Volume 8, Issue 10 - November 2007

Vinyl Extrusions: 
Deceuninck North America Finds the Perfect Blend to Shape its Profile
by Alan B. Goldberg

People. Service. Quality. Cost. These are the elements of a simple operating philosophy introduced by Mark Parrish, chief executive officer (CEO) of Deceuninck’s North American operation, as he establishes a basic framework for changing the corporate culture and, with it, the company. 

Investing in people and teaching them the skills they need to be successful equates to a high level of customer service and the ability to provide a high-quality product at the lowest possible cost, he says.

“We must instill in our people the confidence to take greater risks as we protect them from failure. As a process disciplinarian and human capital strategist, I can say that people don’t fail, processes do,” Parrish says. He also points out that investing in people and establishing relationships is not new to the company. It’s a value that dates back to its humble beginnings from plastic sheathing to PVC extruding.

Growth Fueled by Acquisitions
Seventy years ago, Benari Deceuninck started a small company in Beveren-Roeselare, Belgium, to manufacture buttons, buckles and related products—all from plastic sheathing. Four years later, in 1941, the company reorganized and started producing plastic combs and boxes. Production was expanded in 1945 to include polystyrene and acetate for packaging and toys. In 1961, the company found itself exploring another path in the manufacture of plastics: extruding PVC granules for the manufacture of profiles, initially for roller shutter profiles, today for window profiles. During the 1970s and 1980s, offices were established in Europe and extrusion plants were built as growth and expansion continued through the 1990s. But it was 1995 that marked the beginning of a new chapter for Deceuninck. 

According to Parrish, an industry study showed North America to be the fastest growing market for vinyl lineals. The acquisition of Wilmington, Del.-based Acro Extrusions in 1995 gave the company its entry into North America. With the acquisition of Dayton Technologies in 1997, the company established itself as a leading producer of vinyl lineals in the United States. But it was the acquisition of Thyssen Polymer in 2003, a major competitor and parent company of Oakland, N.J.-based Vinyl Building Products, that gave the company a dominant market position. 

Today the North American operation, a modern, 850,000-square-foot facility, is located in Monroe, Ohio (formerly the home of Dayton Technologies) with an additional 150,000-square-foot plant in Little Rock, Ark., formerly Vinyl Building Products. Other operations have been consolidated into Monroe and Little Rock. 

Worldwide Support
Deceuninck N.A. enjoys strong support from its parent company in Belgium, a market leader worldwide. “As a global company, we have a worldwide perspective and we benefit from their expertise,” says Eric Batman, director of operations for the Monroe plant. One example is the four complete lamination lines that will soon be added at the Monroe headquarters to produce laminated profiles.

“This is a capability that our parent company has had for a long time and their experience will be invaluable to us,” says Mark Davis, vice president of sales. “With our new technology, we’ll be able to produce small quantities of custom laminated profiles for our fabricators. This was not practical for us in the past.” 

Alan Rowland, executive vice president of sales and marketing, says that being a global company with name recognition and a reputation worldwide for engineering know-how and innovation gives the North American operation an edge over its competition. “With world-class products, we’re offering fabricators the technology and technical support to produce the most energy-efficient window,” he says.

Today, the Deceuninck Group, which employs approximately 2,900 people worldwide, is active in 75 countries with 35 subsidiaries.

Product Design and Tooling Development
What is striking about the Monroe operation is not only the 58 extrusion lines, but the openness and cleanliness of the plant.

“Our factory is very unusual,” says Batman. “We use the 5-S protocol, which has changed the way we operate. In fact, it changed our culture and helped us launch other programs such as continuous product improvement.”

The 5-S program is a Japanese philosophy that focuses on organization, cleanliness and standardization to improve profitability, efficiency, service and safety. It does this by reducing wasted time and materials, reducing maintenance and downtime, improving efficiency and employee morale and simplifying the work environment. The five Ss are sort, set, shine, standardize and sustain.

Less obvious at first glance but very apparent is what happens off the production line, from product design and development to tooling.

Tim Whisman, manufacturing manager, can appreciate the impact of both. “We’ve become a lot more efficient with tool design since I started 18 years ago,” he says. “The improvements have been significant. We’re utilizing the same labor to accomplish more and making better use of time.” There are two fully staffed engineering groups, product design and tool design, although the process does not begin with either. According to Davis, the first step is analyzing customers’ requirements. “What makes us unique is the market research we conduct at our facility, to ensure that our investments in product and tool designs deliver products that our existing and prospective customers are telling us they need,” he says.

From this information, the product design group can develop testing protocols based on the type of window (or any building product) to be produced while supporting documentation for internal and external customers is generated. Everything begins as a two-dimensional drawing and eventually becomes a 3-D design, explains Mike Chaney, product designer and a 19-year veteran of the company. 

“Our goal is to produce a rapid prototype model so the customer can see exactly how the product will look. We include practically everything … locks, keepers, just about any piece of hardware,” he says.

The product design group also generates a fabrication manual for the customer as a key reference.

“It’s everything you need to know to make a window,” adds Chaney. “This is the fabricator’s Bible.”

Tooling design, like product design, also has changed with new technology.

“Ten to 15 years ago, our dies had a typical European design,” says Gary Philpot, a die maker who has been with the company for 23 years. “We started with a calibrator and a lot of hoses.”

He says there were many components and, because of their complexity, the dies required a specialist to maintain them.

“We recognized the need for a significant improvement and we developed a user-friendly system,” says Philpot. “The cooling is right on the profile, and that helps us tremendously. There is a marked reduction in process variability and, with our proprietary fixed mandrel die technology, our dies are easier to program and machine.”

Philpot points out another significant benefit. With the new die, there is no longer a need for a specialist.

“This is cutting-edge technology,” he says. “We developed it in-house.”

Batman says this kind of innovation is so important because “we can be no better on the extrusion line than the tools or compounds that are used.” He explains that new tools are fine-tuned on two separate extrusion lines that are strictly for development. “From these test runs, we can determine optimum temperatures and conditions for that tool,” says Batman.

He says new technology, which is replacing the need for a high degree of specialization, is now in the tool. Tools and dies that are designed to be more user-friendly and easier to maintain have a positive effect on the tooling department.

“The new dies and calibrators are self-contained, there are fewer moving parts and, because of their design, our job (of maintaining them) is easier,” says Mike Comer, a 23-year veteran who manages tool manufacturing and assembly. “With more than 2,000 tools in the company, any improvement can save us time in making day-to-day repairs.”

Facing Trials
The company faces many challenges presently and knows more are coming in the near future.

“We face a flat to shrinking market with more vertically-integrated manufacturers. We see changes in the market, a value chain looking different with a surplus of capacity,” says Rowland.

Phil Morton, director of business development and innovation, has seen many challenges arise from the changes that have taken place in his 30 years with the company.

“Keeping people connected in a large and very diverse company can be very challenging,” he says. According to Parrish, first and foremost is investing in people and creating a culture that will enable them to be successful.

Parrish’s philosophy is making a difference. According to Batman, it is framed in a way that can be communicated easily as a simple concept—people, service, quality, and cost—a concept that has proven to be the perfect blend for shaping a profile at Deceuninck North America. 

Alan Goldberg is a contributing writer for DWM magazine. He has more than 30 years of experience in the door and window industry. 

Unique Alliances
Deceuninck Alliance Groups Strengthen Small- to Medium-Sized Fabricators

“Alliance membership is one of the most unique things we can offer to a customer or prospect,” says Deceuninck’s Mark Davis. “Along with our alliance customers, we’re the only ones who really know how to do this effectively.”

What the company has done is join together small- to medium-sized fabricators to form cooperative “alliances” who all purchase vinyl profiles from Deceuninck. (The company has two active alliances—The Earthwise Group and The American Window Alliance.)

Fabricators are thrilled about the advantages they receive by participating in these groups.

“People are always looking for ways to compete more effectively, and our alliance provides great benefits,” says Jack Starks, owner of American Window and Glass in Evansville, Ind., an Earthwise member. He says the many benefits include increased manufacturing efficiencies, a complete marketing program, sharing of ideas, and volume purchasing discounts. “You can save $15 to $18 per window when you add it all up,” he says. Mark Adams, executive director of the American Window Alliance, agrees. “The real power of our alliance is the combination of talents that drive better business practices, better products and superior service.”

All members of an alliance make the same window line, as well as use the same literature and website in order to promote their windows in a unified way. “We’re creating a unique national identity,” says Starks. “No one else can use our brand names or make the same products.”

Since all fabricators in an alliance make the same products, they can help each other, share meaningful ideas and solve problems together.

“We are a dynamic team of diverse talents and personalities,” says Adams. “The key to the success of any team is to mesh those talents into a competitive advantage.”

“If one fabricator experiences a problem, he can talk to other fabricators in the alliance and find the solution right away, because we all make the same products,” says Starks.

Additionally, all members of the alliance meet three to four times per year at a fabricator location. They say this offers a great opportunity to learn from others and get practical feedback.

“Each member fills out a scorecard on each plant that we visit,” says Joe Morgan of Tri-State Wholesale, an Earthwise member. “It’s an honest and critical evaluation, and the information that you get is from people who make the same products that you do. As a result, we’ve made some changes that have really helped our business.”

Davis says being part of an alliance also offers a competitive advantage, particularly for new window manufacturers. “You get pre-selected components and suppliers, a full testing program, a fully developed marketing program, and lots of other significant benefits,” he says. “A new fabricator can avoid two to three years of hard work and expense.”

While fabricators benefit, so does Deceuninck. “Deceuninck has one window system that 13 fabricators share, as opposed to them having to make 13 different systems for us,” says Starks. “This increases the profit margin for Deceuninck, so they see a benefit too.”

The vinyl extruder is devoted to their alliance programs, and a company representative attends all alliance meetings. “They truly believe in the alliance strategy,” says Starks. “They see it as a win-win, and so do we.”—TT


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