Volume 2   Issue 3               Fall 2001

Keeping Out the Bugs

Should Window and Door Manufacturers Add Screens to Their Product Line
by Robert Williams, Steve Ulsh & Kelly C. King

Estimates reveal there are more than 200 million bugs per person in the world. It is no wonder screens will eventually become the most important part of a window and/or door. For this reason, careful consideration must be given to the application of the screen before completing the final design of the window or door. To do this successfully, one must be aware of the many screen options available in the market. Then the final decision must be made: do you manufacture your own screens, or do you purchase them from an outside source?

Careful Consideration

There are several factors to consider when choosing the screen application for your product. The screen should not only complement your product, but it should also function properly. You will want to allow for easy installation and removal while maintaining the screen’s ability to withstand all types of weather conditions. Ensure the screen fits into your opening properly without being too tight or too loose. To do this, confirm the screen size is within the tolerance of the finished window or door size. Remember the best screen applications provide for retention of the screen in the window or door on all four sides.

While thinking about the perfect screen application for your requirements, it is important to research the various screen products available to you in the market. Whether it’s the traditional roll-form screen, a heavy extruded screen or the hide-a-way screen, your choice will depend most likely on the cost as well as the sales features available to your finished product. Like most markets, your options are plentiful. The introduction of new screen products continues to grow as a result of market trends and the need for better performance. We shall observe well into the future that this continuing change in the screen industry will imitate the ever-changing window and door industry.

Changes and Improvements 

So, what has changed in the composition of screens over the past 50 years? For one, we have seen screen frame profiles that have evolved into larger sizes and various shapes themselves. Where the most widely used 5/16- by 3/4-inch and 3/8- by 3/4-inch window screen frame profiles were once standard, we are now noticing that window manufacturers are taking advantage of the larger screen frame sizes in their bigger window units. Utilizing screen frames as large as 7/16- by 1-inch, window manufacturers have found the overall quality of the finished screen has improved greatly. 

We have also seen changes in the shape of the screen frames. There are both roll-formed and extruded window screen frames that have lift rails incorporated into their designs, eliminating the need for hardware components such as pull tabs and finger pulls. These integral lift rails not only provide a continuous lift for installing and removing the finished screens, but they also offer a more polished appearance. Likewise, flange frames and frames with “stand-off” legs are also available for windows requiring such an application.

Improvements in screen hardware can also be seen in today’s industry. We are seeing more options in our window screen corners, including square-cut corners, inside-mitered corners and outside-mitered corners. Much like the lift rail screen frames, we are also seeing features incorporated into outside plastic corners, such as stop legs and other extensions that eliminate various screen frame hardware, which would otherwise be necessary to retain the screen in the window. We also have more options regarding the type of insect screening we choose, whether it’s fiberglass, aluminum or solar mesh, or a particular color. 

Ask the Right Questions

Once you have decided on the type of screen application suitable for your needs, you must ask the ultimate question: do you manufacture your own screens or contact an outside supplier? 

There are several factors to consider. First, do you have the necessary space in your manufacturing facility to inventory the required screen components? Second, do you have the human resources available to set up and operate a screen line efficiently and effectively? Third, will you have the financial resources available to invest in the necessary machinery and equipment? Lastly, will fabricating your own window screens be cost-effective for your company? 

The answers to these questions play a major role in the success of a screen manufacturing operation and should be considered thoroughly before making your final decision. We will explore each of these in further detail as we walk through the process of manufacturing window and door screens.

The entire screen manufacturing process begins with the material necessary to fabricate a window or door screen. Whether you choose to roll-form your own screen frame or purchase it from an outside source, you must be able to order, receive and stock this material efficiently. In order to accomplish this, not only will you require a reliable supplier, but you must also have the available warehouse space to keep the material on-hand at all times. 

Once you have acquired all the necessary frames and screen components, you must assemble the team players. Keep in mind the necessary steps to fabricate a screen: cutting to size the screen frame, processing the frame for hardware, assembling the frame and corners and installing the insect screening. But, it does not stop there. Once the screen is fabricated, it must be inspected for quality and then either installed in the window or door or packaged and labeled for shipping. How many people you require to perform such tasks will also depend on the volume of windows or doors you are producing. The cost savings involved may not outweigh the profit you could be making by directing all of your resources into the manufacturing of your windows or doors.

Choosing a Supplier

There are many options available when you choose to use an outside supplier for screens. Probably the most important concern of any manufacturer is ensuring the timely delivery of the screens. Most screen suppliers have been exposed to this dilemma and have responded by offering daily deliveries as well as sequenced packaging. This is when screens are packaged in the same sequence as the windows and/or doors being produced on the manufacturer’s production line. Sequenced packaging makes it more convenient for the window and/or door manufacturer to insert the screens into their production line without any interruptions. 

Additionally, with today’s advanced computer networks, orders can be processed via electronic data interchange in which the data is transferred electronically from your computer system to your suppliers. Not only does this save time in receiving and processing orders, but it also allows for a quicker turn-around on your supplied product. 

Screen suppliers can also offer you a variety of packaging options. Whether you are ordering stock quantities, custom sizes or in-house patterns, the screens can either be bulk-packaged or sequenced so screens can be fitted easily into your production schedule upon their arrival at the plant. More and more window and door manufacturers are finding that sequencing virtually eliminates the hassles of manufacturing their screens in-house.

As window and door manufacturers continue pursuing ways to reduce their costs without sacrificing quality, we will see the screen industry respond by offering more cost-effective products that are designed for efficiency, too. In order for window and door manufacturers to remain one step ahead of their competitors, it’s necessary to be aware of the products that are in the market and the innovations that are being introduced continually. 

Author’s note: One of the most important things to remember about a screen is that its main purpose is to provide reasonable insect control. Screens are not intended to be security devices, unless a security screen has actually been specified and the proper retaining devices have been installed. A screen will not keep a person from falling out of a window. There are several industry trade organizations, such as the Screen Manufacturers Association, that can provide useful information regarding your responsibilities as a manufacturer.

Robert Williams, Steve Ulsh and Kelly C. King serve as president, technical sales and engineering manager and sales and marketing manager respectively for Rite Screen Co. in Elizabethville, Pa.

© Copyright 2001 Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.