glassblog

Monday, October 19, 2009
In recent years, architects have begun to see some of the many creative uses for glass, and they have incorporated more and more of it into their spaces. This was not by accident. Many companies in our industry have spent a great deal of money in getting our products in front of the architectural community. Even more money has been spent in the development of new glazing products to keep the momentum going in favor of "more glass" in buildings, even as energy codes have become increasingly stringent. In the end, we have all benefited. Even if your piece of the pie didn't grow, the pie itself did, whether you were directly involved in these efforts or not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


—By Jenni Chase, Editor, Glass Magazine
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
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