Volume 10, Issue 5 - May/June 2009

Dove Vinyl Windows
The Secret to its Quiet Success
by Tara Taffera

Dove Vinyl Windows in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., is a testament to a family-business run right. This is a family business that has both survived through the generations and one that changes with the times. 

A Little History 
As is the case with many manufacturers, Dove Vinyl Windows didn’t start as a window manufacturer. Phillip and Nathan Dove established Dove Industries Inc. in 1945 as Dove Venetian Blind Company in North Hills, Pa. When the Venetian blind business began its decline in the latter part of the 1950s, the company changed from Dove Venetian Blind Co. to Dove Home Specialties. The product line included such items as aluminum storm windows, doors and jalousie windows. 

In 1965, Bruce Dove, the son of company founder Nathan Dove and grandson of cofounder Phillip, the company’s founders, joined the company. Bruce’s brother, Eric, began to work for the company five years later. The young Dove brothers began to learn the trade from the bottom up by learning such skills as glazing, screening, and assembling windows.

In 1972, the company name was changed to Dove Industries. It also began to slowly phase out of the retail segment of the business and focused its marketing strategy on the manufacturing end of the aluminum business. By 1980, the company was under the joint leadership of Bruce and Eric with Bruce responsible for sales and marketing aspects while Eric handled production planning and all other company operations.

Under the two brothers, Dove began to grow at an exponential rate.

In the early 1980s, the brothers sensed that the market was beginning to shift from aluminum-based products to vinyl. However, they also knew that the transition from an aluminum-based manufacturer to the manufacture of vinyl products must be well planned with a minimum interruption of company operations. They also were aware that certain technological problems associated with the manufacture of vinyl products had not yet been fully corrected. Therefore, rather than give their customers an inferior product, they chose to wait until the quality of product developed by the new extruders reached a quality level consistent with Dove Industries’ philosophy. 

In the first three years of its vinyl manufacturing, the company’s sales exceeded the five-year forecast. The manufacture and sale of vinyl products catapulted the company to an unexpected level. Today, the company’s aluminum product line has been eliminated. 

A New Location and a New Generation of Doves
In 1992 the company was producing 40 to 50,000 windows per year and “growing out of its seams” according to Bruce Dove Jr., general manager (fourth generation of Dove’s). At that time the company was based in the Philadelphia area but looked to Wilkes-Barre, Pa., a relatively small town in Northeastern Pennsylvania, for its new home. 

“This location allowed us to really grow,” says Dove. The location has 180,000 square feet of space. In fact, at first the company only used 30,000 square feet of the space and rented out the remainder. 

Dove says the company has grown five times larger since the move to Wilkes-Barre.

Currently, it produces 170,000 to 200,000 vinyl windows per year and is now a multi-million-dollar company. And the location change transformed the company. Prior to the move, the company served Philadelphia, Northern Virginia and New Jersey as a small regional manufacturer. 

“When we came here it centralized us,” says Bruce. “We expanded and now cover 18 to 20 states including Ohio, Indiana and Michigan. We became a major player.”

Shortly after the company moved to its new location, Bruce Dove Jr. took over as general manager. He was 26. 

Bruce says he started in the company loading trucks, making $5 per hour and eventually learned all aspects of plant manufacturing. “I can run every machine in here,” he says.

Fifteen years later Bruce is still thriving in this role. Ron Dove, uncle of Bruce Dove Jr., serves as purchase manager and the two work in tandem with one another.

Product and Processes
Today, Dove Vinyl Windows serves the new construction and replacement markets, and sells its products mainly through distributors. It offers four lines of replacement windows and three new construction lines. 

“That [replacement business] helped get us through the downturn,” says Steven Smyth, director of sales and marketing. “Our company is set up that we can react either way [replacement or new construction]. That’s not the case at a lot of companies.” 

In addition to its window lines, it also offers bow and bay windows, light commercial windows, as well as patio doors. It also offers a variety of options on its products including woodgrains, laminates, painting, etc. 

The latest addition to the Dove product line is the high-end DP50, a window that completes a full line of what Dove calls the “good, better and best” scenario. 

But while this window line is beginning its cycle, another is coming to an end. Dove says the Maynard window was the first window the company made and was the one that allowed the company to grow. The company will cease production of that product later in 2009 and will start production of a mid-line hybrid product in its place. 

“We used to move 400 to 500 of these [Maynard windows] per day,” says Bruce. “There is a lot of punching and cutting involved. There [are] not many people who can do it like us. We’ve gotten very good at it.”So good that Bruce is a little sad to see its life cycle end. 

A Good Investment
Dove is just as good at using its 110-150 employees to make windows as it is in investing in automated machines. In the mid-1990s Dove started to invest in automation, but he points out that it was always controlled growth. 

Speaking of the current economic climate and housing market, Bruce says business was up in 2006, down a small amount in 2007 and down a larger amount in 2008. But still the company is poised for future growth. 

“We’re much better set up than coming out of any other downturn,” he says. “Rick [my uncle] is shrewd and was smart enough to save when things were good.”

“Last year, we added 1.6 million worth of machinery in a bad economic climate,” says Bruce. “Now we’re set.”

Much of that investment was in Truseal’s Dura platform. The company spent a long time researching different options, and even traveled to Europe to look at various lines. 

“We were very aggressive in getting into it,” says Bruce. “In January 2008 we said, ‘This is probably a good year to do this.’ We put the entire system in place in three months.”

It was well worth it, particularly in February 2009 when President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law. 

“The Dura platform offers the lowest U-values and with Duralite the automation is a little better,” he says. 

Bruce adds that good decision making accounts for the fact that its windows meet the 30/30 criteria. 

“Our windows met it immediately,” says Dove. “While other companies were running around figuring out how to meet the criteria we could easily say, ‘yes.’”

Even before the tax credit legislation was introduced, the company did focus on environmentally friendly products and processes. 

Ron says the company recycles all of its aluminum, vinyl and corrugated cardboard.

Dove also recycles all its contaminated glass. 

“We found a company that does it,” says Ron. “Not many companies do this.”

They do a few things differently, but all of these, from their endless backups to their focus on automation, it allows the plant to run smoothly and efficiently and has taken the company toward success.

Up Close in the Dove Plant

The Doves’ belief in automation is evident when you walk through the plant. Among the many machines is a Sturtz automated feeder, which will cut 360 sets of frames per shift. 

“It is complex machinery, but it’s easy to change the program,” says Bruce Dove. “I’m a big believer in flexibility. That allows us to change on the fly.”

Bruce is also a big believer in back-up equipment. The plant has a smaller version of the feeder—this one by GED. With the two machines the plant can cut 800 frames per shift.

It also houses two Sampson frame welders, which offer redundancy if one goes down. And at the sawing center, Dove has three saws, all from Joseph Machinery. 

“We have one saw that does everything,” says Bruce. “If any machine is down we have a backup. Up time is critical.”

Bruce says the company has a sash fabrication center from Sampson that still works great, even though it’s at least ten years old. 

“We pound away on it and it still does a great job,” he says.

And that’s nothing compared to one machine used in the plant. Grandfather, Nathan, made a machine in the 1970s with Bob Quinn, the owner of Sampson. “It still runs,” says Bruce. It cuts different angles into grids for the diamond grid production.

Bruce can’t help but smile when talking about his grandfather, whom he describes as a “machine and tool guy,” who held 19 patents.

But most machines in the plant are more recent ones produced by various industry suppliers. 

When it comes to screen production, one product used is an automatic screen cutting machine from Joseph. Dove offers screens that differ from what most competitors offer. 

“We only use extruded screen material even in new construction,” says Bruce. “We’ve always done that. We’ve just always believed in offering a really rigid screen.”

Other machines in the plant include a Sturtz compact welder, which will produce 850 to 900 fully welded sash per shift—cleaned and processed. “It’s a fabulous machine,” says Bruce.

He praises his machinery suppliers, but admits he demands a lot from them.

“For this Sturtz line I had a very special request,” he says. Sturtz configured the machine so it could perform off-stack welding as well as equal and unequal sash welding he required. 

And again, being a big believer in backups, Bruce also has an old Sampson quad-stack welder which is capable of processing 600 to 700 sashes per shift.

Bruce also has a Joseph machine in its plant to produce casement windows, and says that isn’t found in many plants. 

“Not many people have it because most people don’t automate casements,” he says. “You have to do a lot of volume to use it. The employees love it because they used to do it by hand and they hated it.”

The company has two glass production lines, one manual and one automated. The manual machine is made by Billco and Dove; a piece of glass is placed on the line every 26 seconds. The company also has an automated glass cutting machine from Billco. Bruce adds that the plant utilizes straight line production in this area. “No one picks the glass up,” he says. 

Dove’s main glass supplier is PPG, Cardinal supplies its tempered glass. 

Maintaining all this equipment are six maintenance technicians who work out of Dove’s machine shop. 

“I couldn’t live without these guys,” says Bruce. “Without a maintenance crew, the rest doesn’t matter.”

Keeping the plant as a whole running smoothly is computer software from WinSys. Bruce, who studied computer programming, says he uses it to the max—in every aspect of the program. 

“[WinSys is] an unbelievable vendor,” he says. “I can’t believe everyone doesn’t use [this].”

He adds that the vendor doesn’t charge for software implementation; companies simply lease the software. 

At Dove, the company expects a lot from its vendors, as the company is focused on providing the best products for its customers. 

Tara Taffera is the editor/publisher of DWM magazine. 

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