Volume 13, Issue 2 - March 2012

What's News

Technology News
VIG Technology Could Allow for
Greater Window-to-Wall Ratio

While vacuum insulating glazing (VIG) is relatively new in the United States, what’s driving the technology is the increased performance requirements in the building codes, says Dave Cooper, advanced insulating glass (IG) program leader at Guardian Industries of Auburn Hills, Mich., and president of the Insulating Glass Manufacturers Alliance (IGMA). Use of VIG would allow for greater window-to-wall ratio, so it’s in the best interest of the glass industry to develop and use such a technology, he says.

Nippon Sheet Glass (NSG) of Japan has been producing VIG for six years now. “VIG is produced and sold routinely in Japan,” Cooper says. “There are some logistic issues in shipping it to the [United States], but Pilkington does sell the NSG Spacia VIG product in the States. There have been tens of thousands of VIG installation sites throughout the Pacific Rim. So, it’s a technology that’s been accepted.”

The U.S. IG industry is looking into making VIG more mainstream. The newly created Emerging Technology and Innovation Committee of IGMA formed a task group on VIG that met for the first time at the association’s annual general meeting, January 31-February 4, in Tempe, Ariz.

As a first step, the group will develop a VIG white paper that should be done in the next year. Following that the task group will start looking at creating a test standard for VIG.

“There is a VIG standard from China that doesn’t include testing,” Cooper says. “So, it’s more like a specification, not a standard. [Next] windload tables will have to be developed for VIG. Nothing exists. Information also will have to be acquired based on impact studies on how VIG would perform in hurricanes and other natural disasters. We don’t have any studies around that.”

There are two companies in China involved with VIG, one of which has limited commercial production, Cooper says.

Primarily two manufacturers, QH Glass in Qingdao, China, and NSG, produce VIG. Several other companies have prototypes, such as Guardian, EverSealed Windows Inc. in Evergreen, Colo., and Grenzebach. Guardian’s looking at commercializing its product in the near future, Cooper says.

VIGs are used in sloped glazing and in extreme climatic conditions. “In vertical IGs there’s a certain thermal performance based on standard convection,” Cooper says. “When that’s sloped, the convection within the IG is degraded. So, with sloped glazing VIG is a good choice. In extreme conditions, hybrid VIG is a good choice as you pick up some thermal performance with the added cavity and glass, and also reduce the thermal differential load per glass plate.”

Various forms of VIG may include hybrids, where the VIG is used with a conventional spacer and sealant system, and in the future super windows that consist of technologies such as electrochromic or thermochromic coupled with VIG, Cooper says.

"In vertical IGs there’s a certain thermal performance based on standard convection—Dave Cooper, Guardian?"

Acquisitions
Soft-Lite LLC to Acquire Assets of Gorell Windows & Doors
Soft-Lite LLC, based in Streetsboro, Ohio, announced intentions to acquire the product lines of Gorell Windows & Doors LLC, located in Indiana, Pa., which went into receivership with the court-appointed, Pittsburgh-based Meridian Group in early February. Meridian Group will address Gorell creditors’ claims, according to information from Soft-Lite.

“We are very excited about this acquisition and what it means for our company,” says Roy Anderson, president of Soft-Lite. “It will allow Soft-Lite to expand its operations to better service our existing customers, to further grow our network of dealers and distributors, and to offer a broader range of products and sales tools to our customers.”

“It is a testament to the quality of Gorell’s product, brand and employees that we were able to find a buyer as quickly as we did,” adds Margaret Good of the Meridian Group. “When combined with Soft-Lite’s stellar reputation in the industry, we believe this transaction is the best possible result, given the difficult situation at hand.”

It was announced on February 10 that the company was placed into receivership and at that time Good told DWM magazine that Wayne Gorell, CEO, Mike Rempel, vice president and shareholder, and Brian Zimmerman president, had all resigned.

“The owners have bent over backwards to make sure this didn’t happen but they weren’t able to overcome the odds,” says Good.

Company News
Omniglass Plant Not Likely to Reopen
After a January 2 fire destroyed much of the Winnipeg, Alberta, operations of Omniglass, owned by Serious Energy, it now seems the location will be closing down. According to a February 16 article in the Winnipeg Free Press, “industry sources said
it’s apparent most of the company’s former 65 employees are no longer on the payroll there.”

The article reports that “Some have noted with dismay that those employees have been cut loose with no severance pay, regardless of their tenure with the company.”

According to the news report, an official with the province’s Employment Standards Branch said there is a clause in employment standards codes that excludes wages in lieu of notice for anything “unforeseen or fortuitous,” and fire is such an example of how that clause comes into effect.

The article noted that there has been some speculation that Serious Energy may be planning to auction the equipment that could be salvaged.

Kevin Surace, CEO of Serious Energy, declined to comment when contacted by DWM magazine.

Software Suppliers Report Growth: Does This Trickle Down to their Customers?
In a time when the industry faces a tough market, a sampling of door and window software suppliers say they are reporting growth. Some have done this through adapting to best meet their customers’ needs, while others attribute it to global growth and new product introductions.

WTS Paradigm, based in Middleton, Wis., focuses solely on North America. Its CEO Nathan Herbst says the company has achieved growth by thoroughly understanding its customers’ new challenges and needs for software innovation during the economic downturn. Based on customer feedback, his company has focused on the end-user experience.

“The positive increase of our R&D investment continues to be in the front-end selling system and meeting the needs of dealers and retailers,” says Herbst. “It’s important we tie the sales channels closer together and use one catalog to increase our customers’ market share effectively at less cost than the competition during a challenging economy.”

Some suppliers serve companies outside of North America and say this has been a factor in their increased sales.

Ron Crowl, president, FeneTech, says the company experienced 30 percent growth in 2011.

“We attribute it to, number one, new products,” says Crowl. “Second, we are diversifying geographically in Europe. Diversification has really helped weather the storm here in North America.”

Windowmaker Software Ltd., worldwide software provider, has reported a 31-percent increase in sales in 2011.

“We manage sales in seven different regions across the globe, and there has been growth in every one,” says Goronwy Jones, managing director. “We forecast continued strong growth.”

Jones attributes this to a strong sales team and a massive R&D effort that led to the addition of new products with new product line extensions planned.

The growth is not just globally, however. Back in the United States, Crowl is seeing upticks as well and says the leading indicator is website inquiries and “we are seeing some more inquiry activity which ultimately leads to sales. But we all know that process can take anywhere from three months to three years.”

Is growth by software suppliers a hint that the industry is turning around? Crowl says he wouldn’t make that jump. In the United States, much of the sales increase for suppliers is due to the fact that companies that once used their own software now are turning to vendors such as Crowl’s company. And some software suppliers closed their doors so companies such as his are replacing that business.

Additionally, both Crowl and Nick Carter, president, WoodWare Systems, say some customers are upgrading to systems within their lines of existing products.

“We are seeing more activity this year in both new prospects and customers who are upgrading into new platforms,” says Carter.

Challenges still remain, however.

Some window companies may be gaining a larger slice of the pie.

“Our growth has been achieved through helping our customers gain market share in this economy,” adds Herbst.

Crystal Windows Owner Launches Crystal Pacific
Thomas Chen, owner, founder and president of Crystal Window & Door Systems in New York, has established a California-based window manufacturing company called Crystal Pacific Window & Door Systems (Crystal Pacific). Located in Riverside, Calif., the company will produce vinyl doors and windows for markets in Southern California, Arizona and Nevada. According to Chen, the two companies are entirely separate entities and will operate completely independent of one another.

Recently Crystal Pacific acquired certain assets from the now-defunct small vinyl residential window manufacturing firm Malibu Window & Door, headquartered in South El Monte, Calif.

“My plans are to bring to Crystal Pacific the exemplary quality, service, manufacturing expertise and product innovation and value that have made Crystal Windows back East so successful,” says Chen, in the release. “Crystal Pacific’s customers who were familiar with Malibu Window & Door have already begun to see the changes and improvements that result from the implementation of leading fenestration business practices.”

Chen says Crystal Pacific will be serving the residential (and possibly some light commercial) vinyl window markets in Southern California, Nevada and Arizona. The company will sell its own window products, which are suited for the California and Western United States markets.

Announced plans for Crystal Pacific include the upgrade and expansion of product lines and manufacturing facilities. Improvements to sales, administrative and production operations are underway, including the sourcing of high quality vinyl extrusion material. New management personnel will be brought on board to lead the improvements and expansion.

Amesbury Hardware Facility Gets SHARP
Amesbury Hardware Products, based in Sioux Falls, S.D., has been recognized as a SHARP worksite. SHARP, which stands for Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program, recognizes work sites that show an exemplary safety and health management program. Amesbury partnered with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) consultants out of South Dakota State University (SDSU) in Brookings, S.D. to achieve this goal, which it has been working toward for three years.

“Everyone at Amesbury was striving to get this award,” says Scott Page, director of safety and Health. “This award is an achievement of status that singles out Amesbury amongst its business peers as a model for worksite safety and health.”

The plant is the fourth Amesbury site to achieve the SHARP status.

AGC Glass Company North America to Restart Idled Float Line
AGC Glass Company North America has announced its intention to restart the idled G1 float glass line located at its Greenland manufacturing plant in Hawkins County, Tenn., which has been shut down since 2008. At that time, the company stated it intended to restart this line when market conditions were more favorable, and now they are. Approximately 100 people will be hired when this line becomes operational.

“We are pleased to announce our plans to restart the G1 float line in Tennessee,” says Mark Ishiko, president and CEO of AGC Glass Company North America. “This float line will be an important boost for our company as we seek to grow our glass business in North America. G1 will manufacture float glass to serve both the architectural and automotive markets. We plan to service the growing demands of the North American automotive business, and grow our architectural business with higher-quality clear and tinted float glass.”

Ishiko further explained that AGC has a global strategy to “grow beyond” its existing business and seek strategic growth opportunities when possible to position the company for long-term growth and success.

“We believe that there is an expanding market for automotive and architectural as well as new uses of glass,” says Ishiko. “AGC needs to be in the best position to take advantage of that growth. The G1 restart will allow us to be ready as markets move upward.”

According to the announcement, AGC hopes to offer the new positions on the G1 line to the employees who were laid off as a result of the shutdown of the K1 furnace in Kingsport. “Northeast Tennessee is an important region for our company and hopefully this restart will help lessen the effects from the K1 shutdown,” adds Ishiko.

AGC has applied for a construction permit from the State of Tennessee and the project is subject to the state’s approval to proceed. Construction is expected to begin this summer and start up toward the end of 2012.

Canadian Manufacturer Starts Production from New Facility
Canadian window manufacturer All Weather Windows has began production from its new manufacturing facility in Mississauga, Ontario. According to a company press release, the new facility was needed due to “continued growth and demand in Eastern Canada markets.”

“Substantial growth in the Ontario and Atlantic markets made it necessary to move into a new facility,” says Jon Wagner, Ontario and Atlantic regional manager. “This new building has an additional 30 percent more manufacturing floor space, which will help us continue to meet the expectations of our current customer base. It also allows us to continue to grow our business in the Eastern Canada marketplace.”

The facility features a new showroom displaying the company’s range of energy-efficient products. In addition to the new location, All Weather Windows has 15 existing branches and 1,000 dealer locations across Canada, according to the company.

“This is another major step forward for our company,” says Richard Scott, president.

One Plant Closes, Another One Opens
While Jeld-Wen announced the closing of its Cheyenne, Wyo., plant last October, the window maker is now opening a new door-facings production facility in Winn Parish, La. The facility is scheduled for start-up in the fourth quarter of 2012 and is expected to employ at least 75 people in its first year.

“The Jeld-Wen plant in Louisiana will be the most technologically advanced wood fiber door-facings plant in the world,” says Philip Orsino, Jeld-Wen president.

“Louisiana has a steady and reliable source of hardwood fiber,” says Jeld-Wen senior vice president Jim Morrison. “We’re also impressed by the employment base throughout Winn and Jackson Parishes.

Superseal Realigns Manufacturing and Distribution Operations
Hurd Windows and Doors announced that its subsidiary Superseal Windows and Doors converted its South Plainfield, N.J., manufacturing facility into a distribution and service center. The move is part of the company’s plan, initiated in early 2011, to centralize its manufacturing capability in its facility in Merrill, Wis., near Superseal’s parent company, Hurd.

The Superseal facility in South Plainfield, N.J., is serving as a distribution and service center, effective January 3.

“While New Jersey will continue to be home to Superseal’s distribution and warranty parts center, as well as our customer and field service operations, we felt it was critical to centrally locate the manufacturing plant as we take the Superseal brand to a national and international level,” says Dominic Truniger, president and CEO of Hurd Windows and Doors. “The move makes a lot of sense as we can now utilize the existing Hurd transit lines, in addition to taking advantage of newer high-tech equipment in the manufacturing process. This will help optimize both efficiency and cost effectiveness.” Truniger adds that a number of the company’s products, including its casement line, are already being manufactured in the new Merrill facility.

In addition, Truniger says Hurd is making significant investments into Superseal, including upgrading products and options, and expanding the technological sophistication of its e-Bid ordering process.

briefly
The NSG Group has a new logo, which company officials say “will help [its] employees, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders recognize that [it is] a single and distinctive company” … SCM Group North America announced that the DMC division of Wide Belt Sanders has relocated to Concord, N.C., at its Superfici America location, the company’s division specializing in automated finishing systems … Polymera Inc. in Hebron, Ohio, has added 60 million pounds of wood-plastic composite compound capacity at its central Ohio facility. The 160,000-square-foot manufacturing facility houses a fully automated manufacturing system for wood/natural fiber polymer composite compounds … On January 16, MI Windows and Doors (MIWD) donated and installed a complete window package of new MI EnergyCore windows into a Prescott Area Habitat for Humanity (PAHH) home being built in Chino Valley, Ariz. … Officials at Bystronic Inc., of Elgin Ill., announced a new distributor in western Canada in Akhurst Machinery Co., according to a company news release.


DWM

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