Volume 36, Issue 9, September 2001

FromtheFabricator


Then and Now
           My, How Business Has Changed
-by Max Perilstein

This summer has been a reflective one for me. So much has changed in our sector of fabrication and distribution. I am amazed at the speed at which things are getting done. In some places, tempered glass is being manufactured in less than 24 hours. While faxes are quick, we now have electronic data interchange that allows customers to e-mail their files directly to a production program. E-mail, voice mail and Palm Pilots all have made accessibility as simple as possible. 

As I thought of all the ways our industry has changed, I was curious as to what those who have toiled in the fabrication end of the industry thought. So I broke out my Rolodex again and picked some brains. I posed the question, “what are the biggest changes you’ve seen in our industry in the last few decades?”

Dykstra Glass
Brent Moomey, general manager of Dykstra Glass, has been in various positions within our industry since 1979.

“The immediate thing that comes to mind is the proliferation of products and their impact on fabrication such as handling issues, edge deleting, etc. Also faster communication methods that allow faster turn-around times from building start to completion. This in turn impacts our lead times."

“The above two changes have put increasing demands on our employees, especially from a technical viewpoint. They impact our employees and plant all the way from how a job is bid to how it is shipped ultimately."

“Another change for the better is a heightened emphasis on a safer work environment for our employees. Going hand in hand with this is our compliance with environmental considerations that our fabrication processes may impact.”

Arch Aluminum and Glass
Tony Clark, chief operating officer of Arch Aluminum and Glass, brings an interesting approach to this question, as he was on the fabrication side for years before switching to the manufacturing end. Recently he has returned to “our” side with his position at Arch.

“The influence of information systems on our processes, as well as the proliferation of equipment, are big changes. Through advances in electronic information processing, we enter more orders with fewer people, and reap the cost/margin benefits of higher cutting and equipment processing yields. Interestingly, though, I wonder if we didn’t continue to chase the same problems, would we have a plethora of data with which to analyze? The real winners are those who understand the business well enough to utilize the data that makes a difference, and let the rest fall to the wayside."

“Secondly, the proliferation of horizontal tempering furnaces that can handle 3.0- to 12.0 mm since I was last in downstream operations in 1986 is nothing shy of phenomenal. It seems that all of the ‘black art’ has been removed from the process and the furnace manufacturers have succeeded in putting equipment in anybody’s hands that can come up with the capital. I have been amazed with the people whom I have met who say, ‘Yeah, I bet we run our furnace 4-5 hours everyday.’ It is also interesting to watch more and more window manufacturers investing in tempering furnaces. That tells you that there is a significant amount of capacity out there, just waiting for a downturn like the early 1990s … or, a technology breakthrough that would render many of those assets as obsolete … or further consolidation of that part of our industry. Anyway, I remember waiting two weeks for 1/8- inch tempered. Now, we all have next-day delivery.”

Perilstein Distributing
Ron Hardt, salesperson for Perilstein Distributing, has been in sales and management in our segment since 1974.

“When I first started on the road all I needed to make a sales call was a scratch pad and pen. Now you have to have so many materials with you. Samples, suites, test reports—you name it, you have to be prepared for anything. There are so many products and options and you have to be well- versed in all of them. The modern day glazier needs you to have knowledge about everything available. Plus, in many cases they need you to see builders or architects—that’s something that was never done in the past. We never had the amazing variety of products to sell that we have in front of us today.” 


wpe2.jpg (2313 bytes) Max Perilstein is vice president/general manager of PDC Glass of Michigan. His column appears bimonthly.
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USG

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