• My son, after getting a degree in accounting, went to work for a paving and excavating contractor. Come to find out the same issues that affect the glass and glazing business are the same in the earth moving business: How accurate are your estimates? How well did you define your scope? Are you doing something for nothing because the field guys don’t know what they should or shouldn’t do? How timely are you paid? And the myriad of other legal, contractual, personnel, resource allocation and technical issues each of us address every day. It doesn’t matter whether it’s glass, metal or dirt; it looks like even the electrical, mechanical and all the other trades have to manage cash flow and control scope. It’s all plan, monitor, implement and change as required to meet schedules and budgets. 

    In those daydream moments we all have about things we’d love to do, but can’t without risking being fired, I’ve thought of some favorite things to put on shop drawings or in bid proposals or sneak into a contract now and then:  “Field Note:  Verify dimension in field, cut to length, beat to fit, paint to match.”  Or: “Sorry, we missed that during the estimating, so we will not be providing it.  It’s not in our scope.”

    Along with my business card for my day job, I’d also like to hand out a second card for a company I’d like to start: “Others Construction Company.” We don’t have to bid any work, people assign us work all the time. Have you never noted work as “By Others?” That’s my other line of work – send us your drawings, we’ll gladly do it. Fair warning: Don’t think we’ll do it for free just ’cause it was missed in the estimate.  

    Finally, can someone please explain why dates for buying or starting the work slip behind in the schedule, but the end date for completing the glazing never moves? So even if you start as soon as a purchase order or contract is signed, you’re already late. And why no one remembers even if or why the start date was postponed in the first place? But by George, the end date ain’t moving! Besides Lyle Hill’s immutable rules of the glass and glazing business, surely there are other “Murphy’s Laws of Glazing” out there. 

    I’d love to hear some other suggestions for things you say when no one is listening, or other laws of the construction universe you know about and would love to share, if nothing more than, “Hey if you’re not laughing …” To borrow on a line, “There’s no crying in glazing.” Those people have already quit the business.  But you’re still here.  Hang in there, the cream always comes to the top.

  • Field Notes 06.10.2009 1 Comment

    After more than (ahem) 25 years in the glazing industry, I’ve been asked to add “blogger” to my resume.  I’ve always tried to call it as I see it, and now this provides a new forum.

    This blogging adventure came about from stirring up a bit of a hornets’ nest with a letter to the NFRC calling out shortcomings I see in their proposed site-built fenestration rating system.  I copied USGlass editor Megan Headley on the letter, and she asked if I’d like to be a regular commentator.

    Beyond regulatory issues, I’ll take time in subsequent blogs to comment on working with architects and muse on technical stuff happening in the business.  This is really meant to be a dialogue rather than one guy pounding out his thoughts in the middle of the night, so I’m open to any suggestions you have to start discussing current/hot topic issues.  But for this first one, I thought I’d share some insights on things I love about this business that’s been so good to so many of us. 

    I was fortunate (?) to land in the glass and glazing business straight out of architecture school in ’81, working for Olden & Co.  Bill Swango and Charlie Morgan and all of the good people there began my instruction, and much of what I do today is based on the excellent foundation they gave me.  I’ve also been at Wausau Metals, Harmon, A. Zahner Co., CDC, and now Technical Glass Products (TGP).  Much of this has focused on curtain wall initial system design, preparing shop and fabrication drawings, and coordinating all of the above with fabrication and installation crews, with a little estimating, material purchasing, and scheduling thrown in for good measure.  

    It’s been a great business to be in.  The main feature of an architect’s design, after the general shape of a building, is the exterior skin.  As much work (and it is work) as it is to get these buildings built, after they’re completed it’s very rewarding to see how well they turned out, the relationships that you gain (or lose) with the people who helped build them, good, bad and/or indifferent, but always they bring a smile, sometimes of pride, sometimes with chagrin.   

    With apologies to Mr. John Swindal at Masonry Arts, who may not have phrased it like this, but put the thought in my head:  “It’s an awfully small business; it’s almost incestuous.  If I haven’t slept with you, I can make one or two phone calls and find someone who has!”   While crossing paths with a lot of folks in the industry, it’s amazing to me how many people I know, and how many people know me.

    The business is filled with great people and great characters.  The ones who’ve been around a while are good folks.  And there’s a part of all of us that ought to pass that on to the people just getting in, the way Bill Swango and Charlie Morgan and countless others passed it on to me.   And, we’re tied to each other in any number of different ways, through industry associations, through ASTM/GANA/AAMA standards, through price of materials, through the technical capacities of our suppliers and their goods, etc.

    And for the record:  No, I haven’t slept with…., oh never mind.

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