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Volume 6   Issue 4                May 2005

Plant Tour

Perfect Timing
in a Changing Market

Timeline Vinyl Products Carves a New Path
by Alan B. Goldberg

Recognizing that wood and aluminum windows may not always dominate in the window and door market, the principals of Timeline windows and doors are a perfect example of owners who changed—instead of resisting it. The resulting two window and door companies continue to thrive today. 

Although Timeline is only just a bit more than a decade old, window and door making was hardly new to its owners Carl and Jane Bierman. In 1947, they started Lincoln Wood Products which continues to produce high quality wood and aluminum-clad windows and doors today. Both companies are located in Merrill, Wis. 

As vinyl windows gained acceptance in the marketplace in the early 1990s, the owners responded by starting a sister company to meet the growing demand for vinyl. They selected a name that reflected a sign of the time … a timeline. 

The new operation was started in what was Lincoln Wood’s original manufacturing facility. State-of-the-art equipment was purchased to produce a line of quality vinyl windows and patio doors in the 80,000 square-foot facility, according to John Heldt, Timeline’s plant manager. 

He explained that the window and patio door units were made from standard industry specifications. But, as Timeline products became established in the marketplace, the company found that its customers had their own ideas about what they wanted.

“Over a period of time, we found ourselves modifying our windows to satisfy our customers—to the point where they no longer resembled those original specifications,” said Heldt. 

“What evolved, as modifications continued to take place, was that we eventually developed our own window profiles and welding specifications. And with these changes came modifications in our equipment as well,” he added.

Six years after getting started, the company had redesigned its product lines to give them added strength and durability. 

“By 2004, we were fabricating all product lines per our own designs,” said Heldt.

Quality Is Number One
The quality that goes into a Timeline window and patio door begins with the extrusions. Heldt explained that the vinyl wall thickness and multiple chamber design are both crucial elements when fabricating a superior product. He said the company’s production methods and equipment are geared toward making a premium product. For instance, metal reinforcing bars are used in every patio sliding door before it is welded, for added strength. When the hardware is added, which includes multi-point lock systems, it is fastened firmly because the screws go into the metal reinforcing. 

“We offer a limited lifetime warranty with our products because we feel confident in the materials and fabrication that we use,” said Heldt. “Our patio door sill is pultruded fiberglass, for added strength.”

Single and double-hung windows feature a pocket sloped sill and the company uses a block-and-tackle balance system as another part of the quality that goes into making each unit.

Casement and awning windows feature double weatherstrip applied to achieve minimal levels of infiltration. Compression weatherstrip creates the primary seal and integral flexible leaf weathership is the secondary seal. Integrated galvanized steel sash reinforcements are used on all sash more than 59 inches high, increasing the unit’s stability significantly. All casement and awning units meet the DP-50 standard.
Heldt described a three-step quality control program that includes a check of incoming materials when they arrive, spot checks during the assembly process by quality assurance personnel and full testing when units are completed.
At the fabrication center, all the frames for single and double-hung windows are cut to specified lengths, notched and drilled for weep holes. Everything is pre-programmed and is part of the optimization program for the facility.
Profiles are sorted and placed into bins based on the requirements for each order and balances are applied manually to each.
At the next station, the profiles are put in place and welded with a horizontal four-point welder, followed by corner cleaning. Drill bits from an automated CNC unit clean the inside ridges effectively while a saw blade follows the contour of the frame. After completing the top corners, the frame is rotated to the bottom. Using profile recognition software, the machine recognizes the bottom corners and adjusts to perform a more difficult cleaning operation. 
With an automated bedding machine, sealant is applied to the backbedding. Heldt explained that a key feature of this unit is its gear pump technology that assures consistent application of the material, regardless of the operator’s speed.
Repairs and what has proven to be critical support are handled by the machine shop. For instance, a number of small machines are made internally which are used for notchings, punches and other related operations, prior to welding. 
“Where the machine shop has been invaluable is if we have a breakdown,” said Heldt. “Doing repairs on-site represents substantial savings, especially when you consider outside costs.”
In another part of the plant, simulated divided lites (SDL) are added to the units. 
“The SDL option really shows how the vinyl market is evolving,” said Steve Kahle, sales manager. “The vinyl market is starting to demand some of the upgraded options that have always been available in the wood market. “
Timeline does not make it own insulating glass although the units are readily available.
“We purchase our IG from Lincoln. Since they are made nearby, we never have a problem with supply,” said Heldt.
The finished product is shipped on company trailers. Styrofoam corners are used to protect nailing flanges and units are stretch-wrapped by customer request.
Today, the plant operates two shifts, five days a week. While it remains independent of Lincoln Wood Products, Timeline runs by the same policy that Jane and Carl Bierman introduced in 1947: customer service and high quality are always the top priority. y

Alan Goldberg is a contributing writer for DWM. He has more than 30 years of experience in the insulating glass industry.

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