• Field Notes 28.07.2010 1 Comment

    All too often in business when there’s a problem with a product or some other failure, manufacturers are slow to provide details. I have a feeling that there’s usually some corporate attorney (or multiple attorneys) out there that might not be allowing the operating people to say what they know. It’s regrettable that there can’t be more open and up-front discussion of issues that might be critical to customers or others.

    After the BP oil spill and Toyota recall problems (I’ll bet Toyota’s glad something else replaced them on the front page), you’d think it would be in everybody’s best interest if companies were more forthcoming not only with what the problem might be, but what the solution is.

    A recent example in our industry is the reports that have come out on problems with some batches of silicone sealants. There was an announcement of a manufacturing problem, but beyond that, little information on how extensive the issue is (or not) and how it should be solved.

    Questions I have – that I don’t recall seeing answers to – on the sealants are:

    1. Does the air entrainment in the secondary seal compromise the expected service life of a glass lite? Having it last the 10-year warranty is not what I’m talking about. Most glass ought to be good for 25-30 years, if not longer:  does this issue compromise that?
    2. It makes sense that if the lite is put in a four-sided captured glazing system, nothing bad is expected to happen – the pressure plates or gaskets always putting pressure on the sandwich will help hold it together.  But that doesn’t have anything to do with item 1 above, or does it?
    3. What about a structural silicone glazing system, be it four-sided (no captured edges) or two-sided? What’s the long-term viability of such units? Should they be replaced?
    4. How many glass lites were made with problematic sealants, and how many of them may need to be replaced?
    5. Are there other things we’re not aware of yet, but that could be a problem down the road?

    My dad worked for the makers of Tylenol when someone put cyanide in some of the tablets in the early ’80s.  Johnson & Johnson, their parent company, jumped in with both feet to notify the public. They initially didn’t know if the products were tampered with or, if it was, heaven forbid, something in the manufacturing process. But they immediately pulled all the products off the shelf and bought new bottling equipment that put the film over the bottle or the plastic wrap over the cap. (Yes, you have that scare to thank for that “advance” in the human endeavor.)

    But the point is, how Johnson & Johnson dealt with that whole fiasco is now taught at business schools.  Namely, to be proactive and transparent:  Even if you don’t know the cause, tell your customers what you’re doing in the meantime, and be completely up-front and open about it.  People will respect that.  When it’s found that it wasn’t your fault, your customers will keep using your product, even paying the premium for the safety or other added features you’ve incorporated. Tylenol’s sales ticked up after the tampering cause was discovered, and J&J loudly advertised what they were doing to protect the public from that happening again.

    Just as important, and often overlooked, J&J was telling their people that they had confidence in them that they hadn’t screwed up making Tylenol.  They stood behind their people from the very beginning.  Tylenol would have gone away and never been heard from again if it had been the manufacturing and not tampering.  Doing the right thing for the right reason is always the best way to go.

  • Can someone tell me who makes the largest glass lite?  From a recent USGNN.com story, the China Apple store glass looks to be about 6’-0” wide, maybe 30’-0” tall, and it’s curved! An architect called me last week about a domestic supplier who’s making a laminated/insulating unit that is 120” x 240”.  Who in the tar blazes makes a glazing cup machine that can lift a lite that big? And how much does that bad boy cost to make? And how do you build a crate to ship it? How many lift points are there? How does it keep from sagging? Simply amazing!!!

    Let’s have a contest:  Submit pictures like those of the Apple store, with your largest lite of glass, project name, glazing sub installing them, the glass supplier and hopefully with pictures with people in them to give them some scale. We’ll categorize them:

    1. Insulated glass (with composition, double- or triple-glazed, with or without laminated lites)
    2. Laminated glass: some of these monsters can be huge in more ways. I know of a job, built to be blast-resistant, that had two layers 3/8” thick sandwiched around a ½” thick lite, I think, and it was a private (not government  or military) project.  Let’s categorize this one:
      By size
      By weight
    3. Monolithic:  No lami, but tempered, heat-strengthened or annealed. This one we can judge by thickness and size:
      3/8”,
      ½”,
      ¾”, or
      Thicker

    Nothing official, but wouldn’t it be fun to see some of the gargantuan jobs being done out there?

  • I haven’t been much of a soccer fan, but am becoming one as a result of the World Cup.  Having suppliers based in Europe – talk about fanatical! Guess that’s what happens when the Super Bowl of your sport only happens once every four years.

    For those of you at BEC a couple of years ago when Mike Eruzione was the keynote speaker, one of the points he raised was the U.S. Hockey Team’s victory at the 1980 Olympics wasn’t just luck. And if you saw the Kurt Russell movie about it, you’ll remember (and Mike alluded to it) that Herb Brooks knew who his players were before the tryouts, worked their butts off to make them a team, and reminded them that they’d remember the 3rd period “for the rest of your #*@! lives.”

    The World Cup only reinforces that concept. It’s absolutely amazing to see different teams’ approach to the game. How well Spain managed to control possession against a pretty good German team. How good these guys are at this level, from the final eight teams on to the final two.

    And, believe it or not, this all has relevance to our industry. If you’ll recall Eruzione’s drawing the parallel, how well any business does first depends on having someone who can successfully put a team together, help make them successful by working them in practice (only practice in the business world ain’t practice, it’s working real-world, real-time projects), stretching them to achieve great things (the sum always being greater than the whole) and then enjoying the success. Another big difference: the business team has to keep doing it year-in, year out. Their team doesn’t stop being a team just because the Olympics are over.

    On the other side, what happened to the French and Italian teams or their business equivalents? Talk about a coaching challenge! There are people out there who can coach up a team. Michael Jordan never won a title until Phil Jackson got to Chicago. Talent helps. Vision to put it all together and make it work is simply remarkable. Bill Davidson at Guardian was probably like that. Some of the original Apogee guys, Jerry Andersen, Gary Haider, Larry Neiderhoffer. When it doesn’t work, it doesn’t often get to be the implosion the French World Cup team appears to have gone through.

    It’s interesting to note the “best companies to work for” results that magazines often run. Funny, never see any “best companies NOT to work for” but in all likelihood we all have our list of where we wouldn’t work.

    Find the winners, ride the wave and be a team player. If you can just fill in a small piece of the puzzle, being a part of the whole is definitely worth it. It does take work, it isn’t easy, but it is worth it. And you will “remember it for the rest of your !@#$E% life.”

    PS:  Way to go, Spain! Don’t have any suppliers from the Netherlands, at least that I know of anyway…

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