The Fenestration & Glazing Industry Alliance (FGIA) hosted its annual 2024 conference this week at the Omni Amelia Island Resort near Jacksonville, Florida.

The Fenestration & Glazing Industry Alliance (FGIA) hosted its annual 2024 conference this week at the Omni Amelia Island Resort near Jacksonville, Florida. The three-day event brought together industry experts to discuss various glass- and glazing-specific topics. These include innovations in the window industry, diversity, sealants, sustainability, technology, weathering, insulating glass and more.

The annual conference seeks to improve home and building performance by advancing technology and standards for glass, windows, doors and skylights.

Remembering a Titan

The conference opened on Monday with a tribute to Rich Walker, former president and CEO of the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA). He died in late 2023.

Walker joined AAMA in 1996 as technical director. He was promoted to Southeast region director before becoming president and CEO in 2000. He retired from the association in 2018 before it joined the Insulating Glass Manufacturers Alliance to form FGIA.

“He will be long remembered and dearly missed,” said FGIA’s executive director Janice Yglesias.

Embracing Innovation in the Window Industry

The session on embracing innovation in the window industry sought to improve the industry’s innovative procedures, said Ray Garries, owner and operator of Global Fenestration Advisors. He added that’s impossible to touch on innovation without discussing artificial intelligence (AI).

That’s because one-third of businesses throughout the U.S. reported regular use of generative AI, with 40% of organizations expected to increase their overall use. A Forbes survey found that 26% of companies use AI in a few applications, while 20% don’t use AI at all. In a poll of FGIA attendees, the majority report some AI adoption but haven’t discovered ways for regular use.

“If you’re not heavily involved in generative AI, you must be,” said Garries. “It can be a great part in freeing up a lot of the mundane parts of the business process … It’s also a key part to fixing our labor problem.”

The session also involved a roundtable discussion that featured several speakers who divulged tips on how their companies harness innovation. The companies included:

  • YKK AP America: According to Mike Turner, senior vice president of sales and marketing, the three key challenges of digital transformation in the workplace are evolution, resistance to change and digital skill gaps. One thing YKK has done to advance its technical footprint is create YKK AP Technologies Lab Inc., which employs young, skilled workers who are well-versed in machine learning and advanced robotics. The company is partnered with Carnegie-Mellon University, which helps it cultivate and foster relationships that can lead to recruitment. Overall, it’s about paper-thin improvements, said Turner. Whether in estimating, improving the dying process with software, or other practices. Try to make incremental changes wherever needed.
  • Erdman Automation Corp.: Morgan Donohue, president, owner and head of sales, said innovation is the key to survival. The multi-tied process includes understanding the present state, identifying critical steps, discerning cycle times, figuring out how many touches are needed, how much floor space is required and potential savings and constraints. Donohue said companies need a team that considers the big picture and offers different capabilities and expertise.
  • PGT Innovations (PGTI): If you’re in a successful business, production lines can run 24/7, leading to challenges for companies to produce innovative products, said Dean Ruark, vice president of engineering and innovation. To overcome this, PGTI opened a new lab, iLab, to invent and engineer highly technical products, such as thin triples, Diamond Glass and Envista. Ruark added that other factors play a role in innovation, including genuine curiosity, passion, communication and focusing on the things that can be controlled.

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