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June-July  2004

Raising the Bar
WDMA’s 8th Annual Technical Conference Shows How
by Alan B. Goldberg

As a window and door manufacturer are you looking for ways to raise the bar in terms of technical performance? If so you should have attended the recent Window and Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA) technical conference held May 3-5 in Schaumburg, Ill. In his opening remarks to the 150 technical conference attendees, Ken Beffger, technical review board chairperson, reminded manufacturers that there is a constant need to raise the bar in terms of quality and workmanship. Through this technical conference, the WDMA provided an agenda of critical topics and the expertise to do that. If you missed it, following are some of the highlights.

Change Is Inevitable: Growth Is Optional
In a dramatic presentation, keynote speaker Ira Blumenthal, founder and president of Co-Opportunities, pointed out that three things can be done with change.

“Ignore it and you die,” he said citing Eastern Airlines as an example.

“React to it and you survive, ” he added.

“But most important, make other changes. Be a change agent,” he urged. “We must move away from paradigm paralysis to paradigm pioneering.”

He referred to management guru Peter Drucker who said, “If you want to change the future, create it.”

Assessing Process Technologies
Tim O’Brien, vice president, technical innovation, Fortune Brands Inc. demonstrated the Cambridge Engineering Selector software package used to select materials. The system consists of a huge database of materials and unlike a manufacturer “gives a completely unbiased comparison of materials.” O’Brien showed many examples, pointing out properties that are rated on a simple scale to indicate a material’s performance. He said that a ceiling on cost for a particular material can be selected, and based on criteria established, it is possible to determine which one is most effective.

WDMA Side-Hinged Door Certification
John McFee, WDMA director of certification programs, described the Hallmark certification program. He noted that the development of a certification process for side-hinged doors was prompted by the stringent building codes that were established in Florida. John Kent, founder of Administra-tive Management Systems, reviewed third-party certification. He said there are three legs to certification: manufacturer, buyer and non-manufacturer or buyer, which is the independent third party, and that is the role of the WDMA. 

“The certification program is based on the premise that products are manufactured and assembled in accordance with appropriate referenced test reports,” he said.

Thinking Lean for Millwork
Three strategies for running a leaner operation were presented by Dan Templeton of TT Technologies in Edgerton, Ohio. He said continuous improvement in manufacturing drives cost reduction, which is the key to the first strategy: operating as a low-cost producer. The second, product differentiation, means not only developing new products but also finding ways to make them for less; and service differentiation, the third strategy, is reducing non-value added steps or services. 

“Lean methods are about reducing waste—wasted movements—reducing batch size and flow, reducing change-over losses and exposing other weaknesses in the system,” he said. 

In Partnership with PATH 
Glen Salas, PE, Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing (PATH) outlined the services of this organization. He pointed out that PATH is the first Federal innovative program in history to work cooperatively with U.S. homebuilders. He described PATH initiatives that include field evaluations, site demonstrations, barrier removal and research and development. There are more than 160 technologies in inventory. 

“Currently we are planning a field evaluation of low-E storm windows in the Northeast.” Salas also indicated that it is considering a window installation guide and is looking for feedback from manufacturers.

Windows Roadmap 
In his update, Marc LeFrance, technology development manger, for the Department of Energy (DOE) reviewed the current initiatives which are zero net energy building and windows research and development. He said they would require significant technical advances to meet performance and cost targets. 

“Fourteen percent of our energy is consumed in building envelopes and windows are a large part of it,” he said. 
LeFrance added that there are opportunities from industry, academia, research and DOE to develop a mutual vision. The DOE budget for windows this fiscal year is $3.5 million, while next year, it will be $5 million, according to LeFrance. 

Sealant Selection Guidelines 

Schnee-Morehead’s Mark Toth outlined four steps to choosing the right sealant, emphasizing the critical nature of the installation. 

“Even the best window and door, if not installed properly, will fail. No matter how good the installation, the unit will leak if the wrong sealant is used or the right sealant is not properly applied.” 

Following are the four steps:
• Determine where sealant will be used;
• Determine the type of joint that will be used;
• Determine the type of sealant that may be used; and
• Determine the materials to which the sealant will be applied.

Electrochromic Glazing Technology
Michael Myser, vice president, sales and marketing for SAGE Electrochromics Inc., described electrochromic technology and compared it to other switchable technologies. Electrochromic windows can be tinted electronically by the push of a button to control incoming sunlight and heat. technology provides many economic and functional benefits such as energy savings, greater thermal comfort and elimination of glare on computer screens and televisions. 

“DOE estimates savings up to 28 percent because light and heat entering the building can be controlled,” he said. 
According to Myser, 74 percent of architects surveyed said they would specify electrochromic glass to reduce energy costs; 76 percent of builders surveyed said they would recommend electrochromic glass for the same reasons. 

Attendee Feedback
Those who attended the conference seemed pleased with the information that was presented. 
“This was my first WDMA technical conference,” said Jaimie Corcoran, Marshfield Door Systems. “For me, it was a learning experience. I thought the speakers were very well-informed and I found the keynote speaker (Ira Blumenthal) to be most enjoyable.”

On the flip side, Ken Wilcox of Kolbe & Kolbe Millwork Co. hasn’t missed a WDMA technical conference.

“I feel there has been an improvement from year-to-year in the quality of the speakers and the presentations,” he said. “I think the WDMA staff does a good job of meeting the needs of the members. There were many good issues discussed but two in particular that I felt were most significant were on installation and mold.”

“I thought the meeting was very informative,” said Dale Dreyer, Marvin Windows and Doors. “This was my first technical conference and I did not find the information to be cutting edge although there were some interesting presentations. I thought the one on lean manufacturing was very good. I enjoyed the exhibition and I wish there had been more exhibitors.” 


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