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May  2004

Ten to Talk About
Companies to Watch (2004)
by Alan Goldberg

When you first hear “companies to watch,” you may think that this is going to be a list of the most powerful companies in the industry. Some on these companies listed are, while others are smaller, quieter operations that still exert a strong influence in the industry. You may also think that all companies are admired in the industry. But, this is not necessarily true either. Some on the list are changing the way windows are made or the rules about how business is done and this can be extremely unsettling to the status quo. So this list is exactly what it says it is: Companies to watch—ones to keep your eye on in the coming year. 

Some of the companies we chose, such as Andersen, have been around for 100 years, and still have a commanding presence, while others, such as Sashlite, were introduced recently to the industry, and are causing lots of people to talk about this new way to produce windows. 

The list was compiled based on feedback from the DWM editorial advisory board, industry insiders, DWM readers and DWM editorial staff. 

We didn’t rank the companies from one to ten and we believe all of them are ones to watch, thus they are listed in no particular order.

(Pictures) Top to bottom: 
Deceuninck's specialty doors, Eagle's custom windows, Sashlite's booth at the GlassBuild show, ( Top right) Andersen's windows and (Bottom right) MI Home's plant. 

Alside Window Systems
Akron, Ohio

Would not release any information regarding the company to DWM
Alside Window Systems is definitely a company to keep an eye on—particularly in light of its recent acquisitions. 
The company, which has served the industry for more than 50 years, regards innovation as its heritage. Alside started in 1947 when its founder invented America’s first residential baked enamel aluminum siding. Through upgrading and enhancement of its products, Alside continues to be an innovator in the vinyl building products industry. The company claims to have supplied more than seven million vinyl windows to the remodeling industry. In promoting the energy efficiency of its units, Alside refers to the Energy Star®program and its being named Energy Star Partner of the Year for three consecutive years: 2000, 2001 and 2002. 

In 2000, the company acquired Alpine Windows bringing the number of its window manufacturing facilities to four. The acquisition of Gentek Building Products (a manufacturer of vinyl, aluminum and steel exterior building products) gives Alside even greater capability. But it does raise some interesting questions. 

“Will they maintain separate product lines or move to bring U.S. window production to Canada? Will they bring Canadian products south of the border? Will manufacturing facilities by closed,” asked Phil Lewin, vice president, marketing Vinyl Window Designs. (Lewin is a member of the DWM editorial advisory board and although Alside is a competitor, Lewin was one of those who nominated Alside as a company to watch).

Described as acquisition-and growth-oriented in the U.S. market, Alside will definitely be a company to watch in 2004.

Andersen Corp.
Bayport, Minn. 

Private company; Will not release annual sales (Forbes magazine estimated it to be $2 billion in 2002); Company says the number of employees is changing constantly (Forbes estimated it to be 8,000 in 2002); 32 locations.
The Andersen brand, according to a recent company report, is the most recognized and most used brand in the fenestration market. The company says it has a long-time commitment to product excellence, customer satisfaction, environmental stewardship, employee welfare and corporate citizenship and that all these traits have contributed to the reputation the company enjoys. At 100 years old, Andersen still has a strong presence and is viewed as an innovator. 

A privately-owned company, it was founded at a lumberyard in a Wisconsin river town in 1903 by Danish immigrant Hans Andersen and his family. Today, it is an international enterprise that employs more than 8,000 people in 32 locations. Its Bayport headquarters is a 2.8 million square foot facility that covers 65 acres. 
Andersen products are available in more than 600,000 unique shapes and styles. Product families include: wood-clad products; a series on the most popular sizes styles and options in a more affordable offering; and a revolutionary composite material made primarily of reclaimed wood fiber and vinyl in a make-to-order or assemble-to-order environment. 

The acquisition of EMCO, a manufacturer and distributor of season/storm doors took place in May 2001. The company acquired KML, a Canadian based manufacturer of custom architectural windows and doors in the same year.

In September, 2003, James E. Humphrey was named chief executive officer in addition to his current role as president. It will be interesting to see what plans Humphrey has in store for the organization. 
“I joined Andersen (in 1969) because it is one of the most respected names in the building materials industry. Andersen is a company with a tremendous history of leadership and innovation, and it’s a company that lives by its values.” 

Omniglass Ltd.
Winnipeg, Minn.

Privately owned; Will not release annual sales; 110 employees; 1 plant.
Twenty years ago, Omniglass Ltd. was founded to pioneer the first fiberglass window, principally from the harsh climate of Western Canada. Stricter codes involving energy and coastal weather and increased awareness of the advantages of fiberglass products as a means of complying with those codes have generated significant interest in pultruded fiberglass. 

“We’ve experienced compound growth rates of 15-20 percent for the past five years, supplying fiberglass profiles to more than 30 progressive fenestration industry customers,” said Phil Wake, vice president, sales and marketing.

He describes the window of the future as an “environmental appliance that will be a combination of materials increasingly with a fiberglass component.” 

The company has been plagued with plant capacity issues but recently, Omniglass doubled the size of its manufacturing space with a 25,000 square foot addition—which includes a unique coating technology and equipment—to its Winnipeg plant. According to a company announcement, the new facility makes it possible to “better service its growing export markets in the United States which now account for 75 percent of sales.”
Today, management believes the strongest growth potential is in the Southwest sector of the United States as window manufacturers are recognizing the imperviousness of fiberglass to temperature extremes. 

Many window manufacturers see fiberglass as a growth area.

“With continuing pressure from regulators on green, energy and structural issues, fiberglass will be an in-demand solution,” said Stephen Thwaites, managing director of Thermotech Windows in Ottawa, Ontario. 

Deceuninck North America
Private company; Will not release annual sales; 670 employees; 3 plants.
With its recent acquisitions of Dayton Technologies and Vinyl Building Products (among the five largest extruders in North America), Deceuninck North America (DNA) has emerged as “one of the largest and strongest profile producers in North America,” according to Ralph Weiss, president. It will be interesting to see how these acquisitions affect the company. 

In keeping with its long-term and short-term goals, the company will provide quality products at a fair market value “with impeccable service to its accounts,” says Weiss. The company says it will support its fabricators through professional marketing and information technology tools, and it will continue to be innovative while expanding into new markets. 

“We face a mature industry that has excess extrusion capacity, and with worldwide demand for PVC, which continues to increase and impact prices, we will be aggressive in our pricing,” said John Jurcak, director of marketing.

Another challenge it faces is characteristic of a merger. 

“Meshing two different business cultures into a cohesive unit can be challenging, “said Weiss. “We have overcome this problem since the spirit and goals of both companies are similar.” 

Weiss points out that combining the strengths of two companies creates a stronger, customer-focused organization that is poised for growth. Many innovative products are in various developmental stages. Recent developments include: a high-end patio door line, a coatings solution program and a Sashlite product platform.
Six hundred seventy people are employed at three locations: Oakland N.J.; Monroe, Ohio; and Little Rock, Ark. Celebrating a milestone, Dayton Technologies was established in April 1969. Vinyl Building Products has been serving the industry for 27 years.

Eagle Window & Door Inc.
Dubuque, Iowa

Privately owned; More than $100 million in annual sales; Approximately 700 employees; 1 plant.
Innovation has been a driving force behind many recent new products at Eagle. One of those is an insert window, called the Talon RetroFit®, with locking/tilting mechanism for easy cleaning of double-hung windows, both inside and outside. Eagle Window & Door says it is the only company offering VisionGuard,™ a protective film that comes standard on all the company’s units. It is placed on the interior and exterior of the glass creating a barrier between new windows or doors and dirt and grime at construction sites. 

The company’s goal is to continue to manufacture top quality windows, “offering architects and builders the freedom to design the windows and doors of their dreams,” said Sharon Rea, marketing manager. 

“We will stay focused on high-end residential and light commercial projects and continue to grow with our entrepreneurial spirit,” added Jeff Murphy, vice president, marketing and sales.

The company’s biggest challenge, now and in the future, is making sure it stays focused on its basic business model, which is providing customizable standard products with a short lead time. 

Masonite International Corp.
Mississauga, Ontario

Publicly held; Annual sales $1.8 billion; More than 12,000 employees; More than 70 facilities.
The innovative spirit that began in 1924 when researcher, engineer and inventor, William H. Mason made a discovery that forever changed the buildings material industry, is still alive. That, along with its recent acquisition of Stanley Works, is one of the reasons Masonite was nominated by many as a company to watch.

The company’s website affirms that for more than 75 years, Masonite has been known worldwide for its leading edge product innovation, manufacturing excellence and customer service. Through a variety of strategic marketing initiatives, the company is constantly growing the Masonite brand which, according to the company, “stands as one of the greatest brands within the building industry.” 

Today, Masonite is a unique, integrated building products company, that operates more than 70 facilities with more than 12,000 employees worldwide, spanning North America, South America, Europe, Asia and Africa. 

The company sells its doors, components, industrial products and entry systems to a wide variety of customers in more than 50 countries. 

In December 2003, the company announced plans to acquire the residential entry door business of The Stanley Works. 

“We are very pleased with this acquisition for a number of reasons. (It) is a clear continuation of our focused strategy in the door business worldwide and it presents opportunities for more effective global procurement of raw materials, product development and standardization,” said Philip S. Orsino, president and chief executive officer. 

Sashlite LLC
Westport, Ct.

Privately owned; Will not release annual sales or number of employees. 
For Sashlite LLC, new technology is its foundation. Since the company was formed five years ago, it has provided vinyl window producers with a manufacturing option that could significantly impact an operation. 
“Sashlite is the most innovative technology to hit the industry in decades. Fabricators can manufacture better- looking, higher-performing products that are produced more efficiently in a substantially smaller footprint,” said Bob Hornung, president.

According to Hornung, Sashlite will allow the fabricator to offer more marketability, value and shorter lead times to the customer and consumer. But in an industry with a very diverse base—hundreds of manufacturers of various sizes using many different technologies—developing enough data on the new process and educating fabricators and extruders is the challenge, today and in the future. This is being achieved through the efforts of its development partners and a growing number of manufacturers who are using the technology and its equipment. 

“We have five lines installed of which training is occurring currently, more installations planned in the coming months and we continue to sign and grow our list of fabricators,” said Hornung. 

Described by Hornung as the next generation equipment company, Sash Systems is an integral part of the support offered to fabricators. The recently introduced Sash Systems insulating glass line will make it possible to provide fabricators with accurate information on equipment and process created by the technology.

In keeping with his long-term goal to “deploy other developing technologies and to become the defacto spacer technology,” Hornung has described the next level of automation from Sash Systems “that should be the nation’s fastest insulating glass line.”

“We’re very excited about where we are now. We’re ahead of where we thought we would be at this time,” he added.

MI Home Products Inc.
Millersburg, Pa.

Privately owned company; Will not release annual sales; More than 4,000 employees; 19 plants.
MI Home Products views its “aggressive posture” with trade customers, and more recently with homeowners, as an underlying reason for its leading position in the marketplace. The company has focused on current trends in the building products industry and the consumer market. For instance, it is promoting a cost-effective line of windows that combines the strength of aluminum with vinyl sash in the Mid-Atlantic and Southwest.

The company has used business partnerships successfully, that include leading national distributors, and 19 strategic plant locations to market its product and services. Through national television and popular consumer magazines, it is promoting its name to millions of consumers. Although it faces a number of challenges this year, such as escalating raw materials, an increase in low-cost imported products and liability related to installation and mold issues, MI Home expects to remain in a strong leadership due to its business partnerships. 

“We are better prepared than ever to meet the demanding challenges of a competitive marketplace,” said Ron Mader, vice president, marketing and corporate communications. 

Mader says many talented people have been added to the organization and production capacity has increased through acquisitions. 

“We are better able to service certain geographic markets and have realized market share increases,” 

FeneTech Inc.
Aurora, Ohio

Privately owned; $3-5 million in annual sales; 20 employees. 
Software is FeneTech’s business. But according to president Ron Crowl, what makes his company somewhat different (and one to watch) can be found within the culture of the organization. 

“We are a service company that happens to write software and everything we do is focused on what our customer needs.”

The company’s vision for the fenestration industry is in its FeneVision ™ family of software products which brings visual manufacturing referred to as “view and do” to the fabricator in a step-by-step approach that can interface with an business existing system or operate as a stand-alone package. 

The company plans to expand usage of its installed base and add new features and functionality to its software products. Fenetech’s long-term goals are to diversify its products to other applications within the fenestration industry while setting the industry standard for excellent customer service.

Explaining that software development is a never-ending process, Crowl says:
“I am often asked, ‘is the software development done?’ My answer is always ‘No and it never will be.’ Software that is considered finished will become obsolete.” 

He views the “offshore development dilemma” as the most vulnerable area. 

Presently, the company does not believe it can outsource and provide the level of support that is an integral part of its business. The challenge to remain competitive is to become as efficient as possible in development and implementation of our products.” 

Crowl see other challenges aside from competition.

“Many fabricators have had bad experiences with software. We’ve all heard about the projects that are never finished or are not completed on time or are over budget.”

He adds that convincing people that software development does not have to follow this path is a key issue. The other challenge is to maintain the same high level of service his customers have come to expect.

Mikron Industries Inc.
Kent, Wash.

Privately owned company; Will not release annual sales; 1,000 employees; 3 plants.
Offering value and more to its customers through cost-cutting reliability, as a business partner and innovation is the key challenge to Mikron. Most recently, the company has added significant new material technologies to open new markets and create high-performing products. 

New innovations include: the Sashlite technology, of which Mikron is a development partner; a composite that combines the advantages of wood and thermoplastics; and a method of connecting optional windows components to standard windows without fasteners and solar-reflective coatings. 

The immediate goal is to add efficiencies and remove costs from their operations and those of their customers. The company is also using proven technologies to help customers increase market share and raise margins. Its greatest challenge is competitive pressures from other extruders and other material entries—wood, fiberglass and aluminum. According to Dick Morgan, director of marketing, the entire industry faces intense and unfair price competition from China where their government has artificially “pegged” their currency to the U.S. dollar. 

“Virtually anything you need in our business—from the machines that extrude PVC to the fabrication equipment—can be as much as 40 percent below market pricing and far below cost. As long as the United States and Chinese governments allow this artificial advantage to continue, all of our industry faces an unbalanced playing field,” he said. 

The company is looking at ways to adjust policies, practices and products “to provide more benefit to those emerging giants.” It is also working aggressively to add skilled people in tooling and material science, which has been its weakness. 

Long-term plans include additional facilities and equipment. 

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