Volume 46, Issue 7 - September 2007
by Drew Vass, assistant editor of Shelter magazine.
The Window and Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA) met recently in Cambridge, Md., to prove that its members know how to have fun while coming together to share effective, collaborative education. A golf tournament joined industry competitors together in a fun, relaxed atmosphere on August 6, but that afternoon, flip-flops were traded for casual business attire and attendees came to the opening session ready to do business.
The Season of Change
Dave Beeken, association chairperson, opened by reminding members that “change never comes easy,” and “some people can’t stomach it.”
Beeken prepared attendees for the event’s prevailing message of adaptation. WDMA’s recent changes focused on: a revised association structure; legislative issues and the use of lobbyists; market changes; adapting to meet the demands of the green market; and process improvements.
“WDMA is in a state of change,” Beeken said.
The association’s president, Joel Hoiland, provided an overview of WDMA’s new structure, which was instated August 4, during a committee meeting. While reviewing a detailed organizational chart, Hoiland said change was inevitable if the association’s board was going to be successful in providing direction. He said the new structure will support the group’s collaborative approach.
This message echoed through the event’s closing ceremony as guest speaker and acclaimed U.S. Navy officer Scott Waddle explained, “If a process doesn’t make sense, and you’re not bound by some organization or regulation, revise it to make it more efficient and effective.”
Tackling Big Issues
Collaboration is the group’s strong point and allows it to tackle tough legislative issues on behalf of its manufacturing members, according to Hoiland. He explained the necessity for issue-based representation on items such as the recently proposed changes to window screens in Minnesota.
“The biggest thing we did was hire a lobbyist,” said Michael Fischer, WDMA’s director of codes and regulatory compliance. “You can thank many of the people in this room that your window screens don’t have to serve as a window fall safety device.”
The association says its plan to provide issue-based representation includes studying the issue and determining its impacts, developing the association’s position, identifying opportunities and allies, strategy formulation, formation of strategic alliances and action. One issue WDMA currently is monitoring and working on involves the sill height of residential windows. “There is likely going to be a requirement raising the 24-inch minimum sill height,” Fischer warned. “We think the sill height issue is a matter of smoke and mirrors.”
“How many of your companies have representation on the exterior code committee?” Fischer asked.
Four or five hands rose. “We need more,” he said.
“This is an industry that can be vulnerable—vulnerable to bad legislation,” Hoiland warned.
But he added that collaborative efforts require more than just participating in the process. “We do not have the money to do the advocacy work we need to right now.”
The Proof of Research
WDMA says its short-term objective and new structure aim to make the association market-driven.
Guest speaker Jim Haughey, an economist from Norcross, Ga., provided a market forecast and assured the demand is present for doors, windows and skylights, but that manufacturers have to do their homework.
“The housing market is the only sector in the tank right now,” Haughey said.
He also said that demand could be found in other areas. “Hospital and school starts are up,” he explained, “and the strong development of two-story residential style hospital facilities requires the same doors and windows you provide for the residential market.”
He urged attendees to utilize market research to discover areas of opportunity. According to Haughey, the slumped residential market need not leave a hole in a manufacturer’s operations.
The Green Game
As green products become more in demand, the association shared its game plan. “GreenZone,” a page that displays WDMA’s commitment to environmental stewardship, was introduced on WDMA’s website.
Among other speakers, WDMA invited Curt Alt of the Composite Panel Association (CPA) to share his association’s approach to sustainability requirements and certifications. The CPA developed its own program in 2002 and Alt explained it is under constant review.
Hoiland said WDMA’s Environmental Stewardship Committee is monitoring and reviewing various certification programs actively and urges its members to serve as the “eyes and ears” as it adapts to meet the demands of the green movement and become involved in the related political climate.
The WDMA’s next meeting will be held January 27-30, in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
Another Summer Meeting Provides Insights
A few weeks before the WDMA met in Cambridge, Md., individuals gathered in Las Vegas for the Association of Woodworking and Furnishings Suppliers Fair (AWFS). AWFS presented awards for its student competition, Freshwood 2007. This contest is consistently dominated by furniture entries, but this year’s first place winner of the Open category was Daniel Klus, with his Dark Age entry door. Klus had the only door in the event and he was elated to have won his category.
Klus said he chose to design and build a door because he has a strong interest in CNC technology. His father, Bruno Klus, is owner of Bak Architectural Millwork in Phoenix, which produces custom doors, cabinets and millwork.
Bruno Klus said he was proud that his son chose to make a door and has taken an interest in the business. “A lot of kids have no interest in this business. I don’t know why, because it’s filled with opportunity,” he says.
Daniel admits his primary interest is in technology and he attributes his interest in CNC equipment to being mathematically minded.
Daniel’s father admits he’s been skeptical of CNC machinery. “Everything is CNC now. So much of it has become pushing buttons,” he says. But his son’s interest has prompted him to consider the advantages. “I’ve been building doors for about 25 years and we do most everything by hand, but we’re going to get into this CNC stuff when I move locations,” Bruno admits.
Daniel has a deep respect for his father’s ways, however.
“It’s definitely best to learn it his way first,” Daniel says, “but then learn to incorporate the latest technology.”
Bruno Klus says his company produces cabinets, millwork and one-of-a-kind doors, primarily for $2 million-plus homes in Arizona. Daniel’s door, he says, will be installed as the primary entry door of their own home, where it can be displayed proudly for years to come.
Doors in Session
Also during the show, Shelter’s sister publication, DWM magazine, co-sponsored a session that tackled door and window trends and opportunities.
Rich Walker, president of the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA), moderated the event and introduced guest speakers: Val Brushaber, director of product management, certification and architectural development for Hurd Windows and Doors, and Scott Shober, a partner with Ducker Worldwide, a market research consultancy specializing in the building materials industry.
Walker urged attendees to recognize changes the industry has experienced, including an increased amount of product testing and code requirements.
“Twenty-five years ago, we thought, ‘Why would you want to test your product?’” Walker said. “But 20 years ago, just five years later, we chose to test our products.”
Brushaber explained how Hurd tests its materials and products. She and Shober described both the opportunities and pitfalls various materials present.
Attendees were most interested in problems with specific materials and how large manufacturers choose to deal with these issues. One product of concern was aluminum.
“Many people don’t realize that aluminum isn’t maintenance-free,” Shober said. “Aluminum should be waxed every so many years, but most people fail to do that.”
“We are definitely having problems with aluminum-clad windows meeting the Energy Star® requirements in all regions,” Brushaber said.
© Copyright 2007 Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.