Volume 9, Issue 8 - September 2008

IN A SOFT ECONOMY, TAKE A HARD LOOK AT
HARDWARE

By Dan Gray

In today’s struggling residential building environment, door and window manufacturers are taking a hard look at all aspects of their business to reduce costs, add value to their products, maintain current customers and, most importantly, find ways to increase sales. One area that plays an important role in all of this is hardware.

There may be a tendency to buy the most inexpensive hardware available to save money in the short term, but those decisions will affect you for years to come. Performance and value-added options are now more important than ever to builders, contractors and consumers, especially in the replacement segment. Despite the reduction in the number of new homes being built, those who are renovating and remodeling will be upgrading and placing high expectations on security, energy management and performance.

For Casements, the Operator is Key With casement and awning hardware, the operator is literally the driver behind the entire system. To enhance your product offering and add flexibility to your inventory model, opt for an operator platform that offers removable covers available in plastic or metal in a variety of architectural finishes. Rather than carrying multiple SKUs, you can reduce inventory costs by stocking one top quality operator that can be used for both wood and vinyl profiles. This ultimately will save time and money and give you and your customers excellent options for late-stage customization of the final product. Locking Systems and Hinges Once again, quality, security and energy management are all important issues when it comes to hardware.

Look for multi-point locking systems that feature adjustable mushroom head-locking points and are self locating within the profile. Ease of assembly is an extremely important feature to consider. Stainless steel lock bars and strikers are available to help achieve high DP ratings to satisfy hurricane test criteria. Adjustable hinges should feature a concealed snap ring design to allow for quick and easy connection between the sash and frame, and should be strong enough to resist sash sag over years of performance. Choose standard painted cold-rolled steel parts for those applications that do not require corrosive and impact performance.

Look Closely at Sash Locks
With sash locks, look for an automatic latching and retention feature so the consumer can determine easily if the window is locked or unlocked. Internal mechanisms should have two retention clips and two springs for maximum durability and balance of the lock. Optional snap-on covers in both plastic and metal are also the trend, offering a variety of customized designs and logos. The snap-on covers conceal mounting screws, eliminate the need to stock colored screws, and provide a cleaner look. As always make sure your hardware supplier’s products meet or exceed forced entry resistance requirements and hurricane impact testing.

Promote Safety and Security Features to Your Advantage There are many features designed into today’s hardware to address the increasing importance of safety and security. The more you promote these features to your customers, the better chance you will have for making the sale.

There are a variety of configurations, styles and finishes in patio door hardware available. In a non-locking configuration, look for an anti-drill feature on the exterior pull for maximum security. This will prevent burglars from being able to drill through from the outside. Also look for a heavy-duty mishandling device to prevent damage to the locking hooks when closing the door. Exterior escutcheons to accommodate locking cylinders are also available for increased flexibility and versatility. As for swing and terrace doors, do yours feature multipoint cam and hook locking capability, including top and bottom shoot bolts? If not, you might want to consider an upgrade to your product offering.

Look to European
Products and Luxury Market According to Kay Coughlin, president and chief executive officer of Christie’s Great Estates, a luxury real estate organization, “Recent news stories about housing prices have failed to report on the robust sales achievements in the luxury real estate sector. The high-end category worldwide continues to outperform expectations.” With this said, now is a good time to consider broadening your line of European products and looking at new market segments. Although these segments might offer lower volumes they provide greater margins. Bi-fold and lift and slide doors continue to be viable options. We are seeing an increased use of these types of products for light-commercial and high-end residential applications.

In this market, you will also see an increase in use of tilt-and-turn products and all the variations available (turn-first, tilt-first, and tilt-only options) as well in children’s bedrooms to address the safety issue. Estimated market share is less than 10 percent, but growing every day. Several extruders throughout North America are offering new programs to capitalize on this growing market segment.

Install Modular Systems
Hardware systems with concealed hinges are attractive to both architects and builders, as are specialty- shaped windows with arched tops, angled windows and various rectangular options. Choose a supplier that can offer custom hardware solutions to meet these needs as well as modular systems that are designed for simple and fast installation/fabrication.

Vinyl extruders are pursuing the North American market actively with a more complete line of European products. As they increasingly penetrate the market there will be more opportunity here as well. You will want to ensure that your chosen hardware is compatible with their profiles.

Consider the Finish
Oil-rubbed bronze and brushed nickel finishes have become increasingly popular among homeowners. Many consumers now want all (or most) of the hardware throughout their home to coordinate so they can achieve a uniform look. To meet this need, hardware suppliers will continue to offer a variety of finishes and extend them across their full product offering. Once again, call attention to this capability and offer it as an added benefit to your customers.

We all know that stainless steel is desirable and often required for some applications, but the cost can be extremely high. There are new innovative options gaining popularity. For example a zinc nanoparticle surface treatment that offers a beautiful silvery finish and provides excellent corrosion resistance is a recent development.

Now is the time to take notice of your options—consider making upgrades to your line of hardware that will set your products apart from the competition.

What’s an upcoming trend that is second only to green? Did you guess automation? Well, some in the door and window industry believe that manufacturers will be seeing more and more automated products from hardware manufacturers in the future.

A few manufacturers have introduced automated products recently, including G-U Hardware and Amesbury’s LOCCA division.

“We knew the trend was definitely moving this way,” says Amber Grayson, sales and marketing director for Amesbury LOCCA. “As a hardware manufacturer we wanted to figure out how we fit into that trend.”

Patrick Junker, chief operating officer for G-U Hardware, says his company also anticipated automation would be coming to the door and window industry and his company wanted to be prepared.

“We’ve had requests from consumers who have seen things [automated products] outside the door and window industry, like what you use for your car,” he says. “Our vision was that U.S consumers will request that from door hardware.”

And if they do request it, companies such as Amesbury already have products to meet this need. The company’s ACCESS and MULTI products, introduced in 2008 at the International Builders’ Show (for a video demonstration of that product visit www.dwmmag.com/studio), give homeowners the ability to push a remote button, and push or pull the door open.

Grayson does admit, however, that it may take awhile for customers to be comfortable with this kind of technology for doors.

“We’re telling an entire country that it’s okay to unlock your door with a remote,” she says. “That’s a lot of education to be done, but we’re coming a long way.

“This is something completely new to marketplace, like when people introduced remote locks for cars. Now, you can’t buy a car without it now,” she adds.

So is Grayson pleased with the inroads made since the product was introduced?

“When you introduce something so innovative in an industry so saturated with the norm it’s a challenge,” she says. But Grayson says many large manufacturers are looking seriously at the system but that it takes time to work these into their product pipelines. The company is selling the product current-ly through its locksmith distribution channel. “If a customer is upgrading their handle or lock, they plug it in and go,” she says.

While some may not embrace it right away, Grayson says many consumers have been looking for this type of technology but haven’t found it until now.

“It’s fun to go to the smaller shows and find people who have been looking for it,” she says.

GU offers a motorized system for its Lift and Slide patio door system. The motorized system can incorporate a remote control to activate the opening or closing functions of the system from across a room. Sliding door panels measuring 10-feet by 10 feet and weighing up to 660 pounds can be operated with the touch of a button.

The company also just launched a product—the BKS e-Bolt—available in a multi-point construction. The system has an integrated deadbolt and latch, requires no key and works as a burglar alarm as well. With this product, Junker says a remote can also be used to lock and unlock the door. He points out that this product offers a patented feature that will retract the latch and lock the deadbolt simultaneously allowing a single means of egress for a panic option.

While door and window manufacturers are facing challenging times, Junker points out that the upper-end market is still very active.

“Companies targeting products to upper-end homes are the ones still maintaining activity,” he says. “And it helps when you have something new [such as automated hardware].”

Future Automation
Both Grayson and Junker agree that more automation for doors and windows will be coming in the next few years.

“This will happen as electronics become more and more part of consumers’ lives,” says Junker. “Ultimately, with a push of a button, consumers can say, ‘open specific window or doors to vent the house through a computer system.’”


DWM

© Copyright 2008 Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved.
No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.