glassblog

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Last week I had noted that despite the falling ABI score that optimism was in play and that in my own informal polling, people were reporting that they were busy. Well this week some tangible proof of that came through when the Institute for Supply Management reported that June factory activity rose nicely in June. That good news from the manufacturing sector also helped fuel a great week on Wall Street. No doubt it is nice to see positivity in more of a real format compared to a feeling! The hope now is that this momentum can be sustained. Many of the people I talked to had concerns that come fall we could be back to where we just came from and I believe there will be some softening, because there always is in our cyclical world, but hopefully not dramatic enough to make a major case.

Elsewhere…

-- Hope everyone had a good holiday weekend! Canada Day and the 4th of July all fitting nicely into a weekend. Gotta love the way the calendar fell this year… won’t be as lucky next year sadly.

-- The story surrounding the W Hotel in Austin is becoming more and more fascinating by the day. For an industry guy like me I get a kick out of seeing who is being called on to comment and provide analysis. In the article from Saturday’s edition of the Austin Statesman, you had whole run of guys mentioned, from Chicago legend Mark Meshulam to Paul Beers and Bill Lignell. Plus even a piece written for Glass Magazine by Tony Leto was noted. I have a feeling this story is nowhere near done and should be an interesting watch.

-- Outside of the W story, it really was a slow week in the industry, which is probably welcomed since we’ve had more drama in the last 8 weeks+ than I can really remember. I am actually pretty happy that I have little to write about this week!

-- Congrats to Butte College for going off the grid- going all solar. Story is here and shows that there are some people really thinking out there.

-- How about the new twist on an old internet scam…. Remember the whole “I am a Prince and if you send me X dollars to release my fortune, I’ll share with you” angle? Well now the scammers are doing a wild one. They are sending out notes that they are the authorities in these countries and that they have arrested said scammers and there’s money to be paid back to anyone who was approached by the scammers. All you have to do is send them some cash to get your “settlement” released. Absolutely amazing. I swear the people that come up with this stuff, if they used their powers and creativity for good, our world could be so much better.

-- As some of you know I am a soccer guy- usually more national games than league games, but this coming weekend in the MLS is a huge game between Portland and Seattle. An incredibly fierce rivalry and passionate crowds. Will be a must watch. And I believe for a birthday gift for my friend Kris Vockler of ICD, Portland will deliver a win.

-- And speaking of Kris, she is due to facilitate a seminar on trends in the Decorative Glass world at GlassBuild America. Decorative is a prominent and healthy product segment and this seminar will be a must if you have even the slightest interest or dealings in that world. GlassBuild America as a whole is coming along nicely- I am sensing a lot of enthusiasm about it as people are realizing to keep up and to get ahead of the market, this is a show you have to attend.

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 5, 2011

My company has been in business for 55 years. My father started it, and I have been hanging around since I was 5 years old (I am 56 now). During the lifetime of the business, as well as my personal lifetime, many relationships have been built that have stood the test of time.

Recently, Sun Capital bought two of my primary suppliers. We have been a customer of TGI, a UGC company, and its predecessors for 40 years. During this time, their salesmen have become friends. I know the names of their spouses and children. I know where their kids go to school and their hobbies. We talk about business occasionally; we talk about family often.

Sun Capital also bought Vitro America. We have been a customer of Vitro and its predecessor for 15 years. My children and the children of one of its salesmen are the same age. We have enjoyed sharing the adventures of our respective kids. The branch manager is from the area of the USA where my son currently lives. We enjoy talking Cajun cuisine and favorite beverages. (I am still waiting for him to cook crawfish for me.)

Will Sun's acquisitions impact these relationships? Through eliminating job duplication and streamlining the business, I am concerned. Change is difficult and, quite frankly, I have reached the age where I prefer to maintain comfortable relationships in lieu of developing new ones. I am worried that Sun's purchases might impact our industry much like Wal-Mart changed small town America. Will our industry, and by that I mean the small traditional glass shops, become viewed as a commodity to be taken for granted by a large conglomerate, or will relationships still matter?

I am open to new relationships that understand the values that matter to me. Regardless of how my old friendships may change, I will be proactive in developing new ones that benefit my company.

Recently, a new potential vendor called on me. His company competes with one of the Sun Capital firms. I am a book giver who keeps a stack of small books in my office that I give out frequently to visitors. So, I gave him a book during his first visit. Upon his second visit, he returned the favor and gave me a book. I love to read, and books go straight to my heart. Wow, what a great gift! A book is far superior to lunch. A book lasts forever; lunch only lasts until it's digested. Maybe this guy is worth the effort required to build a trusting relationship. Long-term relationships DO matter to me. 

—Bill Evans, president, Evans Glass Co., Nashville   

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, June 27, 2011

When it comes to economic conditions, the past week hit both ends of the spectrum; the spectrum being "hopeful and worrisome" vs. "good and bad."  On the worrisome side was this month's release of the Architecture Billings Index. The numbers were not pretty and indicated that the positive momentum from earlier in the year has dissipated. The most disappointing was the new project score, coming in with its lowest total in the last 18 months. But at the end of the day, the ABI is not the "end all, be all,," and its momentum can quickly swing back to the positive.

On the hopeful side was the news out of Apogee this week that it has a better backlog and expects positive trends as the year proceeds. The bottom line is we knew 2011 wasn't going to be easy and we all hoped for the second half to be the start of a solid rebound. Now, there's evidence of that possibility.

Elsewhere...

  • And in my own non-scientific poll of industry folks this past week, it sure sounded like places were busy and seeing some nice forecasts. At the end of the day, it's the reality of what businesses experience that really matters, not the reports from the various groups.
  • The guys at Glassopolis are known for creating great ads. Well, this past week, one of the Glassopolis guys had a part in creating something really great. Rob Botman and his wife welcomed their third child to the fold. Jasper joins the team now (love the name!), and I am sure is already working Dad over about what the next great creative campaign will be. Congrats to Rob and family!
  • Not sure if anyone caught the crazy Gold Cup soccer final between the U.S. and Mexico. That's the type of game the casual fan could enjoy. Mexico came back from a 2-0 deficit to beat the U.S. 4-2. I believe Alejandro Sanchez had a big part in the win for Mexico, making it the second time this year that he broke the hearts of many Americans. Great game nonetheless.
  • Congrats to the gang at Holcam on the launch of their new marketing initiatives. Very well done and smart to get out there and bang the chest a little bit. They also added some very smart pieces to their approach that I believe will make a difference. Well done folks!
  • My iPod on shuffle continues to be like Tony Robbins. The first two songs on my run yesterday were: "Seize the Day" and "(Don't Fear) The Reaper."
  • And last this week.... I was very honored to get the full transcript of the speech Guardian's Russ Ebeid presented at Glass Performance Days, and I must say after reading it, I am blown away. Just a tremendous piece and tons of takeaways... One of the big ones for me personally was this line:

    "In challenging times and rapid change, companies must be smart, nimble and wise, focusing on their customer's needs. It is not the time to be hesitant or timid – it is an opportunity to prune for future growth. It is time to have the best people. It is time to be the best at what you do and make sure your customers know it."

That incredible and very true line will serve as inspiration for me in my next steps... 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.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Tying up loose ends and cleaning off the desk once again with short and assorted subjects...

Big news for the industry last week when I heard that marketing superstar Christine Shaffer was leaving Viracon to go to Apogee sister company Tru Vue. I'm very happy for Christine; the folks at Tru Vue pulled a coup (sorry for the cheesy rhyme, too easy.) Its tough news for our side of the industry as no doubt Christine was a shining light, but at least she'll be close by.

  • Christine was listed on this blog back in 2007 as one of the superstars of the industry, and it was fun to go back and re-read that. The others in that inaugural class are all still plugging along at high levels: Greg Carney, now on his own as a world class consultant; Brian Craft, still not reading my blog but doing great for Guardian; Mike Gainey, still a force at Azon; and Julie Schimmelpenningh at Solutia, who is always on the top of everyone's list. Only Scott Surma is missing from our industry now, but he is still kicking tail and taking names. I believe he still follows the drama here when he has time.
  • I hated missing Neocon yet again last week, but heard tons of buzz from my architectural friends about it. Congrats to the fine folks at General Glass. Evidently, they made a tremendous impression on the show goers because I heard about them specifically from one of the premier interior architects in the U.S. Also heard positives on the gang from Walker (and their "Dance Fever" floor) and Guardian's big splash, but judging from the action, GGI took the cake. And to think my brother wasn't even there to take it all in!
  • Went out for a run on Saturday and the first song shuffled to my iPod was "Eye of the Tiger" followed by "The Good Life." Wondering if that can be some sort of omen; the run ended with the classic Aerosmith tune "Dream On." Hmmmm....
  • Congrats to the Bruin fans out there, and my condolences to the fine Canuck fans (the non-rioting ones) on their loss. The Bruins were so good they were able to get past my prediction skills.
  • Speaking of the riots, did you see that the shops damaged by the riots can't put the losses to their property insurance? Evidently, this would fall under something else and they would need actual "riot" insurance. It's amazing; do insurance people ever pay anything out?
  • Getting excited for GlassBuild America, and I am not alone. More than 40 first-time exhibitors have joined in so far, and I know for a fact that there are more still to come. The timing is right for show this year, and the people that want to get ahead of their competition will be there. I plan on having much more coverage on this as it creeps closer, because it will be the place to be.
  • And finally this week, as most people who followed the situation expected, I am no longer employed. It is what it is. At the end of the day, it was a pleasure and honor to work with some unbelievable people over the last 10 months and I am sorry we didn't get to finish what we started. I am thinking and praying for all of them. As for me going forward, we'll see. I am getting excited over some possibilities, and as soon as there's something to report, I'll bring it. Until then, I'll be plugging along working on the manuscript for Groundhog Day 2. 

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, June 14, 2011

During the National Summer Conference for the American Architectural Manufacturers Association last week, I was reminded of the terror of Minnesotan summer mosquitos and of what 100 degree heat plus humidity feels like. And, more importantly, I was able to sit down for a productive interview with AAMA President and CEO Rich Walker. Walker provided some interesting insights about how 2011 is shaping up for AAMA members, the bright spots in the market, and details about how companies are dealing with challenges such as the Environmental Protection Agency's new lead paint regulations.

Watch video of part of the interview. And for more from the interview, check out the Q&A below.

What are the top concerns you're hearing from your members in the commercial segment? What about from the residential segment?

For residential, I'm hearing concerns about the lead remodeling rule, and in general, the business environment and future prognostications. The market is facing lingering foreclosures, and we have to work those foreclosures out of system before we can see a true rebound. I don't think we'll see a light at the end of tunnel for two to three years for the residential segment. Additionally, our residential members are terribly disappointed with the new tax credits that were passed [for 2011]. We were hoping to get something similar to the $1,500 to $3,000 tax credit [of 2010]. People were called back to work when those larger credits were in effect.

Our commercial members are very pleased to learn of the ruling from the Department of Commerce that assigned dumping duties on Chinese [aluminum] extrusions. Early indicators are proving this was very effective and positive for our members, and those dumped aluminum profiles have pretty much disappeared. However, our commercial members are also concerned about EPA lead regulations, as there is discussion about extending them to commercial buildings. This is currently under comment and evaluation by the EPA.

What are the top product trends in the market?

One primary product trend is the continued focus on energy efficiency. Universally, everyone is looking into energy. Energy Star is evolving. And, additional panes of glass will continue to be investigated. Triple pane is becoming more accessible and more visible in the market. In time, we will also be looking at a fourth pane. This is evolving very quickly.

When the construction industry final rebounds from this great recession, how will the glass, and window and door industries have changed?

We will have fewer manufacturers and fewer suppliers. I haven't seen a drop off in mergers and acquisitions. Additionally, over this time, while business in down from historically high levels, companies have looked inward to focus on how to do things quicker [and] become leaner. The supply chain is going to come out very productive and lean when [the market] begins to ramp up. We're also seeing things change competitively in terms of China. Chinese labor is becoming more competitive, as their labor costs get higher. So, the difference between the Chinese cost of product and the North American cost of product has narrowed. One final thing to keep an eye on is gas. These high gas prices will change the industry. 

Read more news from the AAMA meeting.

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

Monday, June 13, 2011

Last fall, NFRC approved technical procedures for the development of energy performance ratings for co-planar interior and exterior attachment products. This represented a major step toward one day providing third-party performance ratings for products such as blinds and shades. Throughout the development process, NFRC's Board of Directors provided guidance for the Fenestration Attachments program and continues to do so.

With technical procedures in place, NFRC's Attachments Subcommittee now is developing a certification and labeling program. It is a challenging task. Many variables affect the performance of an attachment product – e.g., the type of window to which it is attached, the operation of the attachment product itself (open/closed), the angle of the sun, etc. At the same time, it's important that NFRC provide customers with an easy-to-use label.

In early 2011, the board provided guidance on the development of the attachments label, recommending: "...that a 'Stars' rating on an attachment label [is an example of a rating system that] meets the direction previously approved by the board. Additional information on the label may be provided as long as it continues to meet board direction and the rating not be stated as a U-Factor and SHGC numerical rating. This does not exclude the use of U-factor and SHGC numerical data from other NFRC material related to attachments."

Those familiar with NFRC ratings know this is a departure from the numeric ratings found on our labels. During NFRC's spring meeting, attendees raised questions about the board's direction to the Attachments Subcommittee.

In my opinion, we need to keep in mind that customers, not building code enforcement officials, engineers or scientists, are the primary audience for these labels. In addition, the attachment label should avoid implying an undue level of precision, because NFRC does not know the performance of the window, door or skylight to which the product will be attached, the solar incident angles, or how the customer will operate the product.

The board's recommendation to use a different rating system for the attachment label will help make it more customer-friendly, allowing apples-to-apples comparisons of attachment products. It does not preclude the use of numerical data in forums other than the label itself. Providing U-factor, solar heat gain coefficient and visible transmittance data may be helpful, as long as that data is provided with additional explanations on a separate document.

While the board's direction specifically mentioned a "Stars" rating system, my interpretation is that it serves as an example. A different symbolic or scalar type system could also meet the board's guidance.

This is an opportunity for the attachments community to develop a visual ratings system that is distinct from the NFRC windows label and easily recognizable by customers. What type of system do you think the label should feature?

Jim Benney is the National Fenestration Rating Council's chief executive officer. He has been involved in developing product and performance standards for the window and glass industry for more than 25 years. He can be reached at jbenney@nfrc.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.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Usually, when price increase letters hit the street in our industry, they bring a ton of action. Now maybe (probably) I'm distracted, but this latest round of letters didn't seem to elicit the normal angst. As for the increases themselves, they shouldn't come as a surprise at all, especially given everything that has been happening in our little world and everywhere else.

 

Elsewhere...

  • If anyone was brave enough to read the national news this week, I guess you could see why this increase letter pales in comparison. The Dow had another horrid week, now dropping below 12,000. Home equity is now near a record low, and the whole employment outlook continues to be ugly. Not a pretty week, and that didn't even include the Twittering congressman...
  • The good news of the week actually happened last Saturday, and I should have posted it then but blew it. And of course, the subject of the good news was bummed when he read my blog and it wasn't mentioned. My son Zach played the game of his life (scored an awesome goal) and his team won a local 10 & Under hockey title. I'm very happy for him and his team; it's just a thrill to watch your kid achieve and succeed!
  • Ok back to reality... ha ha.... A great post this week on LinkedIn about the fact that LinkedIn's growth in popularity is because of the tough economy and the fact people are losing their jobs and need to network more than ever. It was a case made even more dramatic when a headhunter posted a group of openings on LinkedIn and by nightfall his e-mail box was full and website crashed.
  • PPG announced that it has surpassed the 94 million-square-foot mark in shipments of Solarban 70XL. Congrats to Glenn Miner and the team on the accomplishment. Looking back, I know there were a lot of naysayers about the potential of that product when it was launched, but there's no doubt that it's been a hit.
  • And while we're propping the primaries, a big kudos to Guardian on the launch of their new InGlass program. With a cool new website and some very interesting products and plans, this should be an exciting program to watch.
  • Am I the only one who gets mad when the newscaster gleefully announces gas prices have dropped a whole penny? I know everyone wants good news, but a penny?
  • If you haven't checked out the latest issue of Glass Magazine, you need to. The annual look at the Top 50 Glaziers is the cover story. It is something everyone looks forward to, and once again, the gang delivered the goods. And yes I am biased, but the magazine has been absolutely on a roll in the last several months.
  • Last this week: Normally this would be in the links, but it is too pertinent to what we do in our world. It's the whole "glass steps" debate and the fact that it brings a lot more issues to mind than people realize. Check out the coverage here

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

Max Perilstein is chief marketing officer for Vitro Architectural Products, Memphis. Write him at mperilstein@vitro.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, June 6, 2011

What a slow and boring week... can't believe the lack of news in our world.

If only that was true.

For those of you who follow the news of the industry, this past week the auction for my employer (Vitro America) took place, and it continued to be a surreal story that even Hollywood would write off as "too unbelievable." After an amazingly competitive auction that featured more back and forth than a grand slam tennis final, Sun Capital outlasted the fine folks from Grey Mountain to win. This result will, once again, spur industry change and probable consolidation as there's not a lot of geographic differences between the companies. Now, I can go on and on about this. I think anyone who knows me, knows I am bitterly disappointed (actually mortally depressed is a better term) over the result because of several reasons. The biggest is I really believe what Grey Mountain would have brought to the industry would have been spectacular: breathtaking and groundbreaking plans to operate and innovate. To be a part of that would have been epic. And quite frankly, the momentum that was bubbling up at Vitro before all of this unintended collateral damage junk was thrown at us was significant, and I really wanted to see where it could go. So, that's a big reason for my sadness: never knowing what "could have been" if we got to continue as planned.

Hey that's life right? David threw one heck of a rock, but Goliath has a harder head than anyone can imagine. So for now, we'll see how this progresses. Consolidation in our world has been a fact of life for many years, and things like this are not a surprise. The industry has evolved and will continue to do so until it finds calmer skies. And as for going forward, we'll see how this all hashes out. There are a lot of people that will be affected by this, and we'll join a crowded field of folks from US Aluminum, Zeledyne, etc. who are already out there. As I have railed on here many, many times before, there's a ton of talent out there that can help upgrade and advance revenue generation, and that will surely be the case when all of this comes clear in the coming weeks. I'm sure they'll be much more to say about this in the weeks ahead. As for now, it continues to be just mind numbing for me and many others. 

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

Max Perilstein is chief marketing officer for Vitro Architectural Products, Memphis. Write him at mperilstein@vitro.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.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

After last week's news that Sun Capital won the bidding war for Vitro America's fabrication assets, this week's big question is: How will this affect an already fractured and fragmented glass industry?

The answer may depend on where you are in the glass food chain.

The fabrication industry's dramatic consolidation played out over the last few months, in a time when float manufacturers were still looking to recover from the sharp contraction in flat glass production that began even prior to the country's economic collapse of 2008.

In the wake of this latest consolidation news, it seems that at both the float and fabrication levels there will be even less supply and capacity in the marketplace. Some glaziers worry that this will add to their product sourcing challenges as they continue to face pricing and bidding pressures from their customers. Tight credit, which has been a significant challenge for many, has the potential to be an even greater concern.

For glass companies struggling with a weak balance sheet, it may be even harder to survive. This morning's Wall Street Journal report of a drop in the Dow, the biggest one-month U.S. factory slowdown since 1984, and stagnant hiring in both the manufacturing and private sectors doesn't help the short-term outlook.

Watch Glass Magazine for interviews with all the principals involved in this deal; we can expect that the focus will be on people—employees and customers. One thing is true: companies that attract talented people, make and sell the best products, and offer innovative technologies flourish even in turbulent times.

As with all changes of this magnitude, time will tell who those are. 

Nicole Harris is publisher of Glass Magazine. Write her at nharris@glass.org.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Glass Magazine's annual Top 50 Glaziers report (which you will get to check out in the upcoming June/July issue), gives the editors a great opportunity to check in with glazing contractors--large and small--about a range of issues. This year, I was curious about research and development. The near four-year-old recession has left companies strapped for cash, making any investment difficult. An investment in something that can't guarantee a payback is an even tougher commitment. However, about 20 percent of contract glaziers surveyed, with annual sales ranging from about $5 million to almost $200 million, said they are investing in R&D, and in some very diverse ways.

As expected, contract glaziers' R&D activities focus on product development and advancement. Companies are aiming to improve and add to their existing offerings. National Enclosure Co., Pontiac, Mich., for one, is furthering the development of its unitized curtain wall offerings, and Carmel Architectural Sales, Anaheim, Calif., is developing rain screen systems.

Companies also are going custom. Officials from CBO Glass in Alden, N.Y., reported the company is designing, engineering and testing custom CBO glazing systems, and Heinaman Contract Glazing, Lake Forest, Calif., is developing custom unitized curtain wall utilizing advanced technology integration.

Several companies said they are focusing on component systems. Bacon & Van Buskirk, Champaign, Ill., for example, developed Bacon's Architectural Muntin systems for storefronts and curtain walls.

The green arena is driving development at companies such as Juba Aluminum Products Co., Concord, N.C., which is getting involved in photovoltaics.

And some contract glaziers report they are branching out even more with their product development. Architectural Wall Systems, West Des Moines, Iowa, for example, has been developing unitized brick panels.

The slow economy hasn't slowed code development, or the need for protective and aesthetically pleasing systems. In response to this demand, two Florida-based contract glaziers report they are developing new hurricane products. Crawford Tracey Corp., Deerfield Beach, Fla., developed ProTech 9SG and ProTech 15SG, curtain wall impact glazing systems that achieve large vertical spans and allow for wider vertical mullion spacing. And Palm Beach Glass Specialties Inc., West Palm Beach, Fla., is developing impact systems that provide architects with more design freedom, improved thermal comfort, increased natural daylighting and minimal glare; in addition to systems that allow for glass widths from ¼ inch to 1 5/16 inch, and shop-glazed systems.

Companies haven't forgotten about the "research" part of R&D—they are continuously looking at what the market and their individual customers need. Key Glass LLC, Bradenton, Fla., for example, found through its research that there is significant growth in the small project and service arena. To respond to the growing demand, the company is developing a custom program to track these requests. 

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

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