrong message to their employees if they travel while tightening the belt on most everything else. These fears are easily assuaged, however, when you return with ideas that you can immediately implement to save money and improve the business. Share what you find with your managers and employees and make sure they see that the positive changes are a direct result of what you learned from your contacts. Every time that we have done this--and we typically do it two or three times a year, including attending GlassBuild America: The Glass, Window & Door Expo--we bring back pages of good ideas that justify and pay for the trip.

For these trips to be successful, you need two things: someone who is willing to share openly with you and a willingness to reciprocate. The latter is most important, and if both parties believe that, the exchange will be the most fruitful. While some things are taboo--pricing for example, if you are competitors--don't put up any walls and don't hesitate to share ideas and experiences that will help your friend! It amazes me when people in this industry think they have discovered something that no one else has, and that they can best benefit by closing off their operation like a secret military base. If your focus is on openness and listening, you will always leave having gained more than you shared, and having profited more than you spent.

Time away from the daily routine and pressures also clears and frees your mind to see your company and people in a fresh light. You will return refreshed and energized. Start with GlassBuild America Sept. 30-Oct. 2. Meet up with friends there, and make some new ones. Attend the seminars and take notes. Before you leave, make plans to exchange visits with another company, or to visit a valued supplier. Doing so will grow your business faster, improve our industry and even contribute to overall economic recovery!

--By Chris Mammen, president, M3 Glass Technologies, Irving, Texas
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