glassblog

Monday, August 15, 2011

Johnson Controls' Institute for Building Efficiency recently published the results of its fifth annual Energy Efficiency Indicator survey. Each year, the survey asks those responsible for energy use and real estate decisions about items ranging from management practices and investment plans to technology integration strategies. This year's results indicate a growing urgency to make buildings more energy efficient.

Interestingly, what also stood out were the participants' reported barriers to pursuing energy efficiency investments, including a lack of awareness regarding energy-saving opportunities and projects' inability to meet financial payback criteria.

I believe the glass industry is prepared to meet the growing need for energy efficient improvements. That being said, how can organizations and others who have a stake in this industry—architects, engineers and glazing contractors, to name a few—overcome these perceived barriers to increase future investments in energy efficiency improvement projects?

First and foremost, our industry needs to increase awareness of how proven glazing technologies can transform the building envelope into a real energy-saving opportunity. Once viewed as an energy efficiency "weak link," the time has come for glazing to transition from being part of the problem to part of the solution. The bottom line? Glass should be viewed as a key tool for improving a building's energy efficiency, lowering its carbon footprint, and decreasing cooling and heating expenses by as much as 30 percent.

Simply put, high performance glazing makes buildings more efficient, but not enough people know it. By making awareness a priority, the glazing industry can knock down a key barrier to energy efficiency investments. The increased urgency to make buildings more efficient is certainly a step in the right direction toward a greener and more sustainable future. Here's hoping the results of next year's EEI survey indicate that an increased awareness of glazing solutions is helping to make this future a reality. 

Bruce Lang is the vice president of Marketing and Business Development at Southwall Technologies, Palo Alto, Calif. He also is the president of Southwall Insulating Glass, LLC, a joint venture company established to manufacture energy-efficient insulating glass incorporating Southwall's Heat Mirror film technology. Write him at blang@southwall.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. 

Friday, August 5, 2011

My wife, Tammy, had a quizzical look on her face when I told her that I planned to write my first blog about my favorite t-shirt.

My favorite t-shirt―gray with a fading logo and a little oversized―is really nothing special, but I wear it around the house (and even out in public) much more than Tammy would like. Why do I like wearing it so much? Because of the story that comes with it.

Recently, while on a business trip I had the unfortunate circumstance of running over a dead deer in the middle of the freeway. Since I was only a mile or so from my hotel, I continued down the road at a cautious pace. I parked at the hotel and got out of the car in time to hear the last of the air escaping the tire. With a dinner appointment in less than an hour, the tire was quickly replaced with the donut that was in the trunk, and I went on my way.

After a meeting the next day I started to head home, at which point I wondered how far I should drive on the donut. A quick look in the car's user manual indicated that 50 miles was the recommended maximum. I then took the next exit off the freeway in an attempt to find a new tire.

I quickly came upon a rundown garage that had a tire sign in front of it. I pulled in and went inside. Did they have a tire to replace the flat one? Yes. Did they have a set of four? Yes, At a reasonable price? Yes. Now, the most important question: How long would it take to replace all four tires? I didn't want to wait the expected two hours. The gentleman told me they would have me on my way in 15 minutes. I was shocked and said yes right away.

The next thing I knew, a garage door flew open and a small army of men with floor jacks and air wrenches descended on my car right there in the parking lot. I could hear the new tires being placed on the rims and spin balanced. I watched in amazement as the new tires were placed on the car and they told me I was ready to go, all in less than 15 minutes. As I walked out the door, the gentleman handed me a t-shirt and thanked me for the business.

They certainly exceeded my expectations and gave me a t-shirt to remind me of the experience!

Going forward, my hope for this blog is that my words regarding manufacturing efficiency, organization and production flow can create an experience that will keep you reading. 

 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Being diverse is a good thing, as is adding new avenues to your business. But taking on business that you know little about and stepping all over your subcontractors, well, that is bad. And it has potential to be dangerous too. Recently, there's been a trend in our world where general contractors are deciding that they don't need professional glaziers; they can just install the glass and framing themselves. This maneuver is becoming more prominent as job bids get tighter and people get more desperate for work. Not only does this upset the natural order of things (which surely can be debated by some), but it can be very dangerous for the installers handling the products and the general public as well. In the last few weeks in the Northeast, we had such a situation raise its ugly head. A general contractor was able to buy glass directly from a fabricator and then installed it. It was annealed glass and it went into doors... at a hospital no less. Luckily, no one got hurt when the first piece broke in large shards. But at the end of the day, fabricators that sell to a GC direct are being complicit with a poor and most likely dangerous business practice, and the GC cutting out the glazier is absolutely shameful. I know "desperate times call for desperate measures" but these sorts of moves are not good for anyone and it actually stains us all as an industry. So go ahead and be diverse, but think twice before you step into a scenario that could have serious long-lasting and devastating effects.

Elsewhere...

  • Can we backcharge Standard & Poors because of their calculation mistake? What a miserable week on Wall Street.
  • Props to Jenni Chase, Katy Devlin and the gang at Glass Magazine. Last week in e-glass weekly there was yet another tremendous interview, adding to a really stellar list of people being profiled here. (And more to come!) Glass Magazine and e-glass weekly have become the place people come to be heard, as well as the home for in-depth insight into every big story in our world. It is just very exciting to be a part of that.
  • Good news for the "dynamic" window world with the release mid last week from Lux Research. The world is moving that way and will continue to embrace that technology because it is good... VERY good for our world. Congrats to SAGE and Soladigm for their mentions and don't sleep on the gang from RavenBrick. They are absolutely in the discussion too. No matter how you slice it, good things are coming and it's great for our industry.
  • My alma mater, Ohio University, finally won something.... The Princeton Review named OU the #1 party school in the country. Amazing. I wonder if they still do quarter beer night like they did when I went there.
  • You know I like lists, and this week a cool one came out with the Top 10 cities that will be the places to live in 2020. Boomtowns is what they are calling them... so I guess if you own land in these areas, the boom is coming according to Proximity One.
    1. Raleigh, N.C.
    2. Richland, Wash.
    3. Austin/Round Rock, Texas
    4. Provo, Utah
    5. Hinesville, Ga.
    6. Logan, Utah
    7. Grand Junction, Colo.
    8. McAllen, Texas
    9. Idaho Falls, Idaho (Once upon a time, ISU hall of famer Dave Michaeli of AGC surely roamed this area!)
    10. Charlotte, N.C.

    I have been to most of these places and could see the allure. You wonder though: if they grow too much, will they still be as nice?
  • Last this week: did you make your plans yet for GlassBuild America? The show is coming up quickly and well worth the time and minimal cost to be there so you can network and advance your business. 

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. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Concluding an investigation that began in early 2010, the Department of Commerce determined this spring that Chinese companies dumped some $500 million worth of extruded aluminum products into the U.S. market last year, selling them at prices up to 33 percent less than fair value. In response, U.S. International Trade Commission officials voted to impose steep duties on all aluminum extrusion imports from China.

My question is, are you feeling the impact? And if so, has it been a positive or negative experience? 

According to American Architectural Manufacturers Association President and CEO Rich Walker, many of AAMA's commercial members have benefited from the ruling. "Early indicators are proving this was very effective and positive for our members, and those dumped aluminum profiles have pretty much disappeared," he said in an interview with Glass Magazine earlier this year.

For others, like shower door manufacturer Coastal Industries, the duties on Chinese aluminum have had a negative effect. "The tariffs have forced manufacturers like us to rethink our manufacturing process," says Ray Adams, president. "Before the tariffs, we could mix imported and domestic metals, fabricate shower doors here in America and compete with imported items. With the tariffs on raw goods, we are all faced with having to look at producing doors overseas, tariff-free, in order to compete," he says.

For still others, the duties have not had an impact. "Most of our purchases are not from Asia," says Rick Hamlin, executive vice president, national estimating, system design, Trainor Glass Co. "While a minor amount of it is, we're not feeling the effects [from the tariffs]," he reports.

What about your company? Has the ITC decision to levy duties on Chinese aluminum coming into the U.S. affected your business positively or negatively? 

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

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, August 1, 2011

Well, the time has come to finally introduce my new venture, or more aptly put, my new AD-venture! I have founded a new consulting firm for the building products industry called Sole Source Consultants. The mission of this new organization is to help businesses prosper by offering expertise in virtually every aspect of their operation. My specialty is the marketing, branding, communication strategy and overall reputation management side, as well as website and social media, and of course, code and specification assistance. To make sure we can meet any need out there, however, I have also been working with some of the best independent consultants our industry has to offer. So, that's the basic pitch. For more information, e-mail me at MaxP@SoleSourceConsultants.com and I'll gladly provide specific details.

Also, I will note that after this post, I will not promote my business in this space. This blog will remain the popular industry observation point that so many have flocked to since 2005. I am humbled by that and thank you for reading. I will have a specific blog for the new company on the Sole Source site that will cover issues pertaining to that business, but I have no desire to ever mix the two.

Finally, as I have worked to put this together, I have been repeatedly asked why I am going in this direction. What was my thought process and so on? For companies in our industry, I believe now is the time to attack, business-wise. It is time to step up, get ahead of the pack and be a market leader as the economy continues to evolve. Smart companies are making the moves necessary to be at the forefront, and they will be in the market for the services that a group like mine can provide. But this is also about my family. My great grandfather, grandfather, Dad and brother Steve all started businesses and did extremely well. I want to see if I can measure up to their awesome legacy. I also wanted to create a vehicle that my kids (along with my wife, brother, sister and Mom) can look at and be proud of: a venture that sets the tone for the future, provides positive services and helps people achieve and reach their goals.
Plus, rumor has it that if I do well, I might move up the rankings of the favorite people in my Mom's life. Right now I am perking around #17... so there's that.

Anyway, thank you for reading and supporting the blog and my career over the years. Please know I truly appreciate any and all consideration you send my way.

Elsewhere...

  • Since this blog was so long, we'll save the posts for next week, when I will have a piece on a very scary and discouraging story about glaziers getting cut out of the food chain by generals, and  the mistakes that come with it. So come back for that next week! 

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

Write Max 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, July 25, 2011

You have heard it before: Relationships are everything. And in today's market, this all too familiar saying holds more weight than ever.

We have seen the economy affect the industry in a multitude of ways, some more difficult than others. However, one aspect of the business that has not slowed down – and in fact, I venture to say has increased – is aggressive project schedules. Each and every job that comes through is important, and if a vendor or contractor cannot meet the strict timeframe, it runs the risk of losing the project.

We're seeing many factors contribute to this trend. Although times are tough, code development has not slowed down. And with that, there is an ever-increasing need for higher-performing glass products to meet strict codes and regulations. Because these codes are changing quickly, this can and has affected the timeframe of many projects. Capital expenses are also limited, so if a project is prolonged, it runs the risk of actually running out of capital. So better, faster, stronger is the name of the game.

What's the connection between this trend and the ole' saying, "relationships are everything"? Well, providing the customer with ways to quickly expedite a project takes customer service to a whole new level. At the end of the day, it enhances that customer relationship. So the more we can work together to meet this increasing need, the more successful we will be, independently and collectively as an industry. 

Turner is vice president of marketing for YKK AP America. Write him at miketurner@ykk-api.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, July 25, 2011

Last week, we saw yet another rough batch of results from the AIA's Architecture Billings Index, featuring the third straight underwhelming month. The fear now is: when you string three months together, that can constitute a trend. according to experts. On the positive side, at this time last year, the ABI was just as bad. Yet, current business levels have been solid to very good. A majority of the industry is busy right now, so possibly the attention paid to the ABI is not what it's cracked up to be, and maybe it's not that accurate of a metric. No matter how you slice it, we all know there are holes in our economic world right now and that even with current increased business levels, no one is confident they can be sustained long-term. The fundamentals have to come back, and hopefully, that happens sooner than later. Until then, we'll track everything and anything we can to get a vision of what is still to come.

Elsewhere...

  • Congrats to my friend Dr. Helen Sanders of Sage. All in one week, she appears in front of Congress and is featured in a story in The Wall Street Journal. Excellent. Just remember us little people Helen, and remember the little blogger that did one of the first Q&A's with you. I guess that is the rightful path though: Glass Magazine to Congress to WSJ. I love it!
  • GlassBuild America is coming up, and when I made my travel arrangements, I was very pleasantly surprised at how inexpensive the flights to Atlanta are. Trust me, I know how tight everyone's budgets are (mine basically doesn't exist!) so seeing the deals for Atlanta was pretty awesome. So, if you are on the fence, go check the rates and book. For those prices, you can't afford not to be there!
  • Speaking of GBA, one of the seminars I am looking forward to is the BIPV one. Solar is something so many people are curious about in our world, and the lineup for this seminar  is very good, moderated by the esteemed Richard Voreis. If you have any curiosity at all about this emerging technology, this seminar will be a huge help.
  • Flying as much as I have in my past, I thought I had seen it all, but this week I saw something new. I watched as a flight attendant had a serious verbal altercation with what had be an 80-plus-year-old lady. They went at it for at least 10 minutes and the flight attendant almost walked off the plane! The argument was as we were loading. I have no clue what started it but talk about watching a wreck happen. Luckily, cooler heads prevailed. You had to be there...
  • Looks like we'll have football on time this year... so why am I so unenthusiastic about it?
  • Last this week: How about a hand for all of the folks who are working in the field or in the plants right now during this massive heat wave? Those folks are the real heroes of our business anyway, but especially during conditions like this. Stay cool and safe folks! 

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

Write Max at maxbcat@aol.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, July 18, 2011

JD Williams When I retired as executive vice president of United States Aluminum Corp. in 2001, the annual sales volume was approximately $120 million. In 1980, we had three small factories, and by 2001, we had five large factories, plus 13 service centers located throughout the U.S. We struggled through some tough business cycles, but as a group, USAC and parent company International Aluminum Corp. maintained profitability.

After IAC was sold to Genstar Capital LLC in January 2007, the corporation went through additional ownership and reorganization. The International Architectural Products Corp. that recently filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy was a completely different company than the one that owned USAC from 1964 to January 2007.

It was sad for me and other long-time USAC employees to witness the demise of IAC, International Window, International Extrusion and United States Aluminum. I certainly understand how former USAC customers felt betrayed when Chapter 7 bankruptcy was filed. It was extremely difficult for me to see the US Aluminum name tarnished.

Going forward, my hope for USAC was for the future buyer to meet three criteria so that former employees could rebuild the company and re-establish customer confidence:

  • Financial strength
  • Understanding of the architectural aluminum market
  • Top management with strong product knowledge

Don Friese and CRL meet all three criteria. CRL has grown its business very successfully over the past few years by adding many innovative new architectural product lines. That CRL will be expanding its product offering with additional storefront products is not a complete surprise to me. I was only surprised that its entry into the arena was by purchasing USAC.

Some architectural metal companies catering to the smaller glazing contractors may see this as a negative. Personally, I am not of that opinion. I only see this as a positive move. When YKK started its operation in the United States, many architectural aluminum companies were very vocal about YKK coming to the U.S. and only saw gloom and doom! YKK is a good competitor and forced some companies to cease taking things for granted. A business can be compared to a vegetable garden: "When it's green, it is growing; when it gets too ripe, it begins to rot." YKK forced all of us to remove the weeds from our garden to keep it green and growing.

Personnel at storefront manufacturers would be better served to concentrate on pointing out the good features of their products and service; and it does not hurt to point out the financial strength of their business. It is a poor business person who finds it necessary to criticize the products of the competition, their service or anything else to do with their performance. A prudent business person should wish that all of his competitors are profitable and growing their business. 

--JD Williams is a former president of International Aluminum Corp. and was executive vice president of US Aluminum operations from 1981-2001. 

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, July 18, 2011

This past week, I found myself discussing the value of the "green" movement. A few years ago, slapping the word "green" onto your materials gave the then-unknowing masses the impression that your company had the golden key to success. But as time progressed and people became more knowledgable, "greenwashing" (yes, it has a name) became out of style and distasteful, and those who did it were somewhat ostracized. So now, there's not as much of a "green" push. But has the lack of promotion hurt the cause?

I say yes and no: Yes, from the standpoint that the more light you shine on a subject, the better coverage it gets. No, because more and more people are grasping the idea that energy efficiency means taking action--doing your part, your green duty as it is. At the end of the day, doing the deed is better than just talking about it. The bottom line is that we, as an industry, still have to keep pushing the pedal to the floor to create and advance our technology as it relates to "green." energy, "sustainability" or any other heading you want to throw it under.

Elsewhere...

  • Want to know something that is probably not green these days? The color of the grass in parts of the drought-riddled South and Southwest. I swear, I was looking at the national map one day last week and it looked like there was a dome covering the state of Texas that wasn't allowing a rain system in. Mother Nature continues to be cruel, and this historic drought continues.
  • With all of the talk in DC about the debt limits and budgets, how come no one gets upset that the bogus chase and trial of Lance Armstrong, professional bike rider, will cost our government more than $100 million? How is that sane?
  • An interesting Top 10 this week from CNBC: the Top 10 Cities least affected by the housing crisis. The survey notes that declining home values have touched every city, but these 10 have weathered the storm best. If your city is on here, congratulations, as I bet when the list of most affected cities comes out, mine will be on it. Here goes:
    10. Greenville, SC (Awesome place by the way)
    9. Knoxville, TN
    8. Durham, NC
    7. Rochester, NY (shocking to me, actually)
    6. Pittsburgh, PA
    5. Yakima, WA
    4. Little Rock, AR
    3. Tulsa, OK
    2. Oklahoma City, OK
    1. Fayetteville, NC
  • I mentioned books last week while propping Bill Evans' wonderful recent post, and here's one if you are looking for a quick, breezy read on the greatness of a company and marketing plan: "First in Thirst: How Gatorade Turned the Science of Sweat Into a Cultural Phenomenon." It is the story of Gatorade and how it was developed, but more interesting is how its marketing evolved. At only 280 pages, you can finish it quickly, or in Scott Surma time, one treadmill session.
  • Last up this week: a great site to get around the whole automated operator systems that many mega-sized companies have in place. Click here, and the site will give you tips to follow so that you can talk to a real live human being! Imagine that. And no worries, I have no plans of adding an automated phone system here at From the Fabricator Blogging Inc. or at my next venture... coming soon.... 

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

Write Max at maxbcat@aol.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.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Well, that slow cycle of news in our industry didn't last very long did it? Last week, two big stories hit. First was the news that C.R. Laurence acquired U.S. Aluminum. CRL has been a force in the industry for many years, and this maneuver continues to solidify that fact. The interesting part starts now for the gang at CRL, as they rebuild USAC and put the pieces back in place. They made a great first move by getting Tom Harris back in the fold. Also worth watching will be how CRL puts USAC back in the game. Will it be nationally, or more on a regional basis out of the gate? And how will the return of this capacity affect that side of the industry? Seemingly never a dull moment around here. Also to note, a lot of the props for this deal will automatically be directed to Don Friese and family--and they deserve them no doubt--but without question, CRL doesn't keep growing without the steady hand and influence of President Lloyd Talbert. That guy is the straw that stirs the drink there, and a brilliant businessman.

Elsewhere...

  • The other major deal reported last week was the sale of gigantic glazier Permasteelisa to JS Group out of Japan. While Permasteelisa is a massive player in the world of glazing, this story is nowhere near as big as the one above. Nonetheless, still fascinating to follow.
  • I really enjoyed Bill Evans blog post from last week. I'm afraid with how crazy last week was with the holiday, people might have missed it. If you did, you can click HERE to read it. The best part was his item at the end with the value of a book vs. lunch. Now that is truly food for thought!
  • The glass industry, and specifically Guardian, got great coverage this past weekend with an article in the Indy Star out of Indianapolis. The home décor writer of the paper wrote a piece on how glass really is great and gave some serious love to the folks from Guardian and their products. Any time our world can get positive mainstream coverage like this, it's a major victory.
  • Fun one to think about: the start of bread coming in slices hit 83 years ago this week. So that was the beginning of "sliced bread," which begs the question, what was the greatest thing BEFORE sliced bread? And comically, the younger generations are totally lost on the whole "better than sliced bread" concept...
  • Well, the big Seattle-Portland MLS game was Sunday afternoon and the atmosphere was really electric, even watching on TV. If you took the graphics down and just listened to the crowd, you would have thought you were watching a game being played in Europe. Great second half, and Seattle came back twice from deficits to win. So for my Seattle friend Chuck Knickerbocker of TGP, a sweet victory for his town. I am sure a "told ya so" email is coming my way!
  • Last this week, how can you not salute the greatness of Derek Jeter? The guy has been a clutch player his entire career and has lived in the most glaring spotlight possible, yet has never had anything close to a mis-step. From all accounts, he is just a solid citizen. And he also knows how to please a crowd: a homer to get to 3,000 hits as part of a five-for-five day! I think Jeter right now sits as the next unanimous Baseball Hall of Fame inductee, without question. 

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

Write Max at maxbcat@aol.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.

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