Setting Sights High
Regional Window Manufacturer Goes National and Changes from Made-to-Stock to Made-to-Order
by Samantha Carpenter
Among the windows A&H offers is the vinyl-clad series, one of which is being assembled here.
Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Wilkesboro, N.C., is A&H Window Co., part of the ECMD companies. This 11-year-old company marketed its first window under the name Arndt and Herman because it was a recognized brand. A fairly common window, it was a wood, double-hung-tilt window. Eventually, the brand name was shortened to A&H to make it easier for consumers to remember.
“When A&H Windows began, we had two window assembly plants and distribution centers and we were a made-to-stock operation,” said Alan Bridges, vice president and general manager. “In the mid 1990s, changes in the market prompted us to build a much larger manufacturing facility and close the two separate window assembly operations. Our manufacturing plant, which is about 144,000 square feet, was then designed as a made-to-order plant,” said Bridges.
As the company’s product line developed vinyl-clad, wood and all-vinyl window products, having two operations servicing one market duplicated inventory, equipment, supervisors and personnel. The growth of the product line also dictated that the company had to consolidate to one manufacturing effort and cross-dock to its distribution centers daily.
Currently, the company runs two shifts, five days a week and has approximately 170 employees. A&H Windows’ production capacity is about 1,000 windows a day; a slow week would run about 600 windows a day.
A&H offers five different series of windows: Woodview™, Cladview™, Designview™, the Nuview™ Sash Replacement System and the Gallery Window™.
Woodview is a natural wood window available in three sash styles. The window series has the energy-efficient Swiggle® Seal edge-sealing spacer system and has wood interiors that are ready to paint or stain, said the company.
Cladview is a vinyl-clad wood window. The 4 9/16-inch vinyl-clad wood jamb adds strength and rigidity. The cladding system is produced with fusion-welded corners at the head jamb, a patented lower-corner-frame expansion joint and the Swiggle Seal edge-sealing spacer system.
The Nuview Sash Replacement System is sold for conventional double-hung windows and is used for replacement of windows with fogged glass or seal failure, single glazing or poor weatherstripping.
“We’ve been selling replacement sashes and replacement balances for a number of years, but we recently made the replacement sash its own product in the Nuview product, which is available in one complete kit with easy-to-follow instructions. Nuview has done well, and the all-in-one packaging now makes it very easy for a contractor or homeowner to transport in a minivan or a pickup truck,” Bridges added.
Brick mould, grille and sash styles can all be used in a common frame in the Gallery Window. The frame features no-rot, vinyl composite exterior parts with a standard ten-year warranty, and the frame is easy to paint in the desired color.
A&H Windows offers one full-year warranty on materials and workmanship, a 20-full-year warranty on its insulating glass and a lifetime limited warranty on rigid PVC components.
A&H has a variety of saws and punches that fabricate all of its parts, including vinyl welders. “We prefer welding to mechanical joints because that makes a much better joint when fastening vinyl together,” said Bridges. “Other than that, our plant is fairly manual on purpose for flexibility. We don’t have million-dollar processing lines because … they are designed to build a particular series or style of window. If the window goes obsolete or needs to be changed, then you limit your growth. The rest of the equipment is pretty much hands-on equipment, combining craftsmanship with state-of-the-art technology.”
One piece of high-tech equipment at A&H Windows is the CNC Billco optimizing glass cutter which the company upgraded to a few months ago. “The beauty of what it will do is that it takes the window order file that you want to start today and optimizes it to get the best yield across all those sizes. It helps us organize orders going from the glass cutter to the next process,” said Bridges.
If the company has problems with its machinery, it has its own maintenance division inside the plant. “When you are working with a made-to-order business, you usually have extra machinery, such as our two glass lines and two welders, and back-up machinery. We are able to shift, rearrange and schedule orders to ensure efficiencies,” said Bridges.
A&H offers a 20-full-year warranty on its insulating glass in its windows.
When it comes to packaging, the company spends time making sure that its products are protected during shipping. For example, the company installs blocks on the side jamb of the window, so the window can be placed on its side in a truck or stood up.
“That helps maximize the loading process,” said Bridges. “On the top of that are cardboard sleeves or cardboard cartons from the top of the window all the way to the sill. We then run a couple of nylon bands across it. Not only does that keep the window clean, but it keeps the joints good and tight because we know that it is going to be handled at least two or three times before it gets to the jobsite.”
Additionally, every window has a “birth date” with pertinent coded information on it that allows for easy tracking of the window from manufacturing to delivery and to facilitate easy communication about any product questions that may occur at the time of delivery or installation.
“Our intention as we move forward is to deliver more and more of our product direct to the dealer and eliminate the handling process in distribution,” said Bridges.
A&H doesn’t only deal in windows. The company also pre-hangs doors for Therma-Tru Doors of Maumee, Ohio.
“A&H is a firm believer in the ‘Therma-Tru System,’” said Bridges. “Therma-Tru designs complete door systems which are backed by the best warranty in the industry. [The company] certifies assembly operations, such as ours, so the product is built to Therma-Tru’s high standard. A&H’s original marketing pitch was that we stocked every item that was offered in their catalog. We have softened that a bit, but still carry one of the widest variety of components of Therma-Tru’s in the country … We find it nicely complements our brand of windows.”
More Changes to Come
In the custom radius area of the factory, pictured here, the spoke of a wood grille is being crafted.
You may be wondering what A&H has on the horizon. In the fourth quarter, the company will be introducing its order-entry tool, designed by Window Technology Systems of Wisconsin. While there are many of these types of programs on the market, A&H says its system, WindowVation™, has some valuable enhancements of its own.
“One of the things we’ve added to the tool is scheduling functionality to the plant. We believe it is going to add efficiency to our business and shorten our lead time,” said Bridges. “WindowVation™ is going to be so dynamic it’s going to give us the opportunity to grow to another level.”
Through our technology, leading manufacturing pro-cesses and new ideas for our industry, A&H Windows provides innovation to its customers,” said Bridges. “We provide innovative features in our products that mean easier installation and reduced costs for builders and easy use for homeowners.”
Samantha Carpenter is an editor of DWM/BCM.
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