Monday, August 4, 2008

It’s not quite like being a kid, but I still enjoy this time of year. A trip to the beach, a good book, even sweating in the lawn. Summer always seems to be a good time for reflection, learning, planning...

For example, the other day I spotted a piece of sea glass. Yes, sea glass.

You know, those irregular shards of glass that, after years of pounding and molding by the ocean, eventually wear into smooth collectibles. Indeed, one man’s trash truly becomes another’s treasure.

Time does just that. It changes the mix and shape of things. And much like shards of glass cast about by the sea, businesses are shaped and buffeted by the relentless forces that surround them. Change is inevitable.

I recently watched a video interview in which a leading industry CEO proclaimed that the auto glass industry is in crisis. He went on to make a number of poignant observations that, no doubt, can all lead to such a dramatic conclusion.

So while I hesitate to disagree with such a notable senior executive – whose experience and knowledge of the industry dwarfs my own – I’d like to offer a slightly different take: The auto glass industry is not so much in crisis as it is facing a "tipping point."

You know well the immovable forces shaping your business:
· Shrinking insurance reimbursements, which now force you to work with
two penny-pinching customers: Joe Consumer and Mega Insurance Co.
· Networks
· Unstable pricing
· Tighter margins
· Competition from other market segments
· Mergers and consolidations
· And sadly, in many cases, outright business closings

While all of the above might reasonably be classified as presenting a “crisis,” I believe these transformative developments are simply accelerating a natural weeding-out of winners and losers.

Which brings me back to my summer reading. You won’t be surprised to learn that I just finished a terrific read called, drumroll please ... "The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference" by Malcolm Gladwell.

Gladwell defines tipping points as “the levels at which the momentum for change becomes unstoppable.”

He discusses how messages and behaviors spread like viruses, starting as a series of small movements. They cut through the clutter, and eventually stick, creating a new context to which the winners will adapt. Those who are unable or unwilling to adjust lose.

In my travels, I have visited a number of successful auto glass companies. These firms are adapting to the changes that envelope them. They are winning, not just with hard work and persistence – traits that always define winners.

They are rising above the competition with superior quality (supported by a commitment to employee training) and best-in-class marketing. (Shameless, but relevant, plug: You can see many of these companies at the National Auto Glass Conference next February in Orlando.)

Here’s a question to ponder: Are you facing a tipping point? If so, you’re not alone. It’s time to invest in the things that can push you into the winners’ category. Quality … top-notch marketing … training …

While you’re at it, you may want to pick up "The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Difference." After all, it’s the summer!
Thursday, July 31, 2008

Greetings from my hometown of Chicago.

Attended the Cubs game Sunday, where Notre Dame football star Jeff Samardzija added some much-needed energy by tossing two flawless innings in relief in his first big league save. Must've known I was in town for some type of meeting on the topic of energy.

Oh yeah ... the reason I'm here ... energy efficiency ... windows ... the Component Modeling Approach (CMA).

My first meeting representing the NGA as a newly minted member of the NFRC.

I'm impressed. Tech guys from leading companies fill the room. The best in the biz, living out their passion. And the forum is democratic too!

Chicago provides a great background, with some of the greatest architecture on the planet. A distinct blend of the old and new. Heck ... they even chose part of this skyline as the setting for Gotham City in the latest Batman movie (aka the Chicago Tribune Building).

An observation from a homie returning after several years: the brick guys have left town. Glass is the standard feature gracing these buildings. The architectural flair of the Finnish designers really shines through. Am I back in Tampere, Finland?

But I digress ... I was drawn here by the Component Modeling Approach, in all its glory. I find that those who stand to benefit most from the CMA run the show. Most here are apathetic to the issue, or just plain absent. Some actually fall asleep! Insulated glass issues get more play.

Get this: Only 8 percent of the active voices in the audience on the CMA are commercial glaziers -- the specific group it affects! That means 92 percent of those making decisions and voting -- or simply abstaining -- have no dog in this hunt. Hello ... Majority rules on this one, and a whole bunch of unsuspecting glazers are about to get massacred.

Let's get involved!

Like I said earlier, the NFRC is comprised of some of the most talented pros in the business. They’re passionate about glass. And the staff at the NFRC is terrific. So this isn’t personal.

It’s business. It’s about economic winners and losers. And those who are asleep at the wheel can expect to wake up in a big mess on the side of the road.

Speaking of sleeping, while energy effiency rules the day at this meeting, I remain in awe of how quiet my hotel room is, despite facing one of the busiest streets in America: Michigan Avenue -- The Magnificent Mile. Of course, this moment of peace is sponsored by the glass industry! Fabulous windows ... great spacers ... professional framing, etc.

Yet another overlooked benefit of today’s glass: peace and quiet. Ah ... That’s why they call this a "luxury" hotel. (Even the auto guys that defined the word luxury would be proud).

Just wish there was a bit more noise here from the commercial folks.

They sure don't want to wake up one morning and find that their work just got a lot more expensive, thanks to the CMA. Would be a shame for the brick guys to be re-invited to the party. And we all know what that means ...

By David W. Walker, vice president of Association Services, National Glass Association

Monday, July 28, 2008
I have arrived in the city of Chicago, the most populous city in Illinois and the Midwest, with a population of almost 3 million. This is my first time in the Windy City. In 1994, when I first came to this country, I was yay close to making a trip. I got admission in the Medill School of Journalism’s master's program and was super excited. Turned out I didn’t have the money to afford the program, and I couldn’t take out a loan because I wasn’t a citizen.

Times have changed. I can vote now and am in the Democratic presidential nominee’s city, staying at the Conrad on the Magnificent Mile, thanks to NFRC and its summer meeting.

I am privileged.

My flight from Dulles to O’Hare was uneventful except for a tiny surprise in the Sky Mall catalogue. Along with tear stain removers for dogs and laser combs that “promote hair growth,” Sky Mall is selling “Energy films” that “lower utility bills up to 18 percent” and “repels solar heat in summer and retains interior heat in winter … also blocks 97 percent of UV rays.” They are cheap too: 24-inch-by-48-inch for $19.95, 36-inch-by-48-inch for $28.95 and 48-inch-by-84-inch for $38.95. Go to and enter item number 82685G.

Once in Chicago, I took the airport shuttle to the hotel because the Metro blue line was closed for construction. The driver was particularly chatty, and the beautiful and long drive through the city tantamounted to a sightseeing tour. The city of no-cell-phone-while-driving, famous for Wrigley Field and Buckingham Fountain, features some of the tallest buildings in the world: Sears Tower, Aon Center, John Hancock Center, Trump International Hotel and Tower, and the under-construction Chicago Spire designed by Calatrava. Other beautiful glass architecture in the city includes the 111 S. Wacker Drive, and developments such as the new east side sheathed in aqua glass. Soaring above the Chicago river and the Magnificent Mile, Trump's new tower is 92 stories high or 1,362 feet, enclosed in high quality reflective glass, and designed by Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill. Calatrava’s Spire, the seven-sided glass tower, tapers and twists up 2,000 feet above a public plaza. When completed it will be the tallest building in North America. The 3-million-square-foot structure will contain 1,200 condominiums and aims for LEED Gold certification.

I am not sure if I’ll get a chance to see these amazing buildings up close and personal given the packed meeting agenda but, hey, at least I have the choice.

By Sahely Mukerji, news editor, managing editor, Glass Magazine
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Matt Slovick
I’m glad to see you’ve made a stop at It looks different, doesn’t it?

I’m sure you’ve all watched one of those TV shows in which a new baby arrives to liven things up and add plot twists. Then you tune in next season, and that child is already in elementary school.

That’s the sense I hope you get with our new Web site.

The new site has grown considerably overnight, is livelier and certainly has a few new “twists.”

The previous site launched years ago and hadn’t “matured” much during the years as Internet usage expanded and Web technology increased exponentially. Now, we feel our site has caught up.

The first thing you might notice is that the site is divided into segments to mirror the magazine: Commercial, Retail and Auto. The site also has a Fabrication segment since that process touches all areas of the glass industry.

I’m sure frequent users are happy to see now has a Search box. You can make a full-text search on content back to 2004. We’ve also created filters within the segments to search by issue or by topics such as machinery. In the Auto segment, the “how to” filter includes hundreds of installations, the oldest going back to 1957.

The site has RSS feeds available for articles, news and products. When you subscribe to a feed, it is added to the Common Feed List. Updated information from the feed is automatically downloaded to your computer. So, whenever something new in those categories is added to the site, you’ll be alerted. For those who are curious, RSS stands for Real Simple Syndication.

The Most Clicked area needs no explanation. It is the place where your favorite stories will be displayed.

I’m sure we’ll be experiencing growing pains during the next few days and weeks. Please bear with us and we’ll be adding other features as we “mature.”

Now it’s your chance to be a critic. Send an e-mail to to let me know what you like or dislike, or if you have any questions.

Matt Slovick, editor in chief, Glass Magazine
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
—By Meredith Lidard, Glass Magazine intern

Ever since I started interning at the NGA, it’s hard for me not to notice glass.

I never really paid attention to it before, but I definitely notice it now, something that Matt Slovick and I have in common.

On my first day here I sat down with Matt and he told me that he didn’t know much about glass before he started working here either and he never really paid attention to it, but now notices it all the time. He pointed out the apparent lack of glazing on his office windows (the sun really heats them up making a lot of offices in our building very toasty, especially when the A/C is on the fritz).

I interned for a trade publication last summer, Building Products, and I have some knowledge of the construction industry--my parents own a small, general contracting firm in Baltimore--but I never noticed how important glass is to every kind of building, from single family homes to skyscrapers.

I wanted to intern at Glass Magazine to gain more experience working in the trade publication field. Because I knew nothing about glass beforehand I thought this would be a good opportunity to learn more about an industry I was completely unfamiliar with.

I go to the University of Maryland in College Park, but I’m from Baltimore so I spend a lot of time driving up and down I-95. I sometimes zone out and go on mental cruise control during the drive and don’t pay attention to my surroundings (don’t tell my parents). There are a couple of buildings that always make me snap back to reality though. These buildings held no significance for me before except that spotting them meant I was only a few minutes away from my exit and campus. But now when I see them I notice a common element: they’re all made of glass!

As part of my daily duties I research news in the glass industry. I come across a lot of articles with accompanying pictures about new buildings and homes that use glass extensively. Here are a few of my favorites:
I really enjoy checking out these glass applications. My coworkers passing by have probably overheard me “ooh-ing” and “ah-ing” and saying “that’s so cool!” at my computer screen. Maybe I should stop talking to myself at work …

I’ve learned a lot about the glass industry after just two months at the NGA. I’ve picked up on the language used around here and words like “low-E” and “curtain wall” don’t sound foreign anymore.

After I finish up my internship and resume classes in September I’ll take a second look at the glass used in buildings on campus. The university just broke ground on the new journalism building, Knight Hall. I wonder what the glass will look like …
Monday, July 14, 2008
—By Jenni Chase, senior editor, retail and auto glass, Glass Magazine

Nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Colorado’s “Tiny Town” boasts the oldest kid-size village and railroad in the United States. How does this relate to retail glass? Well, like a typical small town, Tiny Town features a grocery store, a library, an auto repair center and … a retail glass shop. That’s right. Tiny Town’s Gump Glass, pictured here, offers tabletops, mirrors and auto glass, among other products and services.

With the inclusion of Gump Glass, the creators of Tiny Town make an important point: The retail glass shop is an essential part of any community. The editors at Glass Magazine agree, which is why we’re dedicating an entire section in each issue of the new Glass Magazine to glass retailers. In the July/August 2008 issue, set to hit your mailbox the end of the month, you’ll find information on the latest trends in decorative bath enclosures, advice on how to hire the right people and step-by-step instructions for handling glass cases. If you’re a combo shop, check out the auto glass section as well, where you’ll find installation instructions, technical tips and other information.

And we’re just getting started. Retail glass shops are as diverse as the communities they serve, and we want to hear from you about the types of articles you’d like to see in upcoming issues. Please share your ideas!
Monday, July 7, 2008
By Matt Slovick, editor in chief, Glass Magazine
Matt Slovick
A week before I left for vacation, Rob Struble, manager of business communications, growth initiatives and performance glazings for PPG Industries, stopped by the office.

I mentioned I was taking my daughters to the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas, and he said: “We did the glass.”

This photo from its Web site shows the PPG IdeaScapes China Azuria Spectrally Selective Glass on the Royal Towers, where I stayed. The small area connecting the Royal Towers appears to be a walkway. However, it’s the 10-room Atlantis Bridge Suite that goes for $25,000 a night.

Atlantis reports the suite was a staff of seven, including butlers, cooks and maids. The article says guests have included Michael Jackson, Oprah Winfrey, Celine Dion, Michael Jordan, Bill Gates and Donald Trump, although it is most frequently occupied by Saudi sheikhs or high-rolling businessmen visiting the largest casino in the Caribbean.

And what better way to enhance the casino than with glass sculptures from renowned artist Dale Chihuly. The resort is based on the mythical sunken continent of Atlantis. Chihuly created the Temple of the Sun and Temple of the Moon for inside the casino and Crystal Gate for the entrance. Chihuly’s Web site says he used new forms and glassblowing techniques developed specially for the entrance project. The owner, South-African entrepreneur Sol Kerzner, was so pleased with the first three creations, he commissioned a chandelier as well.

A quick review of Atlantis: a great resort but extremely expensive. If you plan on eating at the resort, buy the meal plan. And bring your own sunscreen. I saw someone buy four spray-on bottles for $99.
Monday, June 30, 2008
—By Katy Devlin, commercial glass and metals editor, Glass Magazine

During a 10-day stretch this month, I took seven flights, maneuvered throughout five airports, dealt with one lost bag*, faced one cancelled flight and spent one night in the Atlanta airport (I recommend Terminal C. The lack of the armrests on the seat rows makes for a surprisingly comfortable make-shift bed). I also traveled on completely full flights and paid noticeably more for my tickets.

During my ample hours of airport meditation time, I contemplated the cause of my uncharacteristic travel woes. I shifted away from the ever-so-tempting urge to blame my annoying waits and detours on the airlines. Rather, I placed blame much more accurately on rising fuel prices (plus a little bit of unpredictable summer weather and a pinch of bad luck).

The airlines are struggling, and it seems the days of empty flights, cheap tickets and free perks have ended.

Fuel costs directly influence fares. Currently, about 40 percent of an air fare goes to paying for fuel, up from 15 percent in 2000, according to a June 13 Reuters article. Domestic tickets cost 6.8 percent more per mile compared to last year, according to a June 20 MarketWatch article. United, American and Delta have increased domestic fares by up to $60, and even discount carrier AirTran upped fares by $30, according to a June 17 article.

To cut costs, many of the major airlines are reducing flights. Delta, for one, is cutting capacity by 13 percent, according to a June 19 New York Times article. Fewer flights mean less travel flexibility—likely the reason why I was forced to take two 6 a.m. flights in this most recent travel spree, despite a personal promise never to fly before brunch-time. Limited flights also mean that missing a connection could become an even-more annoying adventure, as the time until the next available flight is certainly increased, and perhaps overnight. And, fewer flights mean crowded planes creating less space for carry-ons (and beware about checking a bag, because you’ll soon have to pay for that as well), longer boarding and de-boarding waits, and no empty seats, which sadly means no more lay-down midflight naps.

So, what’s a traveler to do in these tough travel times? I recommend booking early, packing light and buying a neck pillow. Oh, and come with ample patience, and avoid blaming the airlines and their personnel** for your travel pains unless it really is their fault (and even then, try to be nice about it).

*Did you know that you can buy items from unclaimed baggage? Check out the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Ala. They buy truckloads of unclaimed baggage and flip it—thankfully my baggage is not included in their unique wares, as it was returned to me after a brief journey to Puerto Rico.

**I was on a plane in taxi at Washington Reagan three weeks ago right as a thunderstorm started to roll through. As sideline rain obstructed our view of the constant lightening flashes all around, and strong winds shook the plane as it sat on the ground, a fellow passenger in front of me became livid and berated the flight attendant about missing his connection on the other end. Really?
Monday, June 23, 2008
—By Katy Devlin, commercial glass and metals editor, Glass Magazine

In the next 18 months, the commercial rating program from the National Fenestration Rating Council, Greenbelt, Md., should be complete, according to NFRC’s technical services manager, Ray McGowan, who delivered a presentation about the program during the BEST Conference in Minneapolis.

Some industry leaders involved in the CMA development process say the program is a “freight train coming,” despite strong opposition from manufacturers, glaziers and industry organizations, including the NGA. They say not even the anti-NFRC group that has recently formed will be able to do much to block the program at this point, particularly since NFRC has a green light from the U.S. Department of Energy.

So, are you ready?

Sure the much-contested program, called the Component Modeling Approach, or CMA, could receive almost no market acceptance and follow a fate similar to NFRC’s Site-Built program, its first attempt at commercial system ratings. However, California and Seattle are poised to become early adopters of the program, and some industry representatives say other jurisdictions will likely follow suit, making CMA part of the codes.

For contract glaziers, this would mean you would likely be placed in the role of specifying authority, or responsible party, for executing the rating program on specific projects. (“It’s not definitive, but it’s more than likely [contract glaziers] probably will be the ones doing it,” McGowan said during his BEST presentation). Are you ready to sign the licensing agreement with NFRC, pay for licensing and the label certificate, and hold liable for the ratings?

For manufacturers, this would mean you will have to pay to have an approved calculation entity rate your products (although manufacturers do have an option to have their own ACEs) and cover the costs for an inspection agency to monitor those ratings. And, you would have to pay to place products in a database. Are you ready to cover those costs, and to incorporate those steps into your processes?

I won’t try to predict what’s going to happen in the next 18 months and beyond. However, I trust the industry experts who say it is coming whether the industry is ready for it or not, and companies should prepare. Learn more about CMA in a detailed October 2007 article from Glass Magazine. And it’s still not too late to get involved and get your voice heard. NFRC’s Summer Meeting takes place July 28-31 in Chicago.

Please feel free to email me with questions about the program. I’m not sure I have the answers, but I can certainly point you in the right direction.
Monday, June 16, 2008
By Sahely Mukerji, managing editor, Glass Magazine

Green glass, green furniture, green rugs … what’s next? Why, green TV of course! Launching this month, Planet Green is the first and only 24-hour eco-lifestyle television network with a robust online presence and community, according to the Web site. “Its on-air content will reach 50 million homes with more than 250 hours of original green lifestyle programming.”
Use the channel finder to see where to tune in and browse for upcoming shows.
Greenovate offers tips on how to green your home and lists solar-powered skylights and Energy Star products as necessities to save 40 percent on energy bills while increasing property value by 25 percent. “For every $1,000 in annual reduced operating costs that a solar electric system offers, greenovators can see an increase in home value by up to $20,000,” the Web site states. Other greening suggestions include bamboo flooring, countertops made of recycled newspapers, air-injected shower heads, non-toxic paints and drought-tolerating landscaping.
Another show, Greensburg , offers vignettes on the destruction of the Kansas town by a tornado in May 2007 and its green rebuilding. Read my blog on this.
On its Web site, Planet Green offers fan sites, articles about how to go green, and forums where users can interact and exchange ideas to improve the environment and use sustainable products. Its sister site, , offers latest in green news, opinions, interviews and trends. One of the entries on the site expresses doubt about David Fisher’s glass solar-powered Rotating Tower in Dubai and its claim that the building will generate 10 times more energy than required to power it.
Watch the show, surf the channel and let me know your thoughts.
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