Glass Expo Midwest™ ’18: Education, Networking Defined

By Jordan Scott

The U.S. construction market is booming as the labor shortage intensifies. These trends have reached all corners of the U.S., but each region has its own concerns. That’s why Glass Expo Midwest™ (GEMS) ’18 went to the Midwestern city of Indianapolis in November. The event brought educational seminars, networking opportunities and a trade show to the Midwest.GEMS ’18 was co-sponsored by USGlass magazine,™ and Architects’ Guide to Glass & Metal.

The Midwest Outlook

Nick St. Denis, director of research for Key Media & Research, parent company of USGlass magazine, kicked off GEMS’ educational program with a Midwest economic update.

According to St. Denis, though the Associated Builders and Contractors’ Construction Backlog Indicator was at its highest-ever point in the second quarter of 2018, the Midwest was the only area to show a drop.

The Midwest reflects the overall national trend of having trouble finding labor. St. Denis asked glazing contractors their biggest concerns and the skilled labor shortage ranked highest on their list, followed by competitors who don’t know their costs/bidding. When asked how much of an impact the skilled labor shortage has had, 48 percent of glazing contractors said it’s had a big effect while 41 percent reported it having a minor effect.

Glass & Glazing Trends

The glass and glazing industry evolves constantly, but certain trends are having a bigger impact on the industry than others. Consulting Collaborative CEO Richard Voreis gave an overview of various changes and trends. He said, “While companies vary in terms of locations, one of the surprising things is the challenges are pretty much the same from locality to locality and from company to company.”

This observation is the same no matter the company size. Change is important for a company’s success.

Voreis foresees is a shift toward the materials of tomorrow such as silica and alumina aerogels, carbon nano-tubes, aluminum metal foam, bamboo and advanced pour-and-debridge thermal breaks.

A big takeaway from Voreis’ presentation is the need for change and technology adaptation such as building information modeling (BIM), which could attract younger employees.

The Global Impact

The seminar “C-Suite Changes Coming in the Contract Glazing Industry,” led by Schüco USA president Attila Arian and Keytech North America president Lyle Hill, pointed out that there is a major infl ux of foreign manufacturers into the U.S., including European companies. Arian said that three big construction markets are showing growth potential globally: China, India and the U.S.

Arian said that the U.S. is far behind other global companies that show a correlation between revenue potential and technology adaptation.

Arian compared the U.S. to Germany. The U.S. has a higher cost of labor, lower fabrication capacity, bigger company sizes, less equipment, lower engineering capacity and much fewer qualified personnel.

Finding Quality Workers

Dustin Anderson, owner of Anderson Glass in Waco, Texas, and the glass guy on HGTV’s “Fixer Upper,” as well as a USGlass magazine columnist, also spoke about how to hire millennials and other employees to beat the labor shortage.

He suggested that companies meet millennials where they hang out, such as at career days, to set the pace for “how cool” the glass industry is. Anderson said it’s important to create a culture around the trade.

Another strategy he uses is the “perpetual hiring strategy.” Anderson said that constantly interviewing means that a company can easily replace a worker who leaves unexpectedly.® manager Daniel Snow and Casey Flores, account executive for Key Media & Research, provided tips on how to hire and sell to millennials. Flores advised attendees to go where millennials are when looking to hire them, such as career fairs or the popular job posting site Snow said that social media interactions can help sell to millennials, who are likely to leave reviews for companies they value. However, he emphasized that millennials don’t like to be sold to, so more subtle or creative approaches are needed.

Dr. Paul Düffer, an authority on glass and glass cleaning, gave best practices for cleaning and maintaining glass, which can be damaged by corrosion, concrete runoff, hard water deposits, storage issues and even construc-tion-related debris.

Body language expert Janine Driver finished the educational program with her keynote, “You Say More Than You Think.” Driver gave attendees insights into how body language is often perceived, and how to use that knowledge to influence others, negotiate and even read others.

Attendee Feedback

Glazing contractors and other attendees took part in GEMS ’18 to learn about industry trends, products and to network.

Nicholas Hudson, OEM sales rep for TB Philly in Phoenixville, Pa., said GEMS gave him the opportunity to visit customers and create new leads.

Some contract glaziers who attended the show spoke about how the tariffs are impacting their companies.

“I haven’t felt anything yet but I’m expecting to,” said Rick Sparks, owner of Austin Kitchen & Bath in Austin, Texas. “A lot of companies are starting to bump their prices because of the tar-iffs because they can … They’re making more profit off of sales than they were before by taking advantage of the situation.”

Matt Dillion, project manager at Service Glass of Indianapolis in Indianapolis, said that the price mark up from the tariffs is good for now, but if the market turns he’s not sure how it will impact people when they get less busy.

The Show Floor

The GEMS ’18 exhibition featured the latest in innovation and solutions to some of the industry’s most prevalent issues.

Vitro Architectural Glass focused on its new Acuity low-iron glass, which provides improved clarity and high light transmittance. Director of architectural development Joseph Sennese said that the glass provides better connectivity between the inside and outside of a building.

He also addressed the oversized (jumbo) glass trend. The company launched a jumbo coater in Wichita Falls, Texas, earlier this year. Sennese said that many of the fabricators the company works with had months to make the investments to adapt their equipment for larger glass sizes, but there are some that won’t do so.

“Jumbo glass will involve a smaller group of players,” said Sennese.

He described the trend as something that will lead to a specialized channel, and expects oversized glass to be used as a feature in hotels, hospitals and offices.

The trend toward all-glass buildings and glass with minimal hardware for interior applications is continuing and companies such as C.R. Laurence (CRL) are aiming to meet that demand with its Entice series of entrance systems. According to Walter Kustra, Mid-west director of sales and marketing at CRL, the system has a low U-value and is thermally broken. The storefront system meets high energy efficiency requirements while maintaining the frameless glass entrance aesthetic.

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