glassblog

Monday, April 24, 2017

Recently, I needed to run my filthy truck through the car wash. I opted for an ‘Express’ wash, a process that involved driving through an automated alleyway (the likes of which have scared young children for generations), followed by the actual washing process: a shower of water, the plop-plop of a blue-green colored soap, a thorough cleansing with vertically hung and heavily waterlogged strips of felt and their horizontal spinning counterparts, another showering rinse and, finally, the all-important hurricane-force hot air dry.

Upon emerging from the tunnel of cleanliness, two young men motioned me to move forward, then stop so they could hand-dry the truck. My first thought was that this extra step was unnecessary and not a good business practice. After all, these kids were probably making minimum wage, there were several of them waiting to dry cars and, if the owner of the car wash had simply invested in a more powerful blow-drying machine—say, an EF5 simulation— it would have mitigated the need for the additional personnel. Then I had an epiphany of sorts.

While it was not necessary for two people to hand-dry my truck, it was a nice touch. It was their version of going the extra mile, of providing a personal service to an otherwise automated process. And I concluded that the young men were, in all likelihood, not being paid minimum wage but instead depended upon the appreciation of strangers—at which point, I searched frantically through my wallet for cash.

This business owner had it right—they went the extra mile and did so in a way that resulted in a win-win for everyone. The young men were collecting tips, supplementing whatever hourly wage they were earning, and the business owner was providing an actual hands-on service that went above and beyond the usual automation. I call that pretty smart.

In business, we must look for ways to go the extra mile, to provide that extra bit of service without compromising our bottom line. Providing customers with personal service that goes beyond automation results not only in satisfied customers, but also builds a positive and lasting relationship that will pay off in spades.

(And, yes, I tipped them well.)

How do you go the extra mile for your customers?

Ron Crowl is president of FeneTech, the Aurora, Ohio, provider of software automation products and services to the glass, window and door fabrication industries. Write him at ron.crowl@fenetech.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, April 24, 2017

This coming week is the annual AIA show, and for the first time in a while I will not be attending.  My time spent at that event has lessened over the years, but I still liked to go to see what was new and get a feel for the attitude on the floor. Since I won’t be there, I ask you, my loyal readers, to please drop me a line and let me know what you thought of the event and if there was anything newsworthy. I truly appreciate the help!
 

Elsewhere…

  • The latest Architectural Billings Index finished the first quarter with a major flourish. The index came in at 54.3, which is a massive score in the scheme of the way they track things. So the enthusiasm and the action coming from the architectural community is obviously on a roll right now. Let’s keep riding that train.
  • Speaking of architects, Glass Magazine has an incredible online guide to “Glazing Specifications,” and I think it’s one of the best things that talented team has ever done. There is an entire in-depth six-part series of documents, and I am still going through them. But I wanted to point out their “Glass and Metals 201” as a great example of the sort of information and insight at your fingertips. Carve out some time (like I am) to check them all out.
  • And one more Glass Magazine related note: the most prestigious honors that our industry has, the Glass Magazine Awards, are back again and the process for submittals in several categories is now open. There are some very interesting categories that will surely bring a lot of great recognition to deserving companies and people. Please take a look and get your submittals in.
  • Last week on the glassblog, a new writer made his debut. Gareth Francey of Bohle America had his first posting, and I thought it was an excellent piece. Welcome to the wild and wonderful world of blogging, Gareth!
  • Congrats to Brad Thurman on his move to GGI. I have known Brad a very long time and he’s one of the most intelligent guys in our industry. He’s a super person and he’ll be great in his new position there for sure.
  • I am not a New York City type of guy at all, but I do really admire the constant pace of construction there and the basic evolution. One example is what they have done with Times Square. Making it a pedestrian-only area was obviously a brilliant idea and this link gives you a ton of before and after shots. If you look hard enough, you can see one of the coolest items at Times Square: the Ruby Red glass stairs at TKTS that the fine folks at Walker Glass and AGNORA worked on. As a glass geek, that’s surely a favorite for me.
  • Last this week, I read an article recently that noted 3D printers are able to make glass. Right now they do it with some form of liquid that can be shaped into very intricate things. I think we are safe on the traditional flat glass side; I don’t see 3D printers making high-performance low-E any time soon. But my goodness, anything seems possible anymore.

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 MaxP@SoleSourceConsultants.com.

 The opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Glass Association, Glass Magazine editors, or other glassblog contributors.

Monday, April 17, 2017

As the glass industry in many parts of the world maintains its relatively small growth rate, the U.S. glass market continues to look very interesting to many overseas glass companies looking to expand. With the United States’ reasonably good recovery after the global fall-out of 2008, and with strong infrastructure spend rhetoric that has many people somewhat optimistic, there are very few reasons why companies would not pick the United States as part their next expansion move.

The first step to identifying this untapped market has been helped by the internet and the globalization of the glass industry over the last 20 years. But, it’s a long, difficult and expensive process to succeed in the U.S. glass industry.

Besides the measurement systems that broadly divide Europe and the U.S. in terms of everyday processes, there are several other fundamental differences that European companies find challenging to work through.

For example, the process of working with an architect to get a product specified. In Europe, the glazier has a much bigger role in this process due to his level of status based on his education and experience. In the U.S., product placement generally comes from the top down, from the architect or designer choosing the products, and the glaziers following the requirements. Understanding and reacting to this small yet amazingly important concept means certain European companies must change their complete sales and marketing approaches.

This is also true for product development in the United States, with key differences in glass thickness requirements, product style and function being a few factors that can basically dictate whether something will sell or not. For example, the American glass door, used in either a residential shower or a commercial storefront application is generally heavier, wider and bulkier by design compared to the European equivalents. Generally, there is also more metal in a U.S. glass product, and the finishes will differ considerably to what is available and sold across the pond.

What is the recipe for success in the United States? If you look around, there are certainly notable examples of global companies that found significant success in the United States. Likewise, there are some examples where some great companies just did not work out at all. The real question becomes: what are the differences between the two? Besides having a great product that everyone wants and building a solid operational business, success comes from the amount of time invested in the market. And by time, understand it as money invested. The cost of serving the market is much higher than overseas companies generally expect, from employing salespeople, to working out logistics, to building infrastructure. Likewise, the local market's positive perception of an overseas player will simply take longer to develop.

The result is that the investment of time in the market leads to an understanding of how the U.S. glass market works. There is no shortcut in getting this knowledge and insight; it simply takes time and an openness to working with the differences.

Gareth Francey is the president of Bohle America, a supplier of glazing & handling tools, hardware, consumables, and machinery, for all levels of the glass industry. Francey has been with the Bohle organization since 2001 and led the American division since 2010. Contact him at gareth.francey@bohle-america.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, April 17, 2017

Getting disconnected from the world is something I never thought I would do. I am pretty positive that I have been consistently around some sort of internet connection since 1994. Even when traveling overseas, I always found a way to get online. Even slow, crummy internet is better than no internet. Well, last week I went off the grid for two days. No internet. At all. And it was glorious. I really enjoyed being free. Though I will admit two things were tough to get through. First, I am still a massive sports fanatic. So not being able to know what happened in the NHL or NBA each night was painful. Second is a habit that I bet many of us have. A comment would come up about a music star or a trivia question, and the normal reflex is grabbing the phone and hitting Google. Not having that was a challenge, but easier to deal with than the lack of scores! In any case, I enjoyed my 48 hours without e-mails or texts. I’ll have to try it again sometime!

Elsewhere…

  • Speaking of being connected, social media is always a big piece for me and I want to give props this week to the folks at Burhans Glass. They have done something that I have not seen a lot of online even though it’s a great medium for what we do. They are on and all over Instagram. For most of the industry, it is Twitter and Facebook, but I have not seen many folks jump deep into Instagram. Burhans has, and they’ve done a nice job. Kudos to them! If you are on Instagram and posting job pictures, drop me a line. I’d love to follow. Instagram is still not a dominant place for B2B and still growing B2C, but the potential is there because of the emphasis on the visual.
  • One more note on social media. One area where I really like Twitter? Saturday morning, back-to-back tweets from John Wheaton and Garret Henson with interesting links on a project and a massive Florida development. It’s that insight and knowledge that I would probably miss otherwise.
  • See, I disconnect for two days and half of my return blog is internet related. Scary!
  • The Dodge Momentum Index continued positive with its sixth straight winning month. Institutional work continues to lead the way there. If there is any concern from this month's results, it's softening commercial numbers. Still positive, but weakening. That is one area to keep an eye on. 
  • Congrats to the folks at Vitro for their work with water reclamation. The story that came out that broke down what they are doing at their Wichita Falls, Texas, facility is really great stuff. Efforts like that don’t usually get enough pub. 
  • I know a lot of people in the industry were involved with the new basketball arena in Sacramento. I ran across this article that did a great job of looking at the design and thought behind it. Really good insight. 
  • Last this week, I had run a story recently on a crazy expensive wedding that ended up NOT happening. Well my pal Chuck Knickerbocker from TGP (also an amazing blogger in his own right) sent me this note about a wedding that DID happen and showed a positive tale of wedding planning and awesome execution.  

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 MaxP@SoleSourceConsultants.com.

The opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Glass Association, Glass Magazine editors, or other glassblog contributors.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Salesperson “A” has many opportunities, and he seems to be able to move through the sales process effortlessly and simultaneously. On paper he doesn’t appear to be any more talented or intelligent than any of his peers, but he closes more deals than his peers.

Salesperson “B” is full of confidence and charisma and people naturally like him. He knows and understands the customer base and his product knowledge is good. But his sales pipeline is weak and he closes few deals.

The two salespeople work for the same company in similar territories, selling the same products for the same prices. Why the difference in sales? What would cause two individuals to achieve such different results? It might have something to do with the art of follow-up.

Salesperson “B” is always talking on the phone or texting someone, but he doesn’t have an organized system that triggers the next action. As a result, things get missed and slip through the cracks. Oftentimes he has a hard time connecting with his prospects. Because he calls randomly, he needs to call multiple times before he can connect. Or, he shows up at an unscheduled time. This leaves the impression that he is a pushy salesman.

Salesperson “A” makes regular updates on progress with opportunities. He sets up tasks and reminders and schedules meetings. He is not pushy or offensive, but more professionally persistent. When he does follow-up, he asks a specific set of questions to continue to further qualify the opportunity. He knows that if he follows a defined set of follow-up steps over time he will close more deals. He keeps his funnel full, but focuses on what he can convert.

With every step in his process and with every interaction, he is able to build report and confidence with the customer, and they begin to view him more and more as a professional.

If you are a business owner and want to increase sales this year, I suggest you find a good customer relationship management system and begin using it. You should also try to analyze the sales process, dissect each step and try to help your sales staff recognize where they are in the engagement so they will begin to know what to do next. Set up a system for following up at each stage. Insist that your staff use a calendar to schedule calls and meetings and watch your sales begin to go up.

Chad Simkins is vice president of Pleotint and vice president of sales for Thompson IG. He can be reached at csimkins@pleotint.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, April 10, 2017

If we boil it down, automation is simply about becoming more efficient. Businesses regularly search for ways to produce higher outputs with lower inputs because any savings go directly to the bottom line. Yet, a stigma remains surrounding automation. Many say these strategies destroy jobs. Some go as far to say they’re killing manufacturing.

Is automation truly killing jobs, or is it a window to new opportunities?

It’s up to you. Automating typically has a goal of reducing labor to produce a greater output; however, that does not mean there must be layoffs. In many cases automating one process opens opportunities to repurpose resources to another aspect of a business.

I recently attended a conference where I learned about dynamic-optimization software for cutting lines. I do not know how long dynamic cutting software has been on the market, but this type of solution will become the norm. This software uses algorithms to optimize cutting departments and achieve greater efficiency. One gentleman told me they’re now using 98 percent or more of their stock sheet glass. Efficiencies gained in their cutting department allowed them to focus resources in other areas. The people in their cutting department were not let go; they were moved to other aspects of production.

How about Ford Motor Company and the implementation of the assembly line? Henry Ford is one of the most well-known examples of automating, but there’s another thing Ford is celebrated for: how the company retained the best workers. Ford famously offered double the normal wage of that time, which allowed Ford to hand-pick the cream of the crop. The company required less labor to produce a higher output, which meant they then required people in other parts of the business, like sales. After all, there is not much sense in producing more if you cannot sell it.

Walmart is another company renowned for groundbreaking logistics and inventory systems, but is also widely known as one of the world’s largest employers. Walmart reinvented restocking capability, and the efficiencies they gain there contribute directly to Walmart’s low pricing, which of course adds value to their business. Companies like Amazon have taken these a step further, creating a billion-dollar business with no physical stores, as well as creating a standard to an entire industry of online vending. These companies provide an opportunity for millions of people around the world. I believe none of this would be possible without automation and its ability to reallocate capital to more critical areas.

There’s more competition than ever today, and if you’re not thinking ahead, you’ve probably already been left behind. Perhaps it is time to look at automation in a different light, for what it really is, which is an investment--an investment where you decide how to allocate the return. This could be less labor, or perhaps a greater volume of product, all while increasing the overall value of a business. As an investment, automation isn’t such a scary thing. In fact, it becomes integral to the survival of your business.

Pete deGorter is vice president of DeGorter Inc. Contact him at pete@degorter.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, April 4, 2017

There’s been a lot of buzz about the AIA’s recently released survey results, “The Architect’s Journey to Specification,” and rightly so. Numerous stakeholders are involved in the specification process, but architects typically have the final say. This survey sheds light on what drives their decision—something we building material manufacturers and suppliers constantly work to understand. 

The most talked about takeaway from the survey is the need for more user-friendly specification tools. Architects voiced their frustration over how hard it is to quickly find the resources they need in today’s digital era, whether it’s viewing technical details, getting a handle on lead times or seeing how a product has been used in other projects. According to the AIA news release, “Architects want product websites that are clear, concise, up-to-date, and easy to navigate. They also want easy access (no sign-up to view product information) to detailed information, including building information models and objects.”

Given the prominent role glass plays in today’s building designs, it’s imperative that our industry listens to this feedback and makes changes in order to gain specification preference, as well as show glass’ value-added benefits.

The survey also generated an equally important, but less talked about, finding that we must pay attention to: approximately 75 percent of architects reuse specs from previous projects. This includes those who copy and paste from previous specs, and those who reuse previous specs in their entirety.

Why is this finding so important? In a fast-paced, demanding profession, it speaks to how much architects value reliability.

Many architects are overworked, face strict project schedules and have to source numerous building materials for a given project. They simply don’t have the time or capacity to devote hours developing entirely new specs. On the other hand, some reviewers of the study believe this is a shortcut that results from poor resources, while others say it is because architects are perennial creatures of habit. Whether it’s one or both reasons, the bottom line is these decision makers go back to what’s proved successful in past projects, time and time again. 

So, while we can (and should) improve specification tools for architects to break into their field of vision, we also need to provide reliable products and services to ensure our place in future specifications. Whether we manufacture, supply or sell glass products, it’s important our offerings are credibly tested, free of hidden limitations and perform as expected. Because the road to installation is not always straightforward as projects grow more complex, it’s also crucial to become a valuable and trusted resource that helps solve unforeseen challenges. If an architect wants to experiment with an untested product, he or she will be much more likely to come to you if they view you as an extension of their specification team, trusting the products you provide and the work you do.

It’s a win-win when we can better provide architects with the specification tools they need. But, even the easiest-to-use resources will do little to ensure future specification if all an architect remembers is a product that cost them valuable time, resources and money. So, let’s make sure we deliver on both fronts, providing architects with improved resources and reliable products.

 

Jeff Razwick is the president of Technical Glass Products (TGP), a supplier of fire-rated glass and framing systems, and other specialty architectural glazing. He writes frequently about the design and specification of glazing for institutional and commercial buildings, and is a past chair of the Glass Association of North America’s (GANA) Fire-Rated Glazing Council (FRGC). Contact him at 800/426-0279.

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, April 4, 2017

In the last few weeks I have hit some heavy topics here including what an architect wants, project management and retrofits. I’ll continue on the path of importance starting this post with a look at a very scary prospect: the dwindling construction labor force. An executive at Turner Construction testified in front of congress this week that construction levels are back to the 2007 boom. BUT, we are 100,000 workers short of where we were then. That number is staggering. It was noted that younger folks do not have interest in the trades and the older workers are transitioning out. Obviously, this is not news for most of us. We all know how challenging the market is right now, but seeing the numbers is jarring.

There is no magic formula for slowing this negative trend either. Attracting skilled (or at least willing to be trained) youth to come into construction is a monumental task. We as an industry need to figure this out as well. I’ll be curious to see if this talk in front of congress spurs any development or support of programs to help.

Elsewhere…

  • One area that can help with employment and attraction? Understanding you’re the employee. And a great speaker on that subject is coming back to GlassBuild America this fall: Cam Marston His last stint in 2015 still has people who saw it buzzing. His topic on the multi-generational workforce is interesting, appropriate and needed. Make sure you don’t miss this.
  • April is here and a yearly tradition is coming up soon… the Mid-Atlantic Glass Associations MGA Glass Expo takes place April 19 in Greenbelt, Maryland. This is show number 30 for the MGA and every year it brings people from the region together to learn and network. 
  • My post on what architects want gained quite a bit of attention. Obviously, it’s a subject that people are interested in as they are determined to learn what they can do. In that light, check out this link from my friend Colin Gilboy at 4Specs.com. It is loaded with great insight and direction.
  • Tthe team at SC Railing jumped on the approach of educating architects with a great case study. I love this sort of stuff, though I will be the first to admit I don’t understand a lot of it. (I’m not the audience they want to impress!) I admire the heck out of companies that take the time and resources to create in-depth pieces. JE Berkowitz, Quanex and W&W Glass are among the folks that also come to mind when it comes to studies like these.
  • So the “hot” colors for 2018, yes 2018, are now out. Thanks to the Twitter feed of Conners Sales Group (@ConnersSales), you can see it now a whole nine months before the new year hits!
  • Last this week, a scheduling heads up. No post coming next week, so you are saved from me preaching about some major issue affecting our world. I’ll be back in this space the week of April 16. Unless big news breaks, which I keep expecting but seemingly never does…

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 MaxP@SoleSourceConsultants.com.

The opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Glass Association, Glass Magazine editors, or other glassblog contributors.