GlassBuild America 2017

The source for solutions for top industry challenges
Katy Devlin
July 29, 2017

Photos by Robb Cohen Photography & Video

Express Learning session during GlassBuild America 2016. Seventeen educational sessions will be held in the Express Learning Theater in Atlanta.

Business is booming for many architectural glass companies, with construction spending on the rise and demand high. But even in the busier times, industry companies face notable challenges, from a continued shortage in skilled labor to increasingly complex project and system requirements. These challenges can affect a glass company’s ability to capitalize on the strong market, according to officials from the National Glass Association and the Window and Door Dealers Alliance organizers of GlassBuild America: The Glass, Window & Door Expo, to be held Sept. 12-14 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta.

GlassBuild America 2017 will address the glass industry’s top challenges head on, through its comprehensive educational offerings and robust exhibits. The event, which hosted nearly 9,000 visitors and 430 exhibitors last year in Las Vegas, is expected to top 2016 performance, according to organizers.

“We’re hoping to sell out of exhibit space this year. We have over 170,000 net square feet with more than 450 exhibiting companies. We are also hoping to increase attendance over last year, which was one of our most successful shows ever,” says Molly Grenn, events director for the NGA\WDDA.

Education focus

This year’s GlassBuild America will feature an expanded educational line-up, intended to help company owners and managers learn and discuss best practices for navigating current challenges.

“We are offering key educational sessions to address many of the industry’s challenges,” Grenn says. “We are offering solution share topics with industry peers to address very specific issues—reports on the economic health of our industry, succession planning, and building effective relationships with architects. We are positive our educational sessions will address our industries’ top challenges.”

Educational opportunities at the show include the 12th Annual Glazing Executives Forum, a day-long event addressing everything from estimating and hiring challenges to industry forecasts. The popular Express Learning program will once again come to the GlassBuild America show floor, with more than a dozen sessions over all three days of the show, covering issues such as employee safety, handling oversized lites and installing glass railings. Companies in all segments of the industry can also attend the GlassBuild America Opening Session, where professional speaker and generational expert Cam Marston will talk about generational trends in business.

The exhibit hall will also provide critical problem-solving information to attendees, Grenn says. “Attendees want to find out about the newest products and technologies in the industry. They want to find new suppliers and even new distributors for their businesses. Coming to GlassBuild America allows the industry to see and learn about the latest and greatest in the glass industry,” she says.

Dip-Tech showcased the NEraD during GlassBuild 2016.

Exhibitor solutions

Exhibitors say they are tracking the challenges of their customers to develop the best product and equipment solutions. “The glass fabrication sector is growing at the fastest pace I have witnessed in three decades or more, and continues to look very positive for future growth. We are seeing many new people entering the field and the ones already in the field are updating their equipment and systems,” says Michael Spellman, owner of IGE Glass Technologies Inc. “Our focus is on solutions to the industry’s challenges and products are the best solutions to these challenges.”

The biggest challenges for industry companies, exhibitors say, are finding labor and training a new generation of workers. The issue of labor is exacerbated by a continued push for higher performance and quality in glass and glazing products.

“The labor shortage has been a topic of conversation, and not without reason, as people are struggling to replace skilled workers who are exiting the workforce,” says Erin Johnson, director of marketing at Quanex Building Products.

“Challenges facing our customers are reduced labor and requirements for greater productivity, while [they are working to] steadily improve the quality of their products,” says Michael Schmidt, president of Forel North America.

To help address the labor and production challenges, GlassBuild America exhibitors have developed a range of equipment and tools to help companies do more with less. Companies have introduced handling solutions that allow for the lifting of heavier lites with fewer people, software products that minimize touches and optimize production, equipment that automates processes and allows for higher output, and more.

“Glass fabricators are waking up to the need to automate anything and everything that they are able. It is not easy and not inexpensive to automate a custom glass fabrication facility, but, it is now possible,” says IGE’s Spellman. During the show, the company will display a range of automated equipment solutions, including the Forvet GameChanger series of production lines and the Turomas highly automated handling and cutting line. “The future is here and the fabricator must adapt to it; more and more are figuring this out,” Spellman says.

“The trends are increased automation and optimal productivity,” says Morgan Donohue, vice president of sales and marketing for Erdman Automation. “The pool of available labor continues to shrink as our economy grows. The show and its focus on automation is going to assist each manufacturer with that difficulty.” During GlassBuild America, Erdman will showcase its faster IG production process. “Previously we were running at roughly 18 seconds per unit, and now we expect to produce a unit every 15 seconds,” Donohue says. By comparison, “traditional lines typically run 30-35 seconds,” he says.

Forel North America will respond to the high-speed production trend with its display of a complete flexible spacer insulating glass production line, in what will be the company’s largest booth ever at GlassBuild America, Schmidt says. The line also addresses two additional trends in IG production: “increased pre-processing of lites for IG production including seaming or arrissing, and increased acceptance and demand for warm-edge flexible spacer systems,” he says.

Quanex is also involved in the automated trend with its component products. “Quanex has been tuned into this [automation] trend, and we’ve helped many of our customers bring these new systems online,” Johnson says. “Our spacer technology works well with these lines and can help customers reach new heights for quality and consistency in their products. And we have the technology, expertise, and resources to help customers make the most of their investment in new technology.”

Attendees will also see products and equipment to meet the demands for larger lites, more complex systems and better-performing products.

Quanex, for example, will be showing a range of window systems that meet increasingly stringent requirements for thermal and energy performance, and occupant comfort. “We’re continuing to see growing success with our Mikron AW-Rated C3-11300 system in light commercial and commercial applications,” Johnson says. “We know that this product can deliver the necessary performance, and we’re continuing to gain traction as customers realize that vinyl in commercial applications is a viable, high-performing solution for their needs—not just for residential. It’s reflective of commercial builders broadly seeking more cost-effective materials, and we’re happy to help them meet that need. At GlassBuild we’re expecting those conversations to continue.”

Additionally, officials at C.R. Laurence have seen demand for hardware that does more. “The industry is calling for more sophisticated glass and hardware in terms of performance, function, aesthetics, and ease of installation—often a combination of several of these,” says Andrew Haring, vice president of marketing. “Glaziers are looking for products that can increase their own competitiveness, and we’ve experienced success in our ability to develop the innovative, differentiator products they can offer their clients.”

Lisec is also bringing solutions to help attendees meet more challenging aesthetic demands, such as calls for larger and larger glass sizes, says Manfred Lesiak, marketing and communications manager. “A future challenge for the industry will be the production of very heavy respectively oversized IG units for artistic architectural designs. We are approaching this subject with our heavy-duty facade lines being able to produce units with up to 59 feet in length and 990 pounds in weight per linear meter. Our 42-foot long IG unit show piece is underlining these new possibilities in glass design,” he says.

For in-depth information on the products and solutions on display at GlassBuild America 2017, see the Exhibitor Product Preview for the most up-to-date product list. Additionally, show organizers will offer the GlassBuild America Products Guide to each registrant to assist in finding the products they are looking for on the show floor.

Organized by the NGA\WDDA, GlassBuild America is cosponsored by the American Architectural Manufacturers Association; the Glass Association of North America; and the Insulating Glass Manufacturers Alliance.

GEF Schedule
Express Learning Schedule
Exhibitors List

Katy Devlin is editor for Glass Magazine. E-mail Katy at