Monday, October 26, 2015

Thirteen years ago, David Fitchett approached the National Glass Association for help in forming a group of glass professionals. His idea was to build a peer-to-peer network of glass company entrepreneurs along the lines of the World Entrepreneurs Organization, of which he was a member in Garner, North Carolina, home of Carolina Glass & Mirror, the company he started in 1993 with Mike Wilkins. 

The Glass Professionals Forum in 2011: David Uhey, Guy Selinske, Tom Whitaker, David Fitchett, Angelo Rivera, Bob Brown, Chris Mammen, Steve Mort, Bill Evans, Newton Little, Nicole Harris

Over the years, these now 12 glass company owners from across the country have helped one another develop and improve their businesses. Through an open, trust-based sharing of problems and offered solutions—and a good number of beers—this band of brothers also formed deep and lasting friendships. 

David died on Friday, October 23, at the age of 52 of Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).  His obituary notes that he was “a founding member” of the Glass Professionals Forum (GPF). One of David’s many admirable traits was his humility. Every time one of us would acknowledge his founding father role, he would gently brush it off, sometimes with a wry remark, always with a warm and engaging smile. 

Founding and guiding the group was just his first gift; his quiet foresight had far-reaching consequences. The same guiding principle of thought leadership and positive change were reflected in another voluntary body. It’s not at all surprising that several members of this peer group have also served on the National Glass Association’s board of directors. Each of them brought clear-minded, improvement-driven focus that continues to this day. 

In the early years, especially, I joined the GPF as they visited each other’s company locations.  The agenda included a tour of the hosting member’s facility, a meeting, sometimes a special tour or presentation by an industry supplier. And of course, a couple of dinners full of laughter and good-natured ribbing. I was happy to share both the camaraderie and many of their best practices in the pages of Glass Magazine.

Many of my inspirations for bettering the industry originated with David’s idea to form a glass industry-focused peer networking group. Many of my happiest industry meeting memories are from these GPF gatherings.  

I am proud and ever grateful to David to call myself a sister among his band of brothers. 

Nicole Harris president and CEO of the National Glass Association and Window & Door Dealers Alliance. Write her at

Sunday, October 25, 2015

This week, From the Fabricator turns 10. One decade of posts and ramblings on the first ever glass and aluminum related blog. Please join me please on a run through memory lane.

It all started on Oct. 25, 2005. This blog was launched with a simple 17-word post. The goal was to provide insight to the industry with this new avenue of communication. On Oct. 27, I came back with a post with a few of my favorite subjects: the National Fenestration Rating Council, China and green building. And from there it took off.

I used this space to inform and educate. I tried to rally the industry, sometimes succeeding, sometimes not. But I tried. And, as time went on, this blog became a stop for readers to see what I’d say next. And that was good and bad.

On the negative side, back then, I was pretty rough around the edges. I thought I was bulletproof and pretty much set for life. I had people around me that loved when I threw haymakers, so I did it to please them. But, I also got into it myself, and was too stupid to realize what I was doing. There were surely posts I regret, and ones that hold me back professionally to this day. So, believe me, lessons learned.

On the plus side, I was breaking stories. I was getting leads on acquisitions from all over thanks to this forum. I broke the Oldcastle purchase of Vistawall, and was on top of Pella buying EFCO, which back then were gigantic deals. Companies changed the way they did due diligence and closed communications tighter. As a former communication and journalism person, I enjoyed the fact I was disruptive. And I also got a kick out of making life miserable for the NFRC. Though, in the end they “kinda” won when the industry slept through the process. (I say kinda because even years later their system is not what it was ever cracked up to be).

In 2006 and 2007 as this blog was really growing, we were all busy in this industry. Things were rolling. I joke about it a lot, but no one truly realized things were THAT good then. We were all in a good place P&L wise, but there were always issues and fire drills—things like codes and standards, etc. And if you didn’t work through the 70’s and the recession then, you didn’t know what bad times really were. Then 2009 and 2010 arrived, and we all found out.

Things changed, and changed quickly. I hit a crossroads, and as fate would have it, I had to face some of the same people I was rough to on this blog. My rabblerousing days had me in a bad spot. Somehow I was very fortunate and beyond blessed that Arturo Carrillo looked beyond my past and gave me shot at Vitro America when my previous world went up in sun-ignited flames. Many people inside Vitro America questioned Arturo on why he’d hire the blogger who was a massive thorn in his company’s side.  Thankfully he held to his convictions that there was more to me than my writings, and that I had grown from it, and realized what I had done and whom I had affected. But, enough of my personal adventures. (That will be a book someday…haha!) This post is meant to be about the blog.

With a new lease on my professional life, I refocused my energy and passion, changed my style and basically “grew up” thanks to the support and guidance of people like Arturo, Nicole Harris, Denise Sheehan, Greg Carney (RIP), Kris Vockler, and many others. I began a different approach and liked it. I enjoyed being positive, but without losing my eye for things that concerned me. I dropped the attack mode and tried to focus on the good people of this industry who do great things but get little to no recognition. I still call out issues and warn of consequences, but I do it without rancor. (Usually!) And while there’s a vocal minority that implores me to be like I used to be, I’m never going back to that style.

Since I started this adventure, our industry changed so much. Major players at every level are gone. If you would’ve told me when I started this blog that 10 years from now I’d be on my own and that several major players had failed, I would’ve never of believed it. Especially the being on my own fact. That still blows me away.

It’s been 10 years and 538 posts. And I could not of done it without all of you out there. The encouragement, dialogue, support and so on mean the world to me. When brilliant and class people like John Wheaton, Ted Bleecker, Jeff Kirby, Terry Newcomb, Garret Henson, Mark Silverberg, Rich Porayko, Jon Kimberlain, Tom O’Malley, Marc Deschamps, Chuck Knickerbocker, and many many others take the time to drop me notes or tweet my blog out, it blows me away. (I know I am forgetting people to name. Sorry!)

Thank you to all who read this week in, week out and never comment or communicate as well. The fact you give me 5 minutes a week is appreciated. The traffic that I get never fails to boggle my mind, and I will always be forever grateful.

Ten years down, and who knows how many more years to go. But we’re going to keep plugging along. I hope you’ll continue to join me on the ride.

Thank you.

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

Max Perilstein 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
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, October 19, 2015

The many industry gatherings in recent weeks lent themselves to the incubation of rumors. Being connected to the industry in the odd ways I am, I get to hear many of these. Most are of the outlandish variety, but some eventually happen. In any case, the scuttlebutt continues to grow regarding newer foreign players coming to the United States to set up fabrication plants. These rumors started a year ago during glasstec and have gained more ground throughout the year. It bears watching if the current busy market attracts new players. Plus, it poses the question about whether these newcomers will pursue greenfield opportunities or acquisitions. It’s a sellers’ market right now, so I would not be shocked if we see the former happen. My fearless prediction is you will see someone new hitting a major market in the next 6 to 9 months.


  • Thank you to everyone in the industry who signed the Section 179 petition. It was a bunch of you and good to see. The petition passed the 10K mark this week, and the effort continues to encourage Congress to look at this piece and roll it back to where it should be. 
  • I have been following the new Apple headquarters closely, and this week renderings were released for another major Apple campus building in Silicon Valley. This one is a clover leaf shaped complex that will cover 18 acres. HOK is the designer, and it will feature a lot of glass—a lot of it large and bent. Plus there’s some thought that Apple may try to push for Net Zero on this complex, which would be an amazing accomplishment. So, expectation of a heavy dose of solar is surely a possibility. 
  • Before we leave the state of California, I read a comical piece this week in the New York Times on electric cars and the battles that come with them—mainly, the areas and spaces necessary to charge them up. People are getting fired up as the cars and technology are outpacing areas to service and charge. It’s a great read and shows that sometimes disruptive technology still has a long way to go with support and consideration. Personally, I see frustration and arguments over electrical outlets all the time, particularly at the busy airports I frequent. 
  • Poll time. So, what are the most energy efficient and least energy efficient states? A new survey by WalletHub outlined the rankings by analyzing efficiency of car and home energy consumption as part of the process. (Note, the study covered the continental U.S. only).

    Most Efficient:
    1. New York (Color me stunned on this one)
    2. Vermont
    3. Minnesota (I actually figured this would be No. 1, thanks to brilliant people like Kerry Haglund being so active there)
    4. Wisconsin
    5. Utah

    Least Efficient:
    44. Arkansas
    45. Kentucky
    46. Texas
    47. Louisiana
    48. South Carolina

    So, South Carolina is the least energy efficient state according to this particular piece. I guess, aside from being a tough state to get hurricane protection codes enforced, S.C. is also tough in terms of energy.

    I am in shock after the end of the Michigan-Michigan State game. What a wild finish to a pretty intriguing football game. I love college football. Congrats to my many State fans out there, and I feel for my UofM folks.

    Last this week. For those of you with a retail arm, do yourself a favor and check out this article about Angie’s List. If you provide a service to the public, you likely have been inundated and guilted by the heavy sales pitch from these folks, and this story gives some insight on why. I have to give credit to the people behind this service. They have found a way to make some good money without the effort of producing the product. 

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

Max Perilstein 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
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, October 19, 2015

Most people react to stressful situations by seeing something negative, saying something negative, and doing nothing. These actions, or inactions, will be duplicated in all subsequent challenging circumstances.

Then there are the rare people who handle something unpleasant by, first, seeing something positive in all that happens; second, saying something positive; and third, taking positive steps to correct the situation. These three steps are the components of a genuinely positive attitude.

Recently, our company had a truck stolen. The thieves removed concrete blocks, entered, and stole the truck. Our company color is pink—1956 Cadillac pink—and our trucks are painted that color. Our first actions were to call the police and notify the insurance company. Next, we contacted the local television stations to see if they wanted to report the theft of a large pink truck. "Large pink truck" was the hook for the TV stations.

The local CBS and ABC affiliates conducted interviews and filmed our premises. The CBS affiliate ran three two-minute reports during three different newscasts, and a four-minute report during their primetime 6 p.m. newscast. The ABC affiliate ran their report three times. Both posted it on their respective websites. Additionally, the story was picked up and reported by glass industry Internet news feeds.

These actions created a buzz about our company. The local buzz was widespread and has lasted for the two weeks since the reports aired. We receive telephone calls saying that the caller spotted one of our trucks. We reward the callers, if they want, with coffee cups and/or t-shirts.

The theft will cost our company money. It is an inconvenience and interrupts our daily flow. However, we received 16 minutes of free advertising in our local market (worth approximately $14,000), and got our target market talking about our company.

We chose to take positive action to counteract a negative situation. Choose, in all challenges, to see something positive, say something positive and take positive steps in addressing the situation. Make lemonade out of lemons.

Bill Evans is president of Evans Glass Co. Write him at

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, October 13, 2015

As we approach the end of the year, I have begun my process of figuring out who the industry MVP will be. Previous winners were Tracy Rogers of Quanex and the entire C.R. Laurence organization. 2015 looks to be much harder, as again there is no shortage of great candidates. What I look for is a person or company that has made an impact on our industry, be it technical, marketing, codes, leadership and so on. I am gathering my list, and if you believe there’s someone deserving in your opinion, please shoot me an email. I get around quite a bit, but not everywhere, so I may miss a potential candidate. I will note some of the finalists in November and then unveil and honor the winner in December. Thank you.


  • Once again, I enjoyed the Twitter coverage supplied by Glass Magazine (@GlassMag), this time from the Vitrum show in Italy. Great pictures and details, including a neat shot of what it looks like inside a working tempering oven. Overall it looked like an interesting show in regards to some cutting edge equipment. 
  • Speaking of machinery, can that sector be any hotter right now? It is surely a good time to be in that world. Congrats to those folks who had to really hold their breath through the tight times a few years ago. 
  • Have you seen the wild glass bridge in China? Thanks to friends Evan Otruba of Binswanger and Rick Shaw of Solar Seal for bringing me up to speed on this. The 984-foot glass suspension bridge is something to see, and it made even bigger news this week when a tourist dropped a metal travel mug and cracked one of the superficial exterior lites of glass. As those of us in the industry know, it’s not a big deal, but for the mainstream media it’s cause for a major story. 
  • It is October, and that means the NFL breaks out its annual Pinkwashing campaign. This is the time where every player, coach and official wears a multitude of pink to make us aware that they care about breast cancer. The league also sells all of this pink gear with “proceeds” going to charity. Sadly—and it’s been like this for years—they are just donating just a tiny bit of money to actually combat this heinous disease. After it’s all broken out, around 8 percent of proceeds of the pink gear sold goes to the American Cancer Society, and none of it goes towards research. Yes, that tiny sliver of cash goes towards “awareness,” which is a joke given that the last thing society needs in this effort is awareness. What is needed is research and a cure. I just can’t stand that every October this sham of campaign goes on, and the NFL gets richer, and we remain no closer to any breakthroughs in cancer world. We treat cancer the same way in 2015 that we did in 1980. That’s insane. In addition, good charities that need the funding suffer because of the overall power of something like this. That unintended consequence makes it hurt even more.  
  • Last this week, the GANA Fall Conference takes place in San Antonio. I won’t be there but I do look forward to hearing about what goes on and the discussions that arise.

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


Max Perilstein 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
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, October 12, 2015

The Langley, British Columbia, fabrication plant for Vitrum Glass Group. Photo by Stephen Nyran. 

One of the greatest challenges in business is recognizing the need for improvement, even during the best and busiest of times. But, perhaps even more challenging is making the difficult decision to invest time and money to make those improvements possible—and to then sell the future benefits of those improvements to an already-stretched staff.

To successfully execute such improvements when things are working, the shake-up must come from the top down. As Glass Magazine Columnist Carl Tompkins said in the September issue, “the top people of an organization must always ask questions, seek advice and realize that there is always room for improvement.”

This summer, I visited the Langley, British Columbia, fabrication plant for Vitrum Glass Group, where the results of such an investment are on prominent display. In May 2014, Vitrum implemented a massive overhaul of its processes and software systems with the adoption of a new plant-wide enterprise resource planning system. This complex and time-intensive process began in 2013, when the commercial construction market was beginning to step up its recovery, and took more than a year for the company to complete. The details of this transition are presented on pages 32-38 of the October issue of Glass Magazine.

Key to Vitrum’s success in implementing the new ERP during a busying building cycle was company leadership. But, even more important, was the leadership’s investment in bringing its people on board to participate in the execution of the major shift in technology and process.

Asking employees to participate in a complete overhaul of existing, functioning systems while orders and production ramp up to meet demand is a tall order. “They were shifting gears after 16 years of doing things the same way,” describes Nicky Whitehouse, Vitrum’s director of IT, who was brought in to lead the IT side of the transition. However, Vitrum leadership was dedicated to communicating the benefits of the transition and bringing staff from all departments to participate in the ERP integration. “The buy-in from senior management was critical, and it flowed downhill. It was unusual and outstanding,” Whitehouse says.

Beyond Vitrum’s ERP, the October issue of Glass Magazine provides a look at a number of additional potential investments glass companies can consider in this time of market growth—from tools and supplies to increase productivity and efficiency (pages 40-46), or decorative glass machinery to expand product offerings (pages 22). But in the end, no matter how advanced the technology, how fast the machines, how helpful the tools, it’s the people that make business possible … and profitable.


Katy Devlin is editor of Glass Magazine. Contact her at


Saturday, October 3, 2015

Members of the Stairbuilders and Manufacturers Association tour one of the Los Angeles manufacturing facilities for C.R. Laurence Co. 


Glass is no longer relegated to windows and walls. Trends in the last 10 years have increasingly brought glass systems into the building interior, whether for office entrances, wall partitions or railings. Now the residential market is following suit, with glass coming into guard rails and stair rails in the home.

Last week, I attended a Regional Workshop for the Stairbuilders and Manufacturers Association at one of the Los Angeles manufacturing facilities for C.R. Laurence Co., where this trend topped discussions. While the SMA continues to be a group very focused on millwork and traditional wood stair and rail systems, emerging design trends toward glass handrails and stair rails have led the organization to the glass industry.

“We are getting a lot of demand on this, moving from the commercial market into residential,” said Tim Timmons, current president of SMA and owner, president of Source Building Products USA Inc.

CRL, which has been at the forefront of the movement to bring glass handrails and stair rails into commercial projects, has also begun seeing an increase in demand from the residential side. “We are seeing a lot of interest from the residential market to get these systems in homes, particularly in bigger cities—Los Angeles, Chicago, New York,” said Brian Clifford, CRL technical director for architectural railings and metals.

As a result of increased demand for residential rail projects, the company decided to get involved with the SMA. CRL is looking to educate stairbuilders about product options, provide information about safety and code requirements, and help the residential stair manufacturers connect with glazing industry professionals, officials said.

“We want to help you quote the right way, the first time; to give you the best options so these systems aren’t cut due to cost; and to make sure you have the right documentation. There are life and safety issues—the systems need to be right,” said Chris Hanstad, CRL vice president of architectural sales.

While residential glass rails is still a niche market, it offers significant growth potential, particularly if it follows the growth trajectory of commercial interior glass products, or of residential bath enclosures, officials say. Glass industry companies have a critical expertise in this emerging market that will be increasingly in demand. Perhaps it’s time for more glass companies to capitalize on this opportunity and expand their scope into stairs.

Katy Devlin is editor of Glass Magazine. Contact her at

Thursday, October 1, 2015

I listened in on a construction forecast webinar this week, and it was basically more of what we we’ve been hearing: positive for the non-residential market for 2016, with some improvement on the institution side of things. Hotels and recreation are primed for a big year as well. But the interesting part was when the analyst reviewed material costs; when he got to flat glass he said something along the lines of “Usually flat glass costing is like its name… flat, but lately we’re seeing a rise.” He then added basically a regurgitation of the Wall Street Journal article saying there’s a supply shortage creating job delays. So the narrative that was floated out there a few weeks ago is growing, especially when it’s hitting the indicators and analysts.


  • I’ve always been a big fan of Donald Jayson and Bendheim for how they do business. Now I can add another great item  to the list, with their 4th generation  addition of Benjamin Jayson to the business. Obviously, I have a special place in my heart for the family business, and I love seeing the latest generations joining our industry. Congrats to the Jayson family!
  • Just a heads up: the folks at SAPA are hosting an Architectural Workshop for architects, designers, and building consultant for the first time in New York City. Great opportunity for those groups to learn some of the intricacies of metal and help them with design. So if you fall into that category, you should look into it. The date is October 14; more info is here. Props to Mark Spencer and the team at SAPA; they’re always on the cutting edge.
  • Communication was a big theme during GlassBuild America, and  I recently ran into a decent read on tips for effective construction communication.
  • Off topic from the industry… if you want an amazing read and book you will not want to put down, grab “13 Hours, The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi.” This book by Mitchell Zuckoff is amazing. It is non-political, so there are no discussions of what happened or did not happen in Washington or with politicians. It is about the men who had to deal with the attack and protect the annex and compound there. It’s told minute by minute with incredible detail. Amazing read. Evidently a movie is now being made from it. I am scared Hollywood will ruin it.
  • Bad news from the latest release of jobsite safety numbers. The construction world is in the midst of its most dangerous year since 2008. I know so many companies stress safety to the furthest extent, yet the injuries and fatalities keep happening and now at a pace that is really depressing.
  • I really thought the Alcoa news from last week would make more waves than it did. The announcement that the organization would split into two companies got a little reaction, and then everyone moved on. Industry-wise, the question is on where Kawneer lands. As expected, the release and comments say all will continue to be normal and that’s to be expected in the short term. But as with every deal, it sure bears watching to see what, if any, changes come down the pike there.


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