Volume 9, Issue 2 - February 2008
Vytex Windows is not an average window manufacturer. Yes, it makes windows, and yes, company representatives cite its commitment to high-quality energy-efficient products and superb service. But where this company really stands out is in the installation of its windows, patio doors and entrance doors.
The company produces custom vinyl windows and patio doors in its 160,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Laurel, Md. Because the company installs the products for its dealers, the team controls every aspect of the project.
In the Beginning…
Chief executive officer Andy Weinrub started working with the company nearly two decades ago. Weinrub had helped his brother, a window installer, on the weekends. Then he started working in a local window plant, and soon moved up to supervisor in the service department and then factory management. “In that factory, we had a huge dealer who was interested in starting his own new factory and wanted me to manage it,” Weinrub explains. Within a few years, Vytex outgrew the Beltsville facility, necessitating a move to a 54,000-square-foot facility not far from the original location. Four years ago, Vytex moved again. The new facility in Laurel boasts approximately 160,000 square feet of space.
“We hope to be here for some time since we have access to more space when it is needed,” says Charles Scalzott, chief operating officer (COO).
The company, which manufactures 100,000 windows a year, posts $20 million in annual sales, and runs one shift, five to six days a week.
And, while it may seem that this Maryland-based company is a regional player, Scalzott says Vytex does not compete with the smaller companies in the Mid-Atlantic region. In fact, its biggest competitors are national companies, including Simonton, CertainTeed and Great Lakes.
“We’re picky about our installers. Many of them are of Polish decent (as is Weinrub). They have a tremendous work ethic and do craftsman-like work,” says Scalzott. “There are installers out there who have 20 years of experience that can’t [work] here.”The installation crews are graded every two weeks, and they are rewarded if no issues are found.
“Some of our installers that we have to get rid of are better than most [of the installers out there],” says Weinrub, as a way of pointing out that most installers in the industry don’t meet his stringent requirements. “We don’t want anything to get in the way of our good name,” says Scalzott. “We want the job done right.”
The focus on installation has paid off.
“We’ve been in business for 20 years and every week, we receive complimentary letters from homeowners relating how pleased they are with their new windows and with the professionalism of the installation crew. The installers work six days a week, and there is an installation manager whose job it is to make sure that the installers are doing quality work and to solve any problems that may arise on a job. We’re constantly in contact with the customer. Communication is the key,” says Scalzott.
Hard-Working FolksThe company has 150 employees: 60 are on installation crews, 70 work in the factory and 20 are administrative. As with many other door and window manufacturers, Vytex has difficulties retaining some of its workforce. “This is not a manufacturing part of the country,” says Weinrub. “When we find good workers, we train them well and cross-train them in other areas.”
“The peripheral workers are hard to retain,” Scalzott says. “But the people with good attitudes and a work ethic move up the pay scale.”
Scalzott came to the company two years ago in the newly created position of COO. He brought a 34-year background in vinyl extrusion and window design with him.
Company president Debbie Grigsby started with the company 16 years ago and has seen it grown from a three-person company to what it is today. “It’s challenging, but it’s nice to help someone solve a problem. It brings a lot of satisfaction,” she says. “My main focus is measure and installation, but I’m involved in all parts of the business.”
Depending on Technology
High-quality technology helps Vytex produce high-quality products and also aids the company in its training process. The plant is highly automated, which results in consistent quality and good production flow. A bar code system aids in tracking production within the plant and finished products through the shipping process.
“There may be companies that are much bigger than ours but, in my experience, I’ve only seen maybe two that have as much technology as our facility,” says Scalzott, who adds that there are approximately 100 computers in the plant.
The company uses two different types of specific software: Winsys for the manufacturing facility and InterGis for the measure, installation and service end of the business.
Computer screens have been placed along the top of the inspection racks in the final assembly areas. Once the fenestration product is finished, assemblers scan it and record the information about the window. “When [an assembler] scans it, he electronically signs his name to it,” says Scalzott.
Scalzott says he is proud of the way Vytex makes an insulating glass (IG) panel. “With four people we can make 1,000 IG panels a day,” Scalzott says.
To do this, the company uses Truseal’s Totally Automated Production Equipment (TAPE) system. Vytex also invested $60,000 in a temperature-controlled room to house this piece of equipment.
Once an IG unit is produced, it goes to an argon-filling station where there are meters to dispense and monitor the amount of argon in the IG unit.
Although Vytex is proud of its automated equipment, there are some processes that just can’t be duplicated by a machine. The manufacture of simulated divided lites is one of the labor-intensive processes that is done in the plant. To apply them is time-consuming, but it’s done all in-house. Scalzott says this is one more way that Vytex sets itself apart from the competition.
The company began using the Royal Spectracoat colorizing system two years ago. Twenty-five exterior colors over white or beige are offered on the company’s Heritage series window products. Vytex has an in-house testing lab, which is unique. It’s set up for air and water testing. “It saves cost and the hassle of taking the product elsewhere to an outside lab,” Scalzott says. “It’s a great advantage for us.”
It seems that no company can escape the effects of the slowing housing market. “We’ve been affected, but we’ve tried to be creative,” Weinrub adds. “We took on Richmond [Va.] a year ago and have installers based there,” says Grigsby. The company ships windows there, where they are installed by Richmond-based installers.
Vytex expanded its footprint by opening up distribution into Atlanta, and the I-85 corridor from Richmond through North Carolina in 2007.“We’re still in total control here,” says Grigsby, who explains that the distribution into Atlanta is monitored closely to ensure 100-percent on-time delivery every week.
Scalzott says Vytex is working toward impact-resistant products in the near future. He says its casement window and double-hung designs could both be made into impact-resistant versions.
“We continue to look for new opportunities to grow our business,” says Weinrub. “I could easily increase the production in this facility by 75,000 more [windows] a year,” he adds. Even in a tightened market, it looks like Vytex is making great progress toward meeting that goal in years to come.
Sarah Batcheler is a contributing writer for DWM.