Ron Crowl's blog

Here at FeneTech, we’re engineers by trade, but we wouldn’t be the company we are if we weren’t also dreamers. We’re currently working to turn one such dream into reality. Dream along with us.

Imagine that as a glass fabricator or a window manufacturer

  • Your machinery could tell you when to plan scheduled downtime maintenance in real-time.
  • All machinery in your plant, regardless of manufacturer, communicated in the same exact way, eliminating the need for proprietary interfaces.
  • You have the ability to receive alerts and alarms from this centralized system so that you can manage by exception rather than by monitoring everything individually.
  • Your ERP system could dynamically adjust your plant capacity and lead times based on real-time machine performance, not theoretical assumptions that once set are rarely changed.
  • Your ERP system could automatically create and issue purchase orders for needed machine parts in a just-in-time fashion.
  • Environmental conditions in your plant could be monitored and alerts provided as necessary based on temperatures, humidity or other variables.

As a machinery manufacturer

  • You could view the operational status of all your machinery in the field by customer or by product type.
  • You could proactively schedule service calls based on real-time, in-the-field analysis of machinery.
  • You could proactively schedule the shipment of required machine parts and eliminate “rush” orders.
  • Your machinery could send you alerts when it is being operated outside of warranty conditions.

As a components manufacturer or supplier

  • You could easily see the inventory levels of all the materials you supply by region or customer.
  • You could easily see the forecasted requirements of the materials you supply by region or customer.
  • You could proactively schedule the shipment of materials to customers based on this data.
  • By analyzing real-world, real-time forecasts, you could see the future.

The way to turn these visions into reality is to develop a baseline communication standard that will allow all machinery, software and suppliers to talk the same language. FeneTech is taking the initiative to lead an industry standard that we’re calling FENml. FENml (fenestration manufacturing language) provides the backbone for these dreams and the foundation for bringing to life the concepts of the Industrial Internet of Things and Industry 4.0.

FeneTech is hosting informational meetings on this initiative at GlassBuild America in Atlanta on September 12 and 13. Please contact us for details and register to attend.

Join us and share in the excitement of turning this dream into reality.

Ron Crowl is president of FeneTech Inc. Contact 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.

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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.

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The saying goes, "there is no silver bullet in marketing." As few marketing efforts yield measurable returns, I believe this is true. Even so, every marketing effort FeneTech executes has expectations associated with it. 

Tradeshows are a large part of FeneTech's marketing efforts, and consume much of our marketing budget. Therefore, during each show where we exhibit, we have high expectations for the return on our investment. 

Over the past 20 years FeneTech has exhibited at many tradeshows around the world and always with lofty expectations. We expect to see old friends, make new friends and make sales.

Some shows have fallen way short of our expectations, some have met expectations, and a select few have exceeded our expectations. 

You can put the recent GlassBuild 2016 into the exceeded column. I found this particular show to be larger in attendance, exhibitors and booth traffic than in the near ten years since the recession. Not only was attendance robust, those in attendance walked the floor and opened up their checkbooks. I saw old friends, met new ones and best of all, we made sales. 

While I’m still a believer that there is no silver bullet in marketing, I must admit that GlassBuild 2016 came pretty close.

Ron Crowl is president of FeneTech Inc. Contact 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.

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This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend my 35th high school reunion. Since graduating in 1981, my 75 classmates and I have managed to come together every five years—truly a testament to the bonds of our friendship. 

During the evening, we learned whose parents have passed on, whose children have married and had babies of their own, whose jobs have changed, and who has retired. There was plenty of reminiscing, catching up and pulling up images of children and grandchildren on smartphones, while again marveling at this ingenious creation that was unheard of 35 years ago. 

And then it was over. 

Reunions are a time to look back at the past, to rummage through the dusty corners of our minds for memories, and to discover and hopefully capture some small pieces of our youth. Though “a good time was had by all,” I left this gathering of friends feeling at once nostalgic and happy, yet somehow a bit sad. 

Nevertheless, just as I looked forward to my class reunion, I am now looking forward to tradeshow season. But I know I won’t leave with anything but a light heart and a head full of ideas. Tradeshows are a gathering where folks with something in common come together on a yearly basis, but for altogether different reasons and with altogether different outcomes. Though the same exchanges occur among attendees, one leaves with more than just an ache for the past and promises to “keep in touch.” 

Tradeshows inspire, excite and engage those who attend. There is a takeaway, a prize at the end that you can put to use to make your operations more efficient and profitable, and of value to your employees. Best of all, there occurs the exchange of ideas among friends who share a passion for what they do. Yes, there are presentations and demonstrations that ultimately lead to transformations, but above all else are the conversations among attendees, both veterans and those new to the show.

At a tradeshow, there’s little time to look back at the past. The goal is to look toward the future. No one is there to capture anything but ideas. No one leaves without becoming inspired. And for the duration of the show, relationships are forged—truly a testament to the bonds of collegiality.

Ron Crowl is president and CEO of FeneTech Inc. Contact 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.

When I think about relationships, I first think about the bond I have with my immediate family. Undoubtedly, these three individuals forge the most significant and meaningful relationship in my life. I can only assume that the rest of the world also sees relationships through this familial lens.

As I’ve matured, I have discovered that I tend to value relationships with everyone else outside of my family in much the same way. As a businessman, I count these connections not only as an entry in the asset column but as a testament to how a business should be run. Without cultivating the relationships I’ve built with my partners, my employees and, most importantly, my customers, I would either be a lousy business owner or I wouldn’t be in business at all.

Which makes the decision to be a people person rather simple.  

At FeneTech, our mission statement is all about providing the best products we can create and develop then providing for our customers ongoing, sustained, and meaningful support for those products.  It follows that building strong, lasting and valuable relationships with our customers is paramount to remaining successful. 

How do we do this?  First, all FeneTech employees strive to bring our best to the table when we’re sitting down with our customers, whether it’s a live meeting, a virtual meeting, a telephone call, an email, or over a few beers. During special events, like the FeneVision User Conference, we take the opportunity to treat our customers as the treasured guests they are. It is usually here that our customers connect—in person—with the developers and support personnel. To this end, it’s satisfying to see our customers connecting with our people. 

All of this is accomplished in a setting that is conducive to conversation, camaraderie, and just a little bit of crazy fun. It is gratifying to experience the fellowship that comes along with having customers and vendors who have become like family to us. Equally rewarding is developing new friendships among newcomers. 

Ron Crowl is president and CEO of FeneTech Inc.

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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Like many college kids, I spent my senior year juggling a heavy course load with a busy interview schedule as I searched for my first full-time job. I scheduled one of the interviews with a large and highly technical government agency on a day that was tightly packed with several classes and was all the way across campus from where I lived. Young and naïve, I was confident I would have plenty of time after my last class to go back to my apartment, change into a suit, and make it back for the interview.

My first piece of bad luck: I was delayed in returning to my apartment and only had a few minutes to change clothes and rush back for the interview. The second piece of bad luck was even more ominous—the only dress shirt that I owned looked like a slept-in-after-a-fraternity-party wrinkled mess.

In typical engineer fashion, I pulled myself up by the bootstraps and devised an ingenious work-around. I found a seldom-used iron in a dusty corner of my closet, plugged in the device my once-hopeful mother must have packed for me four years’ prior, and cleverly ironed only the front of the shirt. Satisfied, I raced across campus ready to take on the world via the United States government.

As I was escorted into the interview, I was feeling pretty self-assured. That lasted until the perfectly groomed government official interviewing me invited me to remove my suit coat because, he said, “that’s the way we work at the agency.” Deflated, I sat for the remaining painful hour of the interview wondering if the wrinkles in the shirt were making the sweat stains under my arms look better or worse.

It goes without saying that I didn’t get the job. Not only did I fail to make the right impression at the beginning of the interview, I lost all confidence once I removed my suit coat.

The takeaway from this experience has remained with me ever since. Being prepared and able to imagine all possible scenarios alleviates the need to cut corners. In business, as in life, preparation and practice go a long way toward building the confidence required to succeed.

Have you ever been caught cutting corners? What did you do, what did it cost, how did you manage and what did you learn? 

Ron Crowl is president and CEO of FeneTech Inc.

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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Fall, or sweater weather as my wife calls it, is my favorite time of year. Crisp mornings, cool evenings, apple cider, falling leaves and high school football are some of my favorite things that come to mind when I think of time away from the business. 

When I think about fall in relation to business, I immediately think “Trade Show Season." Why? For well more than a decade, attending trade shows has become a part of my professional life. I call it "Trade Show Season" because my calendar is dominated by the GlassBuild America, glasstec, Vitrum and  WInDoor shows from August through November. And frankly, I really enjoy it.

Upon returning to my office after the first trade show I attended (I believe it was the iGw/FW show in Atlanta in 1999), I found a lanyard with my vendor badge attached to it in my luggage. Without much thought, I placed it on the doorknob on the back of my office door, not knowing that nearly 13 years of lanyards and badges would quickly accumulate there and become a daily reminder of Trade Show Season and the work associated with it.

 As an industry supplier, the goal of Trade Show Season (and I assume the same is true of all other suppliers) is to demonstrate what we have been working on over the past year, with the hope that we get slivers of time to educate clients and prospects about the benefits we have to offer and eventually make the sale.

Over the years, I have learned that the actual time spent at the shows is very small compared to the time spent preparing for and following up after the shows.  I am a strong believer in the old proverb, “failing to plan is a plan for failure,” so we dedicate many hours to every detail of our trade show efforts prior to the shows and then to following up with new prospects and existing clients after the show.

On a personal level, I enjoy attending shows not only to get another lanyard and name badge to hang on my door but to catch up with old friends as well. If you’re in Las Vegas for the Glassbuild America show, stop by our booth and say hello. I always have time to meet new friends.

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.

I recently had the opportunity to visit a prospect in a relatively new European country with a colleague. The lengthy trip from my home in Ohio was made with high hopes of returning with a nice order. Lady luck was not with us on that trip, but I returned with something even more valuable: a renewed perspective that personal relationships still matter in business.

The first person I encountered when I landed in this foreign country was a taxi driver. He quickly discovered by my accent and clothes that I was not a local. After such a long flight, the last thing I wanted was a chatty driver as all I cared about at that moment was a warm shower and a few hours of sleep. The short 15-minute drive to the hotel was filled with a narrative about his city and its history.

The next morning, another driver (the president of the potential customer) picked us up at the hotel. A great amount of time that day was spent on their shop floor and in their offices learning about their processes, machinery, people and company history. At the end of the day, the general manager insisted on taking us to see the historical sights of the region. His passion for his country and its history–like the taxi driver's–was obvious. He could certainly have been a very successful tour guide!

On the second and last day of our visit to this faraway land, I thought for certain that we would leave with an order. As the day went on, I realized that coming home with an order on this visit would not happen, even though the prospect liked our product and admitted that they needed and wanted it. This visit was a social call: an opportunity for them to get to know us and for us to get to know them. The president told us that he could not yet buy, as we had only met three  times previously at trade shows and during one other visit. They wanted someone they knew, someone they could trust: a long-term partner and not just a vendor.

We live in times where almost everything can be purchased with a click of the mouse, without ever a handshake or even a look in the eye. This long-distance social call was a great reminder that people sell to people, and relationships still matter, even in our age of instant gratification.

The author 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.

Being an avid reader, I often find inspiration and focus within the pages of biographies of successful people or in discussions with people I admire. Sometimes, I even find it while enjoying a spectacular sunset. On occasion, inspiration and focus can be found in the strangest things and at the most unexpected times.

I have just returned from the Vitrum show in Milan, Italy, where I was supporting our European office in the trade show booth. Just before the show opened, our manager of the French-speaking market segment handed all of our booth personnel blue shoestrings to immediately place in their shoes.

I assumed that this was meant to be a fashion statement, as the color of the shoestrings was a very close match to our official corporate logo color. With Milan being the fashion capital of the world, I thought this made perfect sense.

Now, I've never been accused of being fashionable – actually quite the opposite – so naturally I hesitated for a moment. I watched as the rest of our team took out their old laces and inserted the new ones. I was still not sold on the fashion idea, but being a team player, I followed along.

As the week went on, I found that these shoestrings provided much more value than just fashion.

Each morning as I tied my shoes, the blue shoestrings stared me right in the face. These shoestrings provided me the inspiration each morning to approach the day and trade show booth with the proper mindset and focus on our mission in Milan.

So here it was: focus for less than a buck! No long hours of reading or deep discussions with others or even an enjoyable sunset. Focus was simply found in the strangest thing and at the most unexpected time--while tying my blue shoestrings.

Upon returning home, my wife, Tammy, took one look at my shoes and informed me that the look was certainly not a fashion statement – at least not in Cleveland, Ohio. These laces have been changed but not discarded. They now sit on my desk as a daily reminder of the focus that was found in Milan and the mission that we are on.

There is now a very good chance that blue shoestrings will be a part of our fashion statement and focus at our future trade shows! 

The author 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. 

My wife, Tammy, had a quizzical look on her face when I told her that I planned to write my first blog about my favorite t-shirt.

My favorite t-shirt―gray with a fading logo and a little oversized―is really nothing special, but I wear it around the house (and even out in public) much more than Tammy would like. Why do I like wearing it so much? Because of the story that comes with it.

Recently, while on a business trip I had the unfortunate circumstance of running over a dead deer in the middle of the freeway. Since I was only a mile or so from my hotel, I continued down the road at a cautious pace. I parked at the hotel and got out of the car in time to hear the last of the air escaping the tire. With a dinner appointment in less than an hour, the tire was quickly replaced with the donut that was in the trunk, and I went on my way.

After a meeting the next day I started to head home, at which point I wondered how far I should drive on the donut. A quick look in the car's user manual indicated that 50 miles was the recommended maximum. I then took the next exit off the freeway in an attempt to find a new tire.

I quickly came upon a rundown garage that had a tire sign in front of it. I pulled in and went inside. Did they have a tire to replace the flat one? Yes. Did they have a set of four? Yes, At a reasonable price? Yes. Now, the most important question: How long would it take to replace all four tires? I didn't want to wait the expected two hours. The gentleman told me they would have me on my way in 15 minutes. I was shocked and said yes right away.

The next thing I knew, a garage door flew open and a small army of men with floor jacks and air wrenches descended on my car right there in the parking lot. I could hear the new tires being placed on the rims and spin balanced. I watched in amazement as the new tires were placed on the car and they told me I was ready to go, all in less than 15 minutes. As I walked out the door, the gentleman handed me a t-shirt and thanked me for the business.

They certainly exceeded my expectations and gave me a t-shirt to remind me of the experience!

Going forward, my hope for this blog is that my words regarding manufacturing efficiency, organization and production flow can create an experience that will keep you reading. 

 

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