YKK AP Technologies Lab to Research
the Feasibility of a ‘Virtual Factory’

YKK AP Technologies Lab (NA) Inc. hopes to develop a “virtual factory” that simulates engineering and supply chains in a virtual space. The research and development group, a spin-off of Atlanta-based YKK AP Inc., says that the possibilities of a virtual environment can alleviate workforce shortages and “aging installation technicians” in the design and development fields.

To achieve this goal, YKK AP Technologies Lab recently signed a five-year lease for 7,576 square feet of research space on the third floor of RIDC Mill 19, Building A, in Pittsburgh. The new location will focus on developing digital technologies that enable production and installation activities to be simulated in a “virtual factory.”

The news follows a 2020 research partnership between YKK AP and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) that seeks to marry technology with the construction, glass and fenestrations industries.

Oliver Stepe, president of YKK AP America Inc., says his company determined that a long-term research and technology development partnership with CMU benefits the trade industries.

The goal of the partnership is to develop new technology for installing fenestration products at jobsites by using robots and (IT) to improve construction productivity and quality. Through the agreement, the organizations are investigating virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality technologies and researching new installation methods.

Smart Lift and Peerless Announce Glass Transport Program

Smart Lift Solutions and Peerless Products Inc. have partnered to create a glass transport program. Smart Lift Solution co-founder Tim Finley, says the partnership matches his company’s glass manipulators to Peerless window orders, both of which will be delivered to jobsites.

“We’ve created the ultimate convenience for glaziers by giving them the option to rent and deliver the ideal Smartlift glass mover with their Peerless window orders on the same shipment,” says Finley. “This collaboration identifies the right high-quality SmartLift glass mover for the job, providing seamless customer service every step of the way.”

The partnership allows glass movers to be included on any Peerless Product order, with free delivery and a flexible rental timeframe.

Allentown Owners Prepare for their Next Chapter

Jack’s Glass has been a central focus in the lives of Donna and Jack Braden for 46 years. That makes it tough for the couple to step away from the business, but the time has come. The outgoing owners of the Allentown, Pa., glass retailer announced on Jan. 3, 2023, that they’ve sold the business to Donna’s niece, Rachel Bednar, and her husband, Mike. The move did not come soon enough for Jack, who wanted to retire ten years ago, says Donna, but her departure from full-time glass work is bittersweet.

“I’ll miss it all,” says Donna. “My employees are like my second family—my guys, as I like to call them. I’ll also miss my customers. My customers are great.”

Despite their retirement, Donna has no immediate plans to leave the glass industry. She intends to remain with Jack’s Glass to help with the transition. There’s a lot of glass industry knowledge to impart from them to the new owners, she says. It would be a disservice not to leave all they know to the new owners.

“There is light at the end of the tunnel, however,” says Donna. “I will eventually be able to march out the door. It’s nice going out little by little because you don’t give it all up in one fell swoop.”

Donna says that while the new owners are new to the glass industry, they boast extensive business experience and are technologically-savvy.

“I’m so excited for them,” says Donna. “Both of them have high energy. I just know that they will grow the business and keep it going. They’ll make me proud.”

Jack’s Glass was founded on June 9, 1976, with a focus on auto and flat glass. The company remained heavily involved in the auto glass sector until a few years ago before branching out to shower doors and residential and commercial glass about eight years ago.

The company’s adaptability allowed it to weather economic storms and foster new talent with various skill sets. Some of that talent has been with the company for around 35 years, says Donna. The company currently has ten employees and one location.

Jack’s Glass has won several awards over the years, including an “Excellence in Business” Award from the Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce in 2009, an “Award of Merit” for its contribution to highway safety from the city of Allentown and numerous Readers’ Choice Awards.

The Bradens’ love of glass is evident. They have worked in nearly every facet of the glass industry, including stained glass, tempered glass, auto glass, windows and shower doors, among others.

“That’s what I love about glass,” says Donna. “You can keep morphing it into what the customer needs.”

With one foot out the door, Donna has an eye toward the next phase of her life. She says that family remains a priority, but she might start another business with one of her children.

“I’m really excited and looking forward to what our next generation brings to the business,” she says.

MFM Building Products Completes Expansion Project

MFM Building Products has finished an expansion project that began in February 2021 that added 48,000 square feet of production space. The expansion allows for the acquisition of new production equipment to meet the rising demand for orders, state officials from MFM.

The project includes new offices in the main headquarters building and a new research and development laboratory for increased quality control and new product development.

MFM officials add that it has been acquiring additional raw materials to ensure product availability for its customer base, with the new facility now accommodating the additional inventory.

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