Monday, September 28, 2015

At the 2015 GlassBuild America: The Glass, Window and Door Expo, I saw an industry moving forward by marrying technology and design. While companies presented the latest innovations in glass, hardware and curtain wall to meet the changing demands of the architectural community, exhibitors were also focused on addressing one of the major challenges facing our industry: the labor shortage.

Equipment suppliers offer solutions to our common labor problems of cost and scarcity of talent with mechanized fabrication advances and field installation assist equipment. Part of this solution comes in the form of automation.

Robotics and automated technology has become a part of the future of this industry. On the show floor, I saw automated machines cutting and fitting spacers on insulating units, while an operator simply watched and tweaked the process.

For contract glaziers, suppliers are offering solutions for the handling and installation processes. The numerous spider cranes on display at the show look threatening until you realized how many fewer field guys you would need if you had one. I spoke to a few curtain wall companies at the show who are trying to sweep up the next new technology to offer them an advantage, and I would direct them to some of the numerous lifting devices I saw showcased.

I am currently consulting on a project that will require lifting 7-foot by 20-foot unitized panels up onto the face of a roof parapet wall. This requires some doing, but I saw equipment up for the task—cranes of several types that could themselves be craned up to the roof and positioned to set the panels, and lifting cups that can handle even textured surfaces for setting the project’s large art glass wall panels at the interior.

Despite the advantages of investing in new equipment and machinery, it is not always easy to make the call. I spoke to one glass company owner from Chicago who was nervous about his decision to spend on new equipment. He has been around the industry’s ups and downs for decades and after 30 years suddenly found himself staring into the abyss. He told me, “Things got better just in time. Finally we are developing a nice backlog. But will it last?”

In the end, the owner told me he would go with his gut and get the cutting table he needs—his table is over 18 years old and needs replacing before interest rates start moving up. “Maybe it’s time to focus on improving my production capacity instead of arm wrestling with my banker over our credit line. You’re either moving forward or slipping backwards, but never standing still,” he said.

Glass Magazine asked industry veteran Craig Steele to walk the GlassBuild America show floor and provide an insider’s view at the technologies, trends and advancements in the glass industry. As a child, Steele began working at his father’s glass company, John Steele Glass, on the north shore of Long Island, New York. From 1987 until his retirement in 2008, Steele and his wife Donna ran Neversink Construction Corp., a contract glazing firm in upstate New York. He currently serves as a façade consultant.

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, September 28, 2015

 A common practice in newsrooms all over the world is the use of “sensational headlines.” Usually these are statements that leave a key word in or out, and are misleading enough to catch your attention. In the old days, sensational headlines helped sell papers. Now, in the online age, they get clicks—they are “clickbait.”

So, when I saw a headline on that said “Architects Billings in August Signal Construction Slump,” I knew to take it with a massive grain of salt. The story, which I discovered thanks to @tedbleecker's great twitter feed, was about the release of the August Architectural Billings Index (ABI), which slipped in its main metric to 49.1 from the previous month of 54.7. The way the indicator works is any total under 50 means a decrease in design services. So, this was a negative month by that accounting, and thus the assumption of a slump was trumpeted. However, when you start to look deeper (and when it comes to data, you owe it to yourself to always look deeper), the situation is still nowhere near a “slump.” The main indicator was down, but other key indicators were still up and still rolling along, including inquiries and contracts. Many of the other deeper indicators also remained positive. So, while there’s been some slippage, I don’t think calling it a slump is even close to accurate, especially on the basis of only one month.

Obviously, the overall worries that I hit here a lot (transportation, workforce, materials, etc.) are still prominent. But, the fact is the base remains in an optimistic state. In the end, CNBC succeeded with their headline … it got me and many others to read and comment on it, probably driving their pages views quite a bit higher than it would normally be. But they’re completely wrong. 


  • The industry ended up in another article in a traditional media setting with the Toledo Blade's “glass capacity” piece focused on hometown player Pilkington. Not a bad attempt with some content lifted from the previous pieces and also a mention on glazier availability.  
  • I was alerted this week about a petition online regarding the 179 Tax Deduction. 179 allows businesses to deduct the full amount of the purchase price of equipment (up to certain limits), it is a fantastic incentive for businesses to purchase, finance or lease equipment this year. However at the start of this year the deduction limit was reduced to $25,000. It used to be as a high as $500,000. This deduction is a huge help to small and medium sized businesses, and if you are one of them and you were just at GlassBuild America about to buy machinery, then signing this petition is something you need to consider. Take a look here and decide for yourself. 
  • Congrats to the team at Dip-Tech on the launch of their new website. Really sharp from a look and layout standpoint but the key for me on this one was the depth of the info. The site was heavy on detail and resources. Well done!

    I’ve recognized many new sites here so feel free to send me links to yours to check out- I always love to see what people are doing and sharing here when I can. 
  • The call for abstracts for GlassCon Global 2016 came out. This will be the second edition of the highly regarded event, and it will be in Boston next July. The education and insight that comes out of events like this are extremely helpful for the advancement of the industry. If you are interested in presenting and reaching a diverse and impressive audience click HERE. Deadline is October 15. 
  • Last this week… in my coverage last post about GlassBuild America I missed a few items. First, the 2016 edition of GlassBuild America will be in October, not as it usually is in September. There’s some conflicting info online at non-GlassBuild sites, but the dates are October 19-21, in Las Vegas. Please make a note. Also if you are not following @GlassBuild on twitter, please do so. That feed is rolling and will be a great place for updates and insight throughout the year. And finally, I forgot to note and congratulate the amazing work the staff of NGA/WDDA did. To handle thousands of people from all over the globe and hundreds of exhibits of varying sizes and needs is a challenge. The folks that I had the extreme honor to work with did it and did it extremely well. Simply amazing to watch it all come together. Congrats to everyone there for a job well done!

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, September 21, 2015

Here is where I take the gloves off a bit….

In the curtain wall and glazing world this has always been the reality:

You can install quicker than you can fabricate
You can fabricate quicker than you can engineer
Engineering is the bottleneck (the initial critical path)

By “engineering” I’m talking about design, delegated design, shop drawings, fab drawings, structural engineering, thermal analysis, and related coordination.  I can take this one of two directions; resource bottlenecking or leveraged cost impacts. I’m going the cost route this time. I’ll discuss resource limitations and challenges in another post.

Never did such a small line item of a project’s cost have such a large impact on the quality of its outcome. This is especially true in the glazing and facades world. Perhaps we could consider it similar to a car key. Without the key, it is impossible to unlock the car’s potential. It can’t move forward. In a similar way, engineering unlocks and brings to order the potential of a project. 

Some key questions to consider when assessing the engineering aspects are: What is the real cost of design and engineering?  Is it measured in the financial cost of the line item alone?  What type of impact does it have downstream? What is the cost of “good design”?

It is certainly not measured solely in the cost of the line item. Engineering, design and their respective work products of shop drawings, fabrication drawings, bill of materials, and structural engineering calculations are highly leveraged activities. The real cost of the services is measured in the quality of the outcome, not simply the financial cost of the line item itself.

Design and engineering services are both a cost and an investment. When performed appropriately and with value, the investment can yield cost and time savings downstream to improve a client’s bottom line through labor and material savings. When done poorly, it can produce magnified negative consequences that are difficult to recapture and correct. I’ve seen both outcomes. The only inappropriate cost of engineering (and design) is the one that doesn’t produce the necessary results; the one that negatively impacts a client’s bottom line. 

Engineering is often treated like a “black box.” By that I mean, there seems to be a notion from the client that “If I throw all the right documents in the space required by the engineering provider, and define the general scope, I’ll get the exact product I am envisioning”; and that “any of the resources I am considering will produce the same result.” This is certainly not the case. 

An acceptable outcome requires defining the client’s expectation for the work products and their functionality, completeness, timing, quality and more. The engineering resource should also provide input on what they think will be appropriate if the client is not sure on the form and context required. Aligning with client expectations is a big part of the definition or plumb line of quality. During the project, quality requires client input at key points in the process, and clear communication from the engineering resource as well, including prompting and initiative communication. I call this “supply chain value input.” Add to this the fact that none of us (and I mean none) communicate as well as we should and there is potential for trouble along the way. 

How can engineering resources working with glazing subcontractors, material providers, fabricators and related constituents in the supply chain align and manage a positive outcome for an appropriate fee? I’ll talk about that and make some additional observations next time. In the meantime, I hope this prompts some conversation on a challenging topic.

John Wheaton is the founder & co-owner of Wheaton & Sprague Engineering, Inc., also known as Wheaton Sprague Building Envelope. The firm provides full service design, engineering and consulting services for the curtain wall/building envelope/building enclosure  industry, and works at “Creating Structure” for clients. He can be reached at and on Twitter, @JohnLWheaton1. 

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, September 21, 2015

GlassBuild America 2015 is now in the books and it surely confirmed that we are in the midst of a very positive or “up” cycle in our industry. Whether it was the busy show floor (including a 2nd day that had action rivaling some of the best shows I have attended in my 24 years in the industry); or the insight from the experts that were provided via forums and express learning; or the multitude of meetings and social gatherings throughout the center and town, I walked away from this event feeling very good about the current economic landscape as it pertains to our world. Obviously we have massive challenges, including workforce, supply and transportation, but at least we are sitting on what appears to be a very solid base.

The other main overall takeaway I have is that this is no surprise. The last few editions of GlassBuild have been momentum builders with increasing enthusiasm each year. Sharp companies and attendees have been taking advantage of this and growing their business, 2015 just added more people to the mix. With the indicators strong, I do expect 2016 in Las Vegas (October next year instead of traditional September) to be off the charts in regards to exhibits, attendees, and most importantly, business done!

Now on to my annual show review of the people, products, and adventures on the floor…


  • Clearly one major stop was the C.R. Laurence booth because of their news making in the last few weeks. It was enjoyable to get a few minutes with Mr. Friese and Lloyd Talbert to personally congratulate them on the deal. Spending a few minutes learning from Jeff Phillips and Joe Schiavone was also incredible for me. I love gaining knowledge however possible! I visited for basically a split second with old friend Matt Hale of YKK AP as he had people lined up waiting to catch up with him. Never bad to see Dan Poling of Schott; though once again, I failed to get a picture of him with me to show my wife I was hanging with a James Franco lookalike. Ran into Jim Gildea late in the show, which was a great blast from the past. Speaking of the past, I had not seen Dave Alexander of Guardian in quite a while, so that was surely an unexpected plus. Two of the coolest guys in our world? Devin Bowman and Dave Vermeulen of Technical Glass Products were there and I am always blown away at everything that company does.
  • There was lots of discussion about the now debunked article in the Wall Street Journal throughout the floor. Was great to catch up on that with the always-on-point Pat Kenny of PPG. And, the legend Rob Struble was at the show so that could be why things went so well…. Speaking of “doing well,” that would pertain to Ralph Aknin, as it was great to see him and see him looking healthy and well. Plus, getting to meet Sandi Jensen and Leslie Idems at the same time was a show-maker for me. Good people. 
  • GlassBuild allows me to meet people who may read my blog, or industry people I have admired but spent very little time with. In that category, getting to talk with Greg Abrams and Chris Murphy of 310 Tempering was great. Smart and focused guys who will do well. I was humbled that Dip Tech VP of Sales Erik de Jongh noted that he read my blog--that was unanticipated but appreciated! And getting a chance to meet the new CEO at Dip Tech, Alon Lumbroso, was an honor for sure. Wanted more time with Gus Trupiano of AGC but failed there. Next event for sure. Thank you to Dave Hull of Glass Guru for stopping me to say hi and introducing me to a few of his new franchisees he was shepherding through the show. 
  • The show always has a reunion feel for me as I run into so many former coworkers I respect tremendously. People like Cliff Monroe of Oldcastle Glass; Tony Kamber, Joel Smith, and Scott Sallee of AMG; Mike Dishmon of Virginia Glass; Henry Taylor of Kawneer; Erik Stumpf of CGH; Scott Cook of GGI; and Manny Valladares of Aldora.
  • I missed tons and heard from them after: hated not seeing Rodger Ruff and Scott Goodman of AGC and Tom O’Malley of Clover. Though Tom’s doing so well right now I don’t think his handlers would allow me near him. I can always say I knew him before he got big.
  • One note on the Glazing Executives Forum: the panel that I had promoted here on the blog was very good. The key takeaway this excellent group presented was communication at every level. So needed, so crucial, yet so under rated and under utilized. The companies and people that are aggressive communicators will be better off in challenging supply times than those who are not. As for the members of the panel: I did not know John McGill of YKK and he was impressive. I do know Chris Cotton of Dlubak/CGH as we share a distinction of being the “other brother” to more powerful and popular industry siblings. Chris was great, too. But the star was Garret Henson of Viracon. I joke a lot with Garret, but in all seriousness, he was incredible in his presentation and his insight. Strong, clear speaking style that resonates with our audience. Only Joe Puishys at BEC this year was a better speaker, in my opinion. Sorry in advance Garret for the abuse that you will get within the walls of Viracon, but you deserve the props.
  • From a product standpoint, software was really notable, including some excellent solutions for the glazing contractor I had never seen before. Labor-saving equipment continues to be robust, specifically the glass installation/handling machinery.  My old favorite Dynamic Glass had a good show as well; Pleotint smartly landed in the bustling “Dream Showroom” and was busy from start to finish, while Sage had several well-attended demonstrations on how to install their product. It was a very intelligent move to educate the installers and get them familiar and comfortable with the product.
  • Best clothes: past winners PPG and Salem were decent, but not enough to beat Quanex. Great colors for women and men, really clean and classy. On that note, I only get to see fine people like Brian and Kim Kress, and Ryan Kerch once a year at the show, so was nice to visit them and not only chat but admire/envy the look!
  • The show was also strong social media-wise. I enjoyed running the GlassBuild feeds for a few days and interacting with some great companies. The periscope piece is a work in progress, but was fun to do. Just wish I had an extra hand or two so I could do all I wanted to do with this stuff!


So that’s the wrap up. Bottom line is we are in a good place; let’s keep moving on it. Communicate strong and make it happen while the climate is ripe!

Links and video of the week will return next week. Read more on Max's blog

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, September 14, 2015

Note: This post is a little longer this week because of the big news from last week and GlassBuild America kicking off this week.

One story that I have been talking about for a while, and that Glass Magazine has been all over for months, hit the mainstream media in a big way this week. A story that led with the premise of glass being short in supply first appeared in the Wall Street Journal on September 8th. (Thank you old pal Scott Surma for the initial lead on it.) After the first posting of the article, many other sites followed with their takes as well, making the news somewhat “viral,” at least as our world is concerned.

First and foremost, the original article from the Journal had some serious flaws in it. The biggest one was noting that a product shortage forced real estate companies into the “glass” business. However, the Journal's example firm actually makes unitized curtain wall, so that move in no way alleviates any pressure a glass shortage would have. That’s just a hole in the story logic, making their “problem” more of a fabricator/glazier issue, which in fact is a serious problem, possibly as much as a tightening of glass capacity. 

When it comes to glazing, especially major, high-end contracted projects, the field of qualified players is very limited. Because of many factors, only so many companies per market really want to get into these projects, or have the ability to do so. These are sophisticated projects that if you do not have a good team, including top-notch project managers, your entire business could fail with one bad turn. So blaming a glass shortage the way the article initially intended and then going into the installation issues in the way the article ended, was off base. 

This WSJ article really is more about a glazing issue, featuring costs developers never expected to pay, and lead-times they never expected to wait. Why? Because they’ve always enjoyed the benefits of the opposite. Most feel our industry has always been too “competitive” when it comes to the first issue and way too expedient on the second. Lead-times especially have thrown many in the chain because it’s always been a “just in time” world. We surely spoiled the masses there.

In the end, there are two takeaways.

First, there’s no doubt, despite the confusing nature of some of the articles out this week, we do have a glass shortage. It’s been building for a while. It’s something I have been banging on and telling anyone who listens to prepare for. I know some are questioning if it’s real, and while they may make calls to find out, anyone who works in this business on a day-to-day basis knows it’s a very difficult climate, worse in areas that are further from the primary plants and especially bad on certain styles and sizes of glass. What used to always be there is simply not available right now.

Second, we do have an issue with installation, especially a shortage of quality project managers. That is something that is not new to readers of this blog either. When you add these up with the other factors in our world (transportation, recovering economy, stressed equipment, etc.), this is what happens.

As noted above, many sites picked up on this original story. But one article really caught my eye. It was by huge tech blog Gizmodo. This one took the lead from the Journal, stayed in its lane focus wise, and then also pointed out the excellent work that Katy Devlin and Glass Magazine did to show what is happening here. Plus the story featured the line of the year for me:

"Maybe most interestingly, this isn’t the first time a glass shortage has hit the world. Katy Devlin, editor of Glass Magazine (yes, there is a glass magazine!)"

That last sentence: so true. And if you’ve been reading Glass Magazine, you knew about all of this long before the mainstream stumbled upon it.


  • Last note on the above for now: Props to Matt Tangeman of Custom Glass Machinery. He attacked the comment section of the WSJ story like a champ. Great insights provided. Nice work, Matt! 
  • GlassBuild America kicks off this week, and I am looking forward to seeing as many people as I can. Once again I’ll be the goofy looking guy wearing the yellow vest that looks like I stole from the ground crew at Atlanta’s Hartsfield Airport. So please stop me and say hi. As for the show, the exhibits I have been researching have me excited to see the innovation and advancements. And I have to say the amount of education this year is like nothing that has ever been at a conference or show before. It’s amazing. Also, a side note: during the Glazing Executives Forum, a great panel will be held on the lead-time subject featuring Garret Henson of Viracon, Chris Cotton of Dlubak/Consolidated Glass Holdings, and John McGill of YKK AP America. Three companies and three excellent people to provide some views on a very challenging world right now.
  • If you are unable to attend (I am sorry; tough one to miss), I will be tweeting from the GlassBuild America twitter account @GlassBuild and also doing Periscope sessions from there to show you some education and forum happenings. So follow @GlassBuild on both Twitter and Periscope. And my guess is they’ll probably never let me near either account again after this, so don’t miss it!
  • Of course on my blog next week, the recap of the show: people seen and products checked out and more.
  • Last this week, a shout out to my good friend Kris Vockler and the folks at ICD High Performance Coatings. ICD was given an award by the state of Washington for their efforts on hiring America’s veterans. The Vockler family are simply awesome people, and they back it up with the way they do business and the people they hire. Congrats!

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, September 7, 2015

In recent visits to glass and glazing companies of all shapes and sizes, I have asked company leaders to describe their training programs. I assumed this would provide an interesting look at how companies big and small are dealing with the current shortage of skilled labor. What I didn’t expect was the wealth of information about how glass companies are keeping their workers safe through training and with detailed safety policies.

Many of the companies I spoke with, from small 10-person glass shops to large glass fabricators, report required regular safety training, particularly for workers on the jobsite or on the factory floor. Some manufacturers I spoke with have a safety manager, responsible for leading daily or weekly safety briefings. Many have set safety guidelines that employees are required to follow (and will receive ‘warnings’ if they are caught not following).

Many companies have developed more nuanced safety policies. One window manufacturer I interviewed recently created safety guidelines for visitors. The guidelines outlined PPE requirements, noted areas where visitors were not allowed, and included a code of content (no cell phones, for example).

Because many factory accidents occur simply because a person isn’t where they should be, one glass fabricator I visited requires factory floor employees to wear a specific colored shirt that indicates their work “zone.” A plant manager can simply look at the floor to see if any employee is not where they should be.

In an upcoming issue of Glass Magazine, we will look at the ways glass companies keep their workers safe. If you would like to share your company's approach to keeping employees safe, leave a comment or send an email.

Katy Devlin is editor of Glass Magazine. Contact her at

Sunday, September 6, 2015

The term “Class Act” is probably now overused. But today I am going to use it as a tribute to a man who truly deserves that moniker. After a heroic run of battles against illness and cancer, long-time industry manufacturers' rep Dave Helterbran passed away late last Tuesday night. Now Dave was a TRUE class act. Everything he did led you to that conclusion. His overall attitude and approach always put you in a better place after a talk or visit. He always met me with a smile and with a positive outlook on everything. And I know I was not the only one that felt that way. Dave cared tremendously about his product lines. Being a manufacturers' rep is not an easy business (I know there’s folks who think it is; sorry, you’re wrong), and Dave always handled the adventures there well. You could say he always handled his job with class… He was fortunate to work with some excellent people and companies that appreciated him until the end, like Mike Scanlon and the folks at Trelleborg.  

Dave leaves behind people who loved him, loved working with and for him. He also leaves behind a legacy with his daughter Lindsay and son-in-law Dustin as they continue their rep firm Texas Glazing Solutions. Lindsay and Dustin are a lot like Dave. Lindsay was blessed with Dave’s smile and overall genes and Dustin picked up on Dave’s attitude and acumen pretty fast. They will do well in this business because Dave prepared them right. In the end, we lost yet another great person in our industry and world, and that is surely sad. My thoughts and condolences go out to the entire Helterbran family, his friends and associates on the loss of this classy gentleman.


  • Some good news. My friend Mike Gainey picked up a new great gig recently joining the team at Ensinger. I have known Mike a long time; he’s one of the few people who actually dealt with me in every past life I had in this industry and actually still likes me (or at least I think so). He’ll do great in this new slot and I am thrilled for him.
  • Did you see Google changed its look and logo some? I do not like it. Not sure why a company so established would go that direction.
  • So I saw a piece this week on 5 emerging building types to master and a few jumped out at me for importance to us. One was “Bioclimatic,” where the structure is built to have a more intense connection with the climate zone of its location. Another was Net Zero Energy, and I have been on that bandwagon for a while so it’s good to see that continuing to pick up steam. The last and possibly most interesting is “Resilient” buildings. These are structures built to maintain functionality or bounce back quickly in the face of extreme weather. Some examples ranged from the simple--like elevating buildings to avoid flood waters, using operable windows instead of fixed because of humidity--to more intense--like flooring that can flood but dry out and resume service without issue. In any case, I share this because our industry has a stake in all of these and needs to keep innovating and communicating what we do so we are involved in the process.
  • Last this week, courtesy of the always reliable Twitter feed of Conners Sales Group, there's a fascinating battle taking place with Turner Construction and the city of Santa Clara, California, about a hospital and priorities. The story can be found here, and I have a feeling we’re not through hearing about it yet. 

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.