ndick's blog

Construction may be going bionic.

Sarcos Robotics, a global technology firm that designs robotic systems, announced in November 2018 that the company developed a" full-body, powered industrial exoskeleton robotic system," the Guardian XO Max, according to a company release. The technology, the product of a nearly two-decade R&D process, allows the user to lift up to 200 pounds and is slated to be available in 2020.

“The potential for full-body, powered exoskeleton technology is immense—from giving our workers super-human strength without putting added strain on their bodies, to improving productivity and efficiency,” says John Santagate, research director, IDC, a market intelligence firm.

The new Guardian XO Max is a full-body exoskeleton
designed for industrial, public safety and military sectors,
according to Sarcos Robotics, the manufacturer.

Sarcos Robotics' innovation, designed for the industrial market, has clear implications for all construction and building industries, and specifically for workers on the jobsite. And survey responses from the Commercial Construction Index, compiled by the USG Corp. and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, suggest that construction contractors are ready to invest in these new technologies. The Q4 2018 report of the CCI, released in December 2018, showed that 74 percent of construction contractors surveyed expect to adopt new technologies, including wearable technology, over the next three years.

Current wearable technologies include a range of some automated equipment and robotics, but also wearable sensors connected to the BIM model that may denote what training and permissions employees have, says Donna Laquidara-Carr, Industry Insights Research Director at Dodge Data & Analytics. “These kinds of tags are designed to make workers’ abilities and movements transparent to a supervisor,” she says. “For example, workers moving into a section of a worksite that is beyond their training level might be flagged as a danger to prevent injury.”

According to the CCI, most contractors—83 percent—see wearable technology as a way to improve worker safety. Improved workforce management and productivity were other perceived advantages.

Increased affordability is also a likely variable in the adoption of these technologies. “Cost is always a major factor,” says Laquidara-Carr. “Costs for those technologies are coming down, contributing to contractors' interest in using them.”

Another factor in the anticipated adoption of these technologies is the growing tech literacy of workers. While the construction industry can be slow to change, says Laquidara-Carr, most workers at construction companies have become familiar with different forms of tech through regular use. “Workers no longer have this huge barrier to learn fancy new tech,” she says. “Normal consumers, including people in construction, have gotten much more tech savvy.” 

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Finding skilled labor is the number one challenge for most construction companies. Despite offering apprenticeships and partnering with trade schools and high schools, the industry is still struggling to recruit the next generation. However, one emerging segment is trying to raise awareness of opportunities in the industry and put the fun into construction: construction-themed amusement parks.

The parks provide a hands-on construction experience with real, heavy-duty equipment that grown-ups and young people can explore, including everything from excavators to dump trucks.

While the purpose is to have fun, at least some of the park owners also see this is as an opportunity to raise awareness about the industry with the future workforce. Randy Stenger, founder of Extreme Sandbox, says on the website that the venture's participants have “had the opportunity to be advocates for the construction industry.” Though Stenger does not have a background in construction, Extreme Sandbox has hosted tours for high schools and camps who are interested in working in the field.


 Participants at Dozer Day 2013. Photo by Dolanh at Flickr

Dozer Day, though not an amusement park per se, is an annual event that “seeks to educate children of all ages about building sustainable communities, industry opportunities and public safety,” according to a statement on the organization’s website. An annual charity event hosted in five locations across the United States, Dozer Day allows children to experience driving heavy-duty equipment under the supervision of a professional operator. Part of the organization’s stated mission is to increase interest in construction and change perceptions of the industry. “As families interact with professionals in these industries, they become aware of the incredible possibilities and industry stereotypes are redefined,” reads a statement on the organization's homepage.

Do these parks and experiences elevate awareness of construction and inspire interest in the industry? Do they have potential to attract the next generation to join the industry? Find some information below about these facilities if you would like to make up your own mind.

(Note: all parks and experiences have specific age restrictions and height requirements. See websites for more details)

DIGGERLAND
Location: West Berlin, New Jersey
Activities: Over 25 attractions, including opportunities to drive a back-hoe, operate a digger, and maneuver a dumper truck.

EXTREME SANDBOX
Location: Hastings, Minnesota; Roseville, Minnesota; Pottsboro, Texas
Activities: Visitors can operate Komatsu equipment, including a wheel loader, bulldozer and excavator.

DIG THIS VEGAS
Location: Las Vegas
Activities: Visitors can drive bulldozers and excavators, mini-excavators and skid steer track loader.

DOZER DAY*
Location: Vancouver, Washington; Yakima, Washington; Seattle; Eastern, Washington/Northern Idaho; Kansas City, Missouri
Activities: With a professional operator, children are invited to experience what it’s like to drive bulldozers, dump trucks, excavators and other heavy equipment.
*This is an annual event – see website for details of locations and dates. 

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Now in its seventh year, the Glass Magazine Top Metal Companies list spotlights the largest metal fabrication companies in North America. Highlighted in the November issue of Glass Magazine, the Top Metal Companies include those that manufacture, fabricate and sell curtain wall, storefront and entrance, commercial interior and exterior railings, aluminum composite panels and exterior sun-control products to the glass and glazing industry.

While the Top Metal Companies list rank companies by sales volume, they will also provide timely information regarding the state of the metals market as a whole, based on market statistics related to sales volume, product demand and acquisition plans.

The 2018 lists will showcase the successes, challenges, changes and opportunities within the commercial metals industry. Featuring specific metal company achievements, including recent projects, the list provides an up-to-date look at the metal industry landscape.

If your company belongs on the Top Metal Companies list be sure to complete the survey by Sept. 5, and contact me if you have any questions about participating.

Norah Dick is the assistant editor of Glass Magazine. Contact her at ndick@glass.org.

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New York City is this week’s destination for many in our industry headed to the annual AIA show. As I have mentioned many times before, it is always intriguing to see how this show is because, as an industry, we long to get in front of architects. But more often than not, this show leaves the exhibitors wanting. And this year, with education happening outside of the building and 200 walking tours going on at the same time as the expo, it will be interesting to see and experience the floor action. I had noted previously that I was not attending, but moons aligned, and I now will be there. I look forward to seeing everyone there and reporting back here next week.

Elsewhere….

Those of you coming to New York may see this sign. Not one that any of us should be a fan of!! Thanks to my friend Ian Patlin of Paragon Architectural Products for the picture. Stil, from the website it promotes, I am seeing a lot of glass. So interesting yet confusing hook for me with being "anti-glass," as it should be more focused on not being cookie cutter since that is the end message vs. glass usage.

Also related to New York, the first request for modular construction is out. This is a trend to watch. I am seeing it a lot on the residential side, and just a bit with commercial, but I think it may gain momentum quicker than you think.

Last this week, congrats to my friend Deron Patterson of Vitro on his new position as architectural market manager for Mexico. Deron is such a fascinating and bright person and has been a major success in his career, something I foresee continuing with this new role!

The Big 3 Interview

Maure Creager, building science manager, SageGlass

Maure is a brilliant and talented person and the industry can surely use many more like her. I wanted to find out how someone with her background made it into the glass world and get her perspectives on the always-evolving dynamic glass market, of which I am a huge fan.

When you were growing up, what did you want to do for a living and then once you got the mechanical engineering degree? Did you ever in your wildest dreams think you’d end up with a long career in the glass business?

An Astronaut! Didn’t everyone after watching the movie Space Camp? Side note: I had a friend who was able to attend the camp. Those dreams were dashed when I got glasses, so I decided to plan for the next best thing and go for mechanical engineering with a master’s in aeronautical. But the job market was amazing when I finished my BS, so I decided to work for a while first. I had amazing mentors and learned a lot about commercial and industrial design and construction during my work experience in college and in my first post-grad job. A few years later led to my husband being transferred to the frozen tundra (I mean Minnesota), which meant finding a new job, which was with SageGlass. The product was so cool, and the people I was going to work with were brilliant, mind-blowing smart. At the time, I had no idea I would end up with a career in the glass business. SageGlass was still a startup when I joined, which meant I had the opportunity to learn a lot and work in many different areas of the business and with the product.

You were one of the first people I met that was involved with dynamic glass. How much has that world changed since you started at Sage Glass in 2004?

Oh, my goodness. Well, for starters, we can make units larger than 18x35 inches! Back then, we were excited to ship five units per week that we hand packed in custom-built and padded crates, and we could ship them via UPS. Needless to say, our volume has increased exponentially. In 2004, the iPhone was still three years away from being debuted, so I never would have imagined we would be controlling the glass from an app or Amazon Echo. But I think the most interesting aspect has been the building science and occupant health research. For example, we all knew we loved sunlight, but the biology of it hadn’t yet been proven. Now we know we humans absolutely need daylight to regulate our circadian rhythms. We are still striving for changes for healthier people and planet, but we are getting there. I hope a right to light mandate will be incorporated into our building and employee health and safety standards sooner rather than later. 

What ideas would you have to encourage college graduates—whether engineers or sales or marketing—to get them to come to the industry?

There are so many different types of work you can do within the glass industry: façade engineer, process engineer, design engineer, test engineer, R&D, product development, the list goes on and on. Glass may seem simple, but it can also be incredibly complex and interesting. But what I have learned over time, is that what you do is only part of it; who you work with is also important. What I love about the glass industry are the people, both within SageGlass and Saint-Gobain, and within the industry as a whole. Within the industry organizations I am part of, I can clearly see the sharing of knowledge across the industry, and [a focus on] mentoring new professionals. It truly is a small world and we are all working together to move the glass industry forward. 

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.


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At the recent Window and Door Manufacturers Association’s Spring Meeting and Legislative Conference, held March 19-21 in Washington, D.C., Chad Moutray, chief economist for the National Association of Manufacturers, spoke on the continuing challenge of finding and retaining a skilled labor force, and outlined initiatives companies and associations are implementing to address the situation.

In his presentation, “Workforce Development: Helping Employers Close the Skills Gap,” Moutray characterized NAM members as very pleased with the current economic outlook. He attributed at least part of this positive feeling to the recently passed tax reform, as well as the improving global economy. “These are the best numbers out of Europe we’ve seen in seven years, in some cases 20 years,” he said.

The U.S. manufacturing sector mirrors this growth. While manufacturing businesses continue to run more leanly than they did pre-recession, Moutray said that the sector is much more competitive than it has been in the last two decades. 

While he assessed that 2017 manufacturing production has been “choppy,” at least partly due to the volatility of last year’s hurricane season, Moutray characterized manufacturing’s year-over-year growth as strong overall. He reported that 12.61 million workers are currently employed, and an average of 18,000 jobs were added in 2017. “It’s almost like someone flipped a switch,” he said.

While the growth is encouraging, it also exacerbates the sector’s need for a skilled workforce. According to an often cited study conducted by the Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte, 2 million manufacturing jobs are expected to go unfilled between now and 2025. While the study attributes the shortage to the skills gap, Moutray also described the problem of attracting a skilled workforce in terms of a perception gap: “We need to get people to see manufacturing not just as blue-collar work, but as a very good, high-paying pathway to the middle class.”

As part of this campaign, Moutray outlined some of the initiatives that NAM and its member companies have organized or sponsored, including the following programs.

  • Manufacturing Day: Observed in October, this annual celebration of modern manufacturing saw 3,000 facilities hosting events for high-schoolers and parents in 2017, according to Moutray.

  • Heroes Make America: Started by the Manufacturing Institute, the program is a 10-week career skills program for military veterans that are ready to discharge, built on the idea that the military educates its personnel with many skills that can be applied to manufacturing. The first class recently graduated at the facility’s in Fort Hood.

  • STEP Ahead: Also launched by the Manufacturing Institute, the STEP (science, technology, engineering and production) Ahead program celebrates the achievements of women in manufacturing by honoring them at a formal gala.

  • Dream It. Do it: NAM partnered with the Manufacturing Institute to engage students, parents and educators to promote manufacturing careers to the next generation.

While these programs are designed to help address the skills gap, this challenge is certainly not the only one facing the manufacturing labor force. Added to these issues, Moutray highlighted the recent increase in the practice of poaching, as companies struggling to fill necessary positions head hunt skilled labor from other industry companies. He said that the result has been wage pressure increases, as well as price pressure increases.

As Glass Magazine continues to explore those mentioned here and all concepts regarding labor, staffing and training in its Workforce Development series, we encourage our readers to share their thoughts and experiences that we can share with the industry. Leave a comment below or email our editor with your insights.

Norah Dick is the assistant editor of Glass Magazine. Contact her at ndick@glass.org.

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It's time to submit your company for consideration in Glass Magazine’s annual Top 50 Glaziers program. The June 2018 issue of Glass Magazine will feature the highest-earning contract glaziers of 2017.

The Top 50 Glaziers report recognizes leading North American glazing firms based on annual sales, and will include glazier profiles, industry statistics, project spotlights and more.

We want to feature the glass industry's achievements. In order for us to provide the most accurate and up-to-date information, we rely on direct submissions from the industry. If your company should be included in the Top 50 Glaziers report, please complete the nomination form. The submission deadline is March 30, 2018.

Please contact me with any questions or comments.

Norah Dick is the assistant editor of Glass Magazine. Contact her at ndick@glass.org.

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For an industry newcomer like myself, stepping into the fabrication facility at Vitrum Glass Group, located in Langley, British Columbia, is a little like stepping into a new ecosystem. Or rather, several ecosystems. Some parts of the 130,000-square-foot facility are balmy, others cool. And, like any eco-system, sustainability is the ideal.

The facility is an impressive operation for a company that celebrated its 20th anniversary on June 15, with a festive day that included education sessions, facility tours and an outdoor party. Attendees, many of them first-time visitors to the facility, included members of both the design and glazing communities.

Vitrum kicked off the event with four educational sessions covering current topics in glass and glazing. I attended “Glass Production, Processing and Performance,” presented by Andre Kenstowicz, architectural manager Pacific Northwest, Vitro, vitroglazings.com. Kenstowicz offered a condensed overview of glass manufacturing and fabrication, including a focus on energy performance in the face of consistently increasing energy costs.

The seminars served as good preparation for the facility tours, and indeed many participants were clearly looking forward to seeing fabrication in action. “We want to get a sense of the production process,” says Lindsay Gallo, partner/regional manager, Novus Glass, novusglass.com, a customer of Vitrum. “We want to know how it’s made.”

Industry veteran Mike Trussel, sales representative, Vitrum Industries, vitrum.ca, guided tour participants on a step-by-step journey through the fabrication process, from stock sheets to shipping. Part-way through, the tour jogged across the lot to Vitrum’s younger sister company, Apex Aluminum, an aluminum extrusions facility, now nearly eight years old.

The theme of the tour was automation. In May 2014, Vitrum instituted enterprise resource planning software throughout its fabrication facility. This custom software solution was designed to increase automation, and thus reduce the amount of material damaged by human error.

At Apex, a facility that extrudes about 23 million pounds of aluminum per year, the product is almost never handled by humans. The plant’s automated inventory system also allows the company to keep 3.2 million pounds of extrusion in stock, which significantly reduces lead times on orders, according to Apex representatives.

One byproduct of automation is sustainability. Less lost or damaged product means less waste. Apex also recycles the 15 percent waste that is inherent to the extrusion process, and Vitrum cleans and reuses the 100,000 gallons of water it uses daily in the fabrication process.

Tour participants took advantage of the opportunity to ask questions relevant to their individual specialties. Stephanie Fargas, specifier, Dialog, dialogdesign.ca, was especially reassured by what she learned about Vitrum’s heat-soaking processes. “I’m glad to see Vitrum has it -- it means the glass will break here, and not onsite, where it will be really expensive,” explains Fargas. “I have to know a little about everything, so plant tours and education are helpful.”

After the tours finished, guests and hosts gathered for a party in front of the facility, complete with band, barbecue and a raffle. Thomas Martini, president of Vitrum, thanked his sister and partner, Gemma Martini, CEO, as well as the company’s over 300 full-time employees for their hard work and motivation in making the company a success. Overall, the celebration made it clear that the company is proud of its 20-year history…and is looking ahead to the next 20. 

Norah Dick is assistant editor of Glass Magazine. Contact her at ndick@glass.org. 

It's time to submit your company for consideration in Glass Magazine’s annual Top 50 Glaziers program. The June 2017 issue of Glass Magazine will feature the highest-earning contract glaziers of 2016. The comprehensive market report recognizes leading North American glazing firms, based on annual sales, features notable projects from the past year, and presents an extensive look at the market and trends.

As the special 25th Anniversary edition, the section will also include a look back at the changing landscape of the glazing industry.

We want to feature the glass industry's achievements. In order for us to provide the most accurate and up-to-date information, we rely on direct submissions from the industry. If your company should be included in the Top 50 Glaziers report, please complete the nomination form. The submission deadline is March 27, 2017.

Please contact me with any questions or comments.

Norah Dick is the assistant editor of Glass Magazine. Contact her at ndick@glass.org.

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I joined the National Glass Association just a few weeks ago as the assistant editor for Glass Magazine and sister publication Window & Door. But I’ve already had a small taste of what this industry is all about by attending an Architectural Glass Boot Camp, presented by the Architectural Glass Institute and C.R. Laurence Co., on Thursday, Jan. 26. As a former educator, I was excited that my first industry event was focused on education.

The event was one of a series of boot camps hosted by AGI at the Finishing Trades Institute in Philadelphia. The boot camps offer individuals across the industry—glaziers, architects, reps and building managers—the opportunity to learn about new innovations and best practices in architectural glazing.

This particular event was a collaboration between CRL and the AGI, and focused on glass railings. The AIA/CES-approved session qualifed for 3 Health, Safety and Wellness learning units. Representatives from CRL began the boot camp with an hour-long technical presentation. Following the session, we stepped into FTI’s 20,000-square-foot glazier learning space for two hours of hands-on learning.

Boot camp attendees were first given a chance to participate in a demonstration of glass railing installation conducted by students and trainers in FTI’s glazing apprenticeship program. The demonstration included each step of a railing installation, from measuring to drilling to installing the glass panel. Demonstrators talked through each step and answered questions along the way. The initial demonstration wrapped up with a pane of glass installed into the base shoe using wedge shims and CRL’s Taper-Loc dry-glaze system. Participants then stayed for another hour working through each detail of an installation, the focus always on education and proper training. 

After the demonstration, I caught up with the other boot camp participants and found that everyone had a specific takeaway.  Some focused on the demonstration. “It was a good experience because coming from a different trades background it was very educational to see these components assembled in person,” says Rob Ritter, project manager, Advanced Glass & Metal. “It gives me a better understanding of how [the products] are used and therefore can enhance my productivity in estimating projects using them in the future.”

Ron Pulone, a contract glazier of 30 years, was attracted by the technical information offered in the informational session. Now with Keystone Aluminum & Glass, he says he plans to bring his glazing experience with him as he transitions into engineering. He has attended other FTI boot camps, and reminisced about his own apprentice program, which was housed in one classroom. FTI has certainly expanded beyond that.

The boot camp offered a look at what some in the building industry are doing to face one of its most major challenges: educating a new workforce. Touring the facility, it was clear how it was constructed to serve the learning needs of FTI’s own apprentice and journeyman students, which supply the area’s construction industry. The largely open space includes stations to complete guided practice in everything from welding to blue-print-making to creating and testing mockups. Students who complete mockups can also practice attaching them to a real-world, three-story building structure that is located just yards away. My favorite part of our comprehensive tour was the chance to attempt a simulated weld on a machine that allows instructors to evaluate a virtual real-time readout (My score? 67/100). 

Take a virtual tour of the training and the FTI facility in our photo gallery.

 

Norah Dick is assistant editor of Glass Magazine. Contact her at ndick@glass.org. 

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