Volume 14, Issue 4 - May 2013

feature

Hard Questions About Hardware
by Tara Taffera

Are customers asking for window opening control devices? When will automated door and hardware technology go mainstream? What do European hardware suppliers offer that U.S. suppliers don’t? What products do you need to offer to meet the safety requests of consumers?

DWM sought to answer these questions and more when we interviewed ten hardware suppliers for this in-depth look at the door and window hardware industry.


Wondering About WOCDs

One product category gaining attention in recent years is window opening control devices (WOCD). ASTM F2090, Standard Specification for Window Fall Prevention Devices with Emergency Escape (Egress) Release Mechanisms helps protect against potential falls by children through open windows. This is done by allowing the window opening to be set at a predetermined position of less than four inches and re-latch automatically when fully closed. For example, Truth Hardware’s casement SafeGard WOCD provides a means that the window, when opened in an initial operation, will limit the venting to less than four inches.

“From the safety side of things WOCDs are growing. This is code driven,” says Aaron Mundt, CFBU manager, hinged window hardware for Truth Hardware. “I see that continuing as codes become adopted more in the U.S.”

Dan Gray, director of business development and product marketing for Roto Frank of America, says the company partners with Mighton Products to distribute its Angel Vent Lock which “conforms 100 percent to the ASTM standard.”

“We are seeing all types of increased activity through the whole [WOCD] market,” says Gray. “It started as a grassroots effort where inspectors were requesting this, then it started with the larger window companies and now it is moving down to mid-sized OEMs. They want to have a WOCD solution for all of their window series to satisfy requests from inspectors.”

Vision Industries also offers a variety of WOCDs and Glenn Paesano, national sales and marketing manager, says a lot of states are mandating use of these products for multifamily projects. He says Vision is selling its WOCD into these applications and “it is gaining traction very quickly.”

Still, he says there is some industry reluctance to sell WOCDs.

“It’s a slow moving requirement that the industry is resisting,” says Paesano. “For me it is an opportunity to upsell but some don’t want to sell it because it adds cost.”

Aesthetics play a large role in what products manufacturers ultimately choose for their windows (for more on aesthetics, see page 34), and Lawrence Industries kept this in mind when it designed its WOCD.

“We figured out a way to hide the vent latches and that is incorporated within the WOCD,” says Brandon Lawrence, vice president of marketing there.


Still Selling Safety and Security
Charles Maves, national sales manager for G-U/Ferco, says safety and security hardware is one area in which the U.S. can learn from Europe.

“Most European hardware companies are geared more toward security whereas in North America it seems to be focused more on performance.”

Security is definitely a growing trend and for many companies multi-point locks are at the center of that growth curve.
“That is our bread and butter,” says Maves. He adds that sales of automatic multi-point door locks are growing as are an increased interest in hardware for multi-slide/lift applications.

Jeff Shilakis, president, Hoppe North America, adds that multi-point locks are also expanding from their traditional uses in patio doors to increased use in entry doors—but it’s not necessarily moving toward the front door for security reasons.

“The primary reason it was being used was to improve the weather-resistance of the door,” says Shilakis. “At the same time companies are telling homeowners that as a benefit it also offers increased security.”

Tim Eggebraaten, director of sales and marketing for Amesbury agrees, saying yes, a multi-point lock seals the door but his customers look at these products for the performance of the door system—mainly to protect against air and water.

“This continues to be important especially in tall doors where they want a good seal as the lock helps seal the door,” he says. “Yes, safety is a concern but in general they aren’t getting upgrades due to safety but mainly for performance.”

Homeowners seeking security options aren’t looking for it just in doors but windows as well.

Many suppliers, including Roto, have products to meet these needs. The company offers its corner drive “which can be viewed as a way of enhancing security measures of a casement window,” says Gray. “When you talk about security, the tilt-and-turn window is largely built on a security platform depending on how secure you want to make it. We equate it with performance because we add a lock point around the sash.”


Tracking Automation
What about new technology? Industry members say automation, such as closing a window shade or opening a door from your cell phone, is present, but has yet to materialize in large numbers.

Truth’s Mundt says his company is noticing a trend toward more motorized operators. “The request is there to upgrade the technology and work with devices such as iPhones,” he says.

To sell these products, however, the customers have to ask for it. Vision’s Paesano says the demand is not yet there.

“We work with shade manufacturers and we get automation requests at that level,” he says. “We also supply to the RV industry and there has been some talk in that industry, for example, of the roof closing automatically.”

But most window manufacturers strive to keep the cost down so many don’t want to add this technology.

“The only time I have come across it was to meet the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements,” says Paesano.

Gray brings up the cost issue as well and says, “We are not seeing the cost benefit success to that right now. The volume in that category will be very small and is very much a niche market. We don’t see a lot of volume to justify dollars for automation.”

European-based supplier Hoppe, has also looked into the automation/electronic side as it relates to door and window products and Shilakis agrees cost does present challenges.

“We see this exclusively in the higher end,” says Shilakis. “[From a price perspective] people will look at it then discount it right away. There is a mental price point that people have. Then they say it’s a nice to have not a need to have.”

Paige Muhlenkamp, Schlage brand manager, disagrees. She says the company’s Nexia home automation system is being installed in many builder communities—and not just in high-end homes.

“This is a standard in many of their communities,” she says. “We are seeing it with homebuilders but homeowners are also choosing the technology to retrofit existing homes. We have a lot of folks in the specific niche of second homeowners. They are retrofitting their door locks so they have access when they are not there all the time—it’s all about convenience.”
Hardware companies will continue to stay current with this technology as it evolves.

“With our European hardware we have access to these products so we will continue to these discussions,” says Shilakis. “Overall, homeowners take a much more pragmatic approach to whole the door and are looking for things that will give them the highest value for energy efficiency and security.”

That’s not to say this segment won’t grow, Gray adds.

“We equate it to the European tilt-and-turn market,” he says. “We are involved heavily in that due to the fact that our parent company is located in Germany. There was such a lack of knowledge about European products but now more and more fabricators are becoming involved in producing a tilt-and-turn window. It provides them access to a whole different market. Now we have a proliferation of European products as people look to differentiate.”

Amesbury’s Eggebraaten says the concept of “whole-home automation” is at the very infant state.”
“Customers are asking us what technologies we have looked into and what they can incorporate,” he says. “I think we are a few years early in terms of that being commercialized.”

Muhlenkamp has a very different opinion. She points out that the company launched its first keypad lock in 2006.
“We see this evolving into connected door locks,” she says. “This is based on the whole notion that the door lock can connect into the home automation system—from wherever they are as long as they have access to the Internet.”
The company’s Nexia system, which it launched approximately two years ago, offers “neat” scheduling capabilities. For example, maybe you want to give a code to someone who comes in to walk your dogs each Monday. Or maybe you want to know when a child is coming and going, so you get a text message, explains Muhlenkamp.

“People are thinking a lot broader in terms of what security means,” she says. “It’s not just the front door lock. They want to put security in their home. Instead of paying a large fee to someone else this gives you opportunity to do it yourself.”
Maves of G-U/Ferco says his company does sell products to meet requests for automated products.

“We are currently featuring our biometric door entry system,” says Maves. “It is not yet operated by a smartphone but we have window operators that can be operated by iPhone or iPad. An iPad can open or close a whole building. The number of things it can do is truly amazing. We have always had motorization in residential but now we are seeing it more in motorization of windows.”

Tim O’Dell, senior product manager for Ashland, says when it comes to automation, it doesn’t have to be a complicated system that is offered.

“We are not seeing fully automated systems that require motors … I have seen failures of that as it gets too complicated. Where I see inroads is connectivity and how that communicates with homeowners via smartphone or other devices.”
Axel Husen, Interlock’s vice president of sales and marketing, encourages companies to look to the commercial market and the automated hardware products available there.

“I do believe this will move to the residential market and we expect that,” he says.

Finishing off the Trends
Another trend many suppliers referenced was the role finishes play. Many homeowners are interested in these options due to aesthetics.

Hoppe’s Shilakis says he has seen a shift from darker and rustic colors to lighter-colored metals. “This goes along with the trend toward more contemporary designs,” he says.

He adds that many homeowners are looking for continuity and carrying their finishes throughout the home for example, in their door hardware, cabinets, etc.

Other hardware suppliers, however, don’t notice this trend in such wide use.

“Two to three years ago that was a big deal but I am seeing that fade,” says Interlock’s Husen. “Maybe it’s because people are trying to be more competitive so they are pushing lower-end products.”

Ashland’s O’Dell points out that the window industry is not as fashion oriented as some others from a finish perspective.
Whatever the trend, as some manufacturers stated earlier, challenges still exist regarding current market conditions.
“The low and high ends of the market are selling well,” says Paesano. “The middle of the market seems to be down.”

G-U/Ferco’s Maves says the market still provides a somewhat bumpy ride.

“It’s a roller coaster for these guys [manufacturers],” he says. “It’s a good month then a soft month.”
Hopefully the end result will be more good months and a smoother ride.

Tara Taffera is the editor/publisher of DWM/Shelter magazine. She can be reached at ttaffera@glass.com.

Trend Tracking
DWM asked representatives of various hardware suppliers to tell us the biggest trends they see in hardware right now. Take a look at their varying responses:

Aaron Mundt, Truth Hardware, CFBU Manager, hinged window hardware:
“I would say increased performance and trying to use the same basic platform to do that … as well as increasing size and weight in casements.”

Dan Gray, Roto Frank of America, director, business development and product marketing:
“I think generically speaking for doors and windows, an enhancement of finishes across the board, more colors and powder coat or plated finishes are big trends. Homeowners want to match finishes from lighting to cabinets to sash locks to casement hardware. It is more important than ever for a supplier to have the overall offering.”

“More and more folks look to upgrade from single- to double- to even triple-pane for patio doors. More and more we are seeing it from OEM fabricators of moving toward multi-point hardware which speaks to a growing concern from homeowners.”

Glenn Paesano, Vision Industries Group, national sales and marketing manager:
“We are seeing a trend toward upgrade options and plated materials and multi-functional interactive hardware.”

Tim Eggebraaten, Amesbury, director of sales and marketing:
“For my specialty in door hardware, I see the change in codes that are coming in relation to air and water are pushing multi-point locks to get better in terms of security and weather performance.”

“As far as aesthetic and finishes, popular finishes are oil-rubbed and stained nickel and we see that going forward next year.”

Charles Maves, G-U/Ferco, national sales manager:
“The higher end of the market which had few players is seeing more competition from companies that normally wouldn’t be in that market … There is a little less work and the emphasis is on the multifamily market.”

Jeff Shilakis, Hoppe North America, president and CEO:
“We are hearing a greater demand for multi-point locksets. I think there is the perception that there is an improved security in doors if you have more points locked.”

Tim O’Dell, Ashland, senior product manager:
“Apart from a lower cost all the time, which cost continues to be a big discussion, the number one trend I see is a contemporary, clean-line appearance and how the hardware plays in. The hardware has to work perfectly but it has to work seamlessly. One of the things we do is look at the projection or footprint it needs to have to make sure it has clean lines.”

Axel Husen, Interlock, vice president of sales and marketing:
“We recognize a trend toward automatic sash lock solutions. This was more of a West Coast solution but we are getting more requests for this nationwide. Some of it is due to ADA requirements. I assume it is also growing because it offers features the window manufacturer can promote and sell to offer differentiation.”

“European solutions are still going strong and the lift-and-slide market is growing … We still see a lot of requests for products to support larger windows.”

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