glassblog

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Last Friday, I was lucky enough to go to an eighties-themed NBA game featuring Debbie Gibson as the halftime performance. So I was already in “throwback” mode when the e-mail came in from an industry friend with a crazy piece of news from an old nemesis of mine. Yes, the NFRC has returned to the radar like it was 2005 again. Now this little tidbit is nothing like what I battled over for years, and I have moved on, being too much of a fan of Tom Herron, NFRC’s excellent senior manager of communication and marketing, to pick on anything else now that the major battles have passed. But that said, this one was too much not to comment on.

NFRC sent an e-mail to its membership that had chosen to be partners in an Energy Star program. After thanking them for doing this and mentioning how wise and wonderful the decision was, the next paragraph dropped the doozy: “As an Energy Star partner, you have the option to participate in a verification program. However, failure to enroll for verification testing or to respond to requests for products or information in a timely manner will require the National Fenestration Rating Council to inform the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.”

Yep, so you have the “option” to participate but if you don't do so, we’re turning in you into the authorities! Ummm, that means you actually don't have the option if you don’t want some muckety muck from the EPA on you. So why not just spell it out: it’s not an option, it’s a requirement. Plain and simple right? I swear, it’s like old times again. It was loose, inconsistent language like this that started the whole fight. I guess it is true that everything old can come back and be new again. I can go on and on, but if I start ranting on NFRC again, I’ll become that crazy outlier blog no one will want to read.

Elsewhere…

  • But wait… another one of my old staples is China, and that too hit my radar this week. Legendary technical consultant Greg Carney dropped me a note with a link to a story of the growing amount of vacant skyscrapers in China.  As Greg correctly noted, the scary part is if this issue causes the Chinese government to stop investing in real estate and the glass guys there run out of places to supply, the dumping that could take place in North America could be off the charts. Here’s the link; it is one story to watch.
  • Before I go back to 2013, just a heads up on a movie coming out that is based on an incredible, true story from 1994. The movie is called Pain & Gain, and it stars The Rock and Marky Mark Wahlberg. It will surely be made with a Hollywood spin and be a buddy film sort of thing (based on the trailer). However, the true story is so unreal, so amazing, and filled with just mind-blowing twists, it’s a shame it won’t be covered accurately. The story is here. It’s three parts long but worth it when you get a moment.
  • And last from the past, a word of congrats to a former co-worker of mine, Howard Holesapple, on his new gig as VP of Sales at Consolidated Glass in New Castle, Pa. Howard is riot, and I'm glad he left his band “Howard and the Holesapples” to stay in the glass industry.
  • Before I end, we’ll come to the present for the last item of the week. The news that Grey Mountain’s Consolidated Glass Holdings named a new president and CEO broke on GlassMagazine.com late in the week. I will say the same thing here that I said on my blog when the new CEO at Trulite was announced: I wish them the best of luck, as there’s a bunch of excellent people in the organization. It will surely be interesting to watch how this progresses.

Read on for links and clip of the week...

The author is founder of Sole Source Consultants, a consulting firm for the building products industry that specializes in marketing, branding, communication strategy and overall reputation management, as well as website and social media, and codes and specifications. E-mail him at MaxP@SoleSourceConsultants.com.

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

Monday, March 4, 2013

“Most people don’t plan to fail, they just fail to plan.” Have you heard that before? “Plan? We don’t have time to plan. We have to move this ship forward with our own efforts.”

What’s the value of planning in your business? Do you have a regularly scheduled time to plan, or do you only plan when forced to do so?

We use two types of planning at our company: immediate and long-term. Immediate planning involves having a regularly scheduled time to address day-to-day and week-to-week issues. It is “urgent” planning. We conclude each day by planning for tomorrow’s activities and jobs. We conclude each week by planning for the next week’s activities. This type of planning is centered on executing tasks at specific times: Who is going to do what, when and how? People do this naturally. Immediate planning, for the most part, is not a learned skill.

Long-term planning is a learned skill. It requires a different thought process from the immediate planning we do naturally. It is difficult, because the events―and the timing of those events―are unknown. Some might never occur. We have to put long-term planning in our schedule and intentionally focus on doing it. Long-term planning is “important”, but we must make it “urgent”.

Long-term planning has three components: goal setting, succession planning and contingency planning.

Goal setting asks three questions:  Where are we?  Where do we want to be? How do we plan to get there?

Succession planning asks one―possibly two―questions: 1) Do you want your business to continue after you are no longer active? 2) If yes, what are your options, and how do you plan for those options?

Contingency planning asks one question: What if? Think about situations involving employees, customers and vendors. Anticipate what you would need to do if something happened. The object is to eliminate surprises.

Which of these areas of planning have you been delaying? Why? Does fear stop you? Do daily or weekly crises get in the way? You will control much of your future business by doing long-term planning. Let’s talk about it in future blogs.

The author is president, Evans Glass Co. in Nashville and chairman of the board for the National Glass Association. Write him at bevans@evansglasscompany.com.

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

Sunday, March 3, 2013

There are certain authors, actors and musicians that I absolutely must follow, and whenever they come out with new material, I am sure to get it. Well, lately in the blog world, there have been a few people that fit that role. Every time they post, it evokes thought and reaction. Here are some that just deliver again and again.

First up, Jenni Chase on Glass Magazine’s site is on an absolute roll. Last week’s post on the low-cost competitor had the industry buzzing. The comments to her piece were insightful, interesting, and for some, controversial. When a true class act like Bob Lawrence weighs in, like he did here, you have to pay attention. The give and take, in the mature manner that took place, was refreshing. More debate is sure to come on that issue, and that’s the beauty of Jenni’s takes. Whether it’s this piece or being a glass “geek,” she gets people talking.

I am also a fan of Jeff Razwick’s blog on the Technical Glass Products site. This past week, Jeff took on the subject of school safety and laid out several arguments and insights. In some cases, blogs are meant to just get you thinking, and Jeff usually takes that task.  Basically every time he writes, it leads to discussion. Great stuff. The post can be found here.

Others? I miss the old Division 8 blog. That one had a ton of potential, but it went away and I am not sure why. I do like when guys like Mark Silverberg of Technoform blog, and I am a huge fan of anytime Jon Kimberlain of Dow Corning posts. Plus, the great takes of folks like Rod Van Buskirk, Bill Evans and Chris Mammen are in that must-read category.

Elsewhere…

  • Is the fact that we are in such a relatively slow industry news cycle right now a good sign? I think so; less turmoil is best. But it is tough to be a blogger who loves to comment on relevant news.
  • I recently completed the first of four interviews I am doing for Glass Magazine and I am very excited about it. Being able to shine the light on some serious talent in our industry is exciting. The first one for 2013 will be out soon!
  • One of the architectural sites I love to follow had a good thread on one of their message boards that asked, “What are some of the ‘coolest’ new products you have seen lately?” Being a site for architects, it had responses on some wild self-healing concrete along with other marbles and gypsum. No glass or aluminum has been mentioned... yet.
  • The same thread included a post from someone who wrote how she was annoyed by people promoting “green” products with no documentation or basis. It's amazing that still continues, despite FTC fines and a focus on ”greenwashing."
  • Last this week, can you believe it is March? Get ready for baseball to kick in, and March Madness to take place in College hoops. Maybe spring weather will actually make an appearance too… would nice to be warmer, but I’ll take cold over a wet spring, since rain is bad for jobsites.

Read on for links and clip of the week...

The author is founder of Sole Source Consultants, a consulting firm for the building products industry that specializes in marketing, branding, communication strategy and overall reputation management, as well as website and social media, and codes and specifications. E-mail him at MaxP@SoleSourceConsultants.com.

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

Monday, February 25, 2013

According to glassblog contributor Rod Van Buskirk, there are a few contract glaziers in every market that don't follow the rules. In an effort to cut costs, they might install improper product, underpay their employees, or disregard their union expenses. And with so many building owners focused on the bottom line, these companies sometimes win the job over their honest, quality, possibly higher-priced competitors.

Apparently, this is also true in the fabrication side of the business, where 48 percent of this year's Top Glass Fabricators said competing against low-quality companies would be their biggest challenge in 2013.

So how do you, as a high quality company, compete? How do you set yourself apart from competitors that rely on cutting corners to guarantee the lowest bid? And how does the extra effort affect your margins? As an industry, we're all looking for solutions to this problem. What is yours? 

Chase is editorial director of Glass Magazine. Write her at jchase@glass.org.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

This past week, the latest Architecture Billings Index came out, reflecting its best performance since 2007. So, is it time to party? Can we take this seriously? Sadly, my answer is … no. I just have a nagging feeling that this report was a fluke, and that next month we’ll be off the trend again. Plus, the positive ABI from last year has not really had a direct effect on our industry (especially in specific geographies). At the  end of the day, I enjoy following and commenting on these reports, but I am reluctant to believe them.

Elsewhere…

  • Want to read a depressing story that will make you angry about government waste, corporate greed, lawyerly deception and overall ineptitude? Check out this piece on the Home Affordable Modification Program and see how efforts like this can go very badly.
  • Last week, I hammered the cruise world after the Carnival debacle and I heard about it from several people.  Former Texas Glass Association Professional of the Year David Ozment of Binswanger Glass was not pleased with my comments, given the effect a cruise slowdown could have on his Galveston territory. And he’s right.  If the cruise industry suffers, the effect it will have on its ports will be dramatic. Still, I wonder how many people saw that coverage and decided, no way, not going on one.
  • Amazing news: last week, I had a brief interaction with the folks at the Department of Energy and I must say, the new blood is very very good. We have hope, folks. Good people at that organization could have an incredibly positive effect on our industry.
  • If you read this blog, you know I like lists. This one though was tough. I picked it up thanks to the fantastic Twitter feed of Earnest Thompson, and it was Forbes Magazine’s “top miserable cities” for 2013. The link is here, but as a preview, a lot of Michigan and California cities are on the list.
  • Kudos to the team at MyGlassTruck.com for their latest fundraising success. You might remember these guys as the folks with the memorable exhibits at GlassBuild America. They also are pretty amazing when it comes to raising money for breast cancer, and last week, they announced they passed the $10,000 mark in secured donations. Great work gang!! Plus, I can’t wait to see what they have up their sleeves in Atlanta this fall!
  • Last this week, I read that Lance Armstrong was paid $31 million by the US Postal Service as part of the cycling team's sponsorship deal. I guess this is yet another reason why that organization is so deep in debt. I would’ve loved to be in that marketing and strategy session to hear what the justification was on why they sponsored him, and more importantly, how they thought it would drive more people to use an archaic mail and delivery service. And I get brand awareness--live for it--but that argument doesn’t play here for a ton of reasons (majority of races overseas, lack of TV exposure, tainted sport, etc.).

Read on for links and clip of the week...

The author is founder of Sole Source Consultants, a consulting firm for the building products industry that specializes in marketing, branding, communication strategy and overall reputation management, as well as website and social media, and codes and specifications. E-mail him at MaxP@SoleSourceConsultants.com.

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

Monday, February 18, 2013

Vacuum insulated glass (VIG) has been tapped by the Department of Energy and other organizations as an emerging, highly efficient window technology to watch. And with the potential for R-values of R-10 or higher, according to several VIG manufacturers, that's no surprise.

Driven by the continual push for higher window performance, VIG seems to be gaining traction and attention in the United States. The DOE pointed to VIG as one of several highly insulating window technologies to watch during its Windows Technology Roadmap session during the Window and Door Manufacturers Association Technical Conference in June 2012. The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is working to develop low-cost, durable and highly insulating VIG. And the technology has been on the agenda of the Emerging Technologies & Innovation Committee at the Insulating Glass Manufacturers Alliance—the IGMA committee is in the process of developing a VIG educational white paper for the window industry, as well as architects and others in the building community.

Despite the recent interest, VIG is far from a new technology. In fact, the first mention of a type of vacuum glazing was found in patent literature from 1913, according to Nippon Sheet Glass. And NSG actually began commercial production of its vacuum glazing product, Spacia, in 1996.

Vacuum glazing has been used in residential and commercial applications throughout Asia for almost two decades. "It's a fact of life there," said Chris Barry, the former director of technical services, building products, Pilkington North America, during the IGMA Annual Meeting two weeks ago in New Orleans.

Despite the proliferation of VIG overseas, the technology has lagged domestically. Currently, there are no commercial VIG lines in the United States. That isn't to say U.S. companies aren't investing in VIG R&D. Guardian Industries has been developing a VIG product for a number of years—in fact, the company showed a prototype during the 2009 AIA Expo. And, EverSealed Windows is hoping to enter the market in the next several years with a flexible edge-sealed VIG design.

But, according to several representatives at the recent IGMA meeting, VIG continues to face notable challenges to entry into the U.S. market. The high cost of VIG, technical hurdles, and a potential lack of education and familiarity with the product within the building industry all hinder domestic VIG use, they say. "People around the world see potential with this product. Hopefully [manufacturers] will come up with solutions that can be cost-effective in the U.S.," said Bob Spindler, Vice President Technical Services at Cardinal Glass Industries, during the IGMA meeting. 

Devlin is senior editor for Glass Magazine. Write her at kdevlin@glass.org.

Monday, February 18, 2013

I have been writing this blog for a long time. Since 2005, I have been posting my thoughts, opinions, theories and awful sporting predictions (although this year, I did call the Super Bowl; thank you very much). I have enjoyed it a great deal, but I must say the last several weeks have been the most fun I have had writing this blog in a very long time. You, the readership, have been incredibly engaged. The amount of feedback I have received has made writing this blog a blast. It is awesome to see that people are interested in the subjects I hit here: education, technology, talent, and heck, even Taylor Swift. While I created this forum to release my feelings, it is also an outlet for your feelings and issues. And I am thrilled it continues to fill that role!

Elsewhere…

  • Speaking of education, several weeks ago I mentioned SAPA’s Commercial B&C Academy as a great learning opportunity. It was held a week or so ago, and I heard it was great. People from all over North America attended, and there was some serious learning going on. Congrats to the gang there for their efforts. I will surely do all I can to attend the next one in person!
  • A quick “get well soon” wish to good friend Steve O’Hollaren of ICD. Can’t wait to see you back out on the road and at the shows!
  • Enjoyed the Glass Magazine “G3” piece this month that asked the “expectations for 2013” question. Mike Turner of YKK, Sue Moore of Moore Glass and Scott Thomsen of Guardian Industries did a great job of hitting the important points for the year ahead. By the way, I really like this feature; it is a quick and interesting way to get insight and opinions from some very fascinating people.
  • As a marketing guy, I will be very interested to see if Carnival Cruise lines does anything to change the current perception in the marketplace. Last week’s debacle with the ship broken down at sea drew so much negative attention to the line, I have to wonder how they will bounce back. Heck, the whole industry suffered mightily. Even though these ships are “floating cities,” when things go wrong, you are  really in an ugly place. For the record, I haven’t had the desire to take a cruise. After this event, even the slim desire is gone. I’ll stick to land.
  • Last week, the Grammy Awards took place, and my comments are simple. Taylor Swift did not sing the song I liked, and the show lacked that awesome performance they had in years past (like Bruno Mars in 2012). Too bad.
  • Last this week: a meteor hit Russia. How is this not bigger news? If one hit the U.S., it would easily be the second biggest story of the day behind Marco Rubio drinking water or someone learning the Harlem Shake dance. Seriously though, the meteor hit was an insane event, and a scary one. And from a glass standpoint, one story noted that more than a million square feet of glass broke after impact. It's a really big story that somehow, at least in my viewing, did not get the attention it deserves.

Read on for links and video of the week...

The author is founder of Sole Source Consultants, a consulting firm for the building products industry that specializes in marketing, branding, communication strategy and overall reputation management, as well as website and social media, and codes and specifications. E-mail him at MaxP@SoleSourceConsultants.com.

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

Monday, February 11, 2013

In each issue of Glass Magazine, we ask three executives representing the commercial, retail and fabrication segments of the market to answer a question of importance to the glass and metals industry as a whole. Now, it's your turn to ask the question.

Our G3 series of articles addresses everything from product trends, to market conditions, to customer demands, to personnel issues. And as we move into 2013, I'd like to hear what questions you have for  industry peers. Below are links to some of the topics we covered in 2012. If you have suggestions for future topics, please email me or post a comment below, and I'll do my best to get your questions answered.

What are end users asking for in terms of products and services?

What are the most challenging, and rewarding, aspects of custom projects?

How does your company use social media to connect with customers?

What are the most common glass and glazing products that are value engineered out of a project? What can you do to ensure this doesn't happen?

Chase is editorial director of Glass Magazine, GlassMagazine.com and e-glass weekly. Write her at jchase@glass.org.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Several weeks ago, I mentioned that the IGMA Annual Conference in New Orleans was going to be a strong one, and judging by the reports that filtered back to me, it was. Quite a bit of news came out of the event, including an update from the IGCC's John Kent about the never-ending adventure of certification and the presentation from Quanex's Mike Burk (one of my all-time favorite conference speakers) on safety that included a discussion about how incentives might not work, and dangers to the neck area. Certification and safety are major concerns in our world, for sure.

That said, when I had heard that Ray Wakefield of Trulite was attending his last IGMA meeting, I was really thrown. To me, that’s the biggest news of the event. Personally, I can’t believe it. Ray is an industry institution, and the thought of him not being involved in things like IGMA blows my  mind. I wish you well Ray. These deals won’t be the same without you!

Elsewhere...

  • And let’s give props to outgoing IGMA President Dave Cooper of Guardian. During his tenure, the meeting agendas were strong and interesting. The next president (I have not heard yet who that might be) will have really big shoes to fill.
  • Good news: the Dodge Momentum Index went up in January. Again, trying to stay positive with my thoughts on our economy.
  • On the negative side, gas prices, even before winter storm Nemo, were inching towards $4 per gallon again. In Michigan, we saw almost a 50-cent increase in two weeks time. Ummmm, can anyone explain why?
  • A very strong effort by the team at Glass Magazine on their latest Top Glass Fabricators report. They have made this yearly edition something that can’t be missed. I really enjoyed the poll questions, some of which had to be tough to answer.  For example, the one on “greatest challenges” had to be a brutal one to answer since so many of the choices were kinda like a "1 and 1A" sort of thing. I’m stunned that so few companies said “finding financing” would be a challenge.
  • One question that wasn’t hard to answer, however, was  “What are fabricators' future capital acquisition plans?” The dominating answer was adding new products and product lines. I think that is so dead on, and we see it daily. Companies are hungry to diversify and jump into new business segments, and I believe we are only seeing the start of it. If you have not seen the latest issue of Glass Magazine yet, check it out here.
  • The Big 10 in basketball is like the SEC in football: just stacked. What a wild March this is going to be. Just thinking about the brackets is exciting.
  • Last, I have to admit I might be the only mid-40-year-old guy around who would do this, but I really dig Taylor Swift’s new song “I Knew You Were Trouble.”  It's just a great tune, in my opinion, and man it does stick in your head.

Read on for links and clip of the week...

The author is founder of Sole Source Consultants, a consulting firm for the building products industry that specializes in marketing, branding, communication strategy and overall reputation management, as well as website and social media, and codes and specifications. E-mail him at MaxP@SoleSourceConsultants.com.

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

Monday, February 4, 2013

I stumbled across a fascinating TED Talk by Behrokh Khoshnevis, professor at the University of Southern California. Khoshnevis, speaking in April 2012 at TEDx Medellín, discussed a possible future technology for the construction industry—one that uses large 3D printers to actually construct buildings, layer by layer.

 

The process, called Contour Crafting, has already been pegged to construct simpler structures (including lunar structures for NASA), and is capable of building homes, and eventually, larger buildings such as schools and hospitals, Khoshnevis said. The robot printer layers the walls, and can complete tasks such as painting walls and tiles, constructing plumbing systems, and completing the building wiring.

The technology, still in its very early stages, isn't near installing glass or curtain wall. However, I have to wonder if future developments could have a major impact on the industry, if building progresses in this direction. Could contract glaziers be out of a job?

Khoshnevis addressed the employment impact in his talk. "This is, of course, a serious issue. What is going to happen to the current construction workers? Construction is a major employer of the workforce," he said. "But this is not a new question. When the steam engine was invented, people asked what would happen to carriage drivers. And at the beginning of the last century, over 60 percent of Americans were farmers. Today, less than 1.5 percent are farmers. ... When there is a technology that makes sense, we have to use it."

The technology does face some hurdles before it can progress, he said. "We need to address the social impacts, in addition to the regulatory impacts, such as building inspection and permits. This needs to be addressed and taken care of before any construction technology becomes commonplace," he said.

While Contour Crafting may still be a futuristic construction technology, this talk reminded me of the ways 3D printing is already affecting our industry. Just last year, Mic Patterson at Enclos Corp. showed what his company is doing with rapid prototyping/3D printing.

 

Devlin is senior editor for Glass Magazine. Write her at kdevlin@glass.org.

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