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Volume 7   Issue 1               January 2006

Plant Tour
Business as Unusual
MGM Industries is anything but a typical manufacturer 
by Samantha Carpenter

Driving down Freehill Road in Hendersonville, Tenn., you arrive at MGM Industries’ facility. Nothing seems atypical about this patio door and vinyl window manufacturer. 

But then you walk in the front door of Building A, and you know immediately that there’s something different about this place. Thinking you will see a reception area, you are met with a number of cubicals filled with staff members hard at work, and you know this is one company that doesn’t take any space for granted.

Abe Gaskins, president of MGM, has a laid-back, easy-going demeanor. But while he is easy to talk with, you can tell that he is very serious about the company he runs with brothers, Joe Gaskins, sales manager, and Zeeke Gaskins, window production manager, as well as general manager Ricky Hobdy.

Looking for Well-Seasoned Distributors

The company, which has been making vinyl windows since 1985, now extrudes the PVC for its vinyl window lines for the new construction market.
“We don’t sell to any big boxes as they have no real product knowledge or industry knowledge ... We sell mainly to seasoned family businesses who sell directly to the builders. We are more interested in the customer that knows the industry,” says Abe Gaskins. The company sells mainly to customers east of the Mississippi.

The lower-end single hung is the company’s largest moving product.

“We’re not like all other window companies. We design a 4 9/16-inch double-hung. We extrude it ourselves,” Gaskins says. “We are not taking proprietary designs off an extruders’ shelf. We are designing them ourselves.”

Lending an Ear

Gaskins says his company listens to its customers.

“We have an aluminum nail fin. Nobody has that because you are adding marginal cost. When you add marginal cost, most people don’t want to do it,” Gaskins says, “but we did.”

Another innovative feature of the company is a corner-key on the bottom of its vinyl windows with an integral shim in it.

“[These] are tiny things that don’t mean much to the purchasing agent, but it means a lot to the builder. We know what the builder wants,” Gaskins says, adding that they keep their “pulse on the market” with phone calls.

“With constant phone calls, you know what the market wants, just from the complaints you get. A broken nail is the major complaint. We solved that with an aluminum nail fin,” Gaskins says.

“Our builders have responded positively to the corner-key feature. It helps them to eliminate a step during installation, and helps to ensure the window is installed properly,” says Ken Meyer, Jr., business development manager for Wilke Window & Door Inc., a Belleville, Ill.-based distributor that sells MGM’s products.

Larry Ray, a consultant for GHG Inc. of Tupelo, Miss., another distributor that sells MGM’s products, says MGM has been a leader in promoting a number of its windows’ features, such as the extruded brickmould profile with a sill profile that emulates a wood window and a full 4 9/16-inch vinyl jamb extruded as a one piece unit.

“The overall pricing of the window products are very good in relation to value received and this most likely can be attributed to the company’s capacity to extrude shapes in house,” Ray says. “We find them easy to do business with and progressive in introducing new ideas to the market.”
Meyer agrees that it is beneficial for MGM to extrude its own PVC.

“The main benefit ... is that it controls the density of its product. This allows [the company] to have one of the stoutest windows on the market. Also, this allows the company to control the lead time on its products,” says Meyer. 

“In comparison with other vinyl window manufacturers, MGM is able to produce a superior product that can be purchased in a timely fashion.”

Making an Investment

To make its products, Gaskins says the company uses Guardian glass, and the same machinery as many other window manufacturers.

“We have two optimizers, two GED Intercept® lines, Gen 2 technology and the I3 technology, two point welders, a Charmille 330F EDM system, a Haas VF-5 machining center and more,” Gaskins says, adding that the company invested about $2 million in the plant last year.

It has a full-service in-house machine shop and a full staff of tool and die makers and electricians to deal with any machinery problems.

“We constantly look at ways to make the work flow easier and make the work place a safer place,” Gaskins says.

Working on the Line

The company produces approximately 5,000 to 6,000 window units a week in its 300,000-square-foot three-building facility, and an additional 107,000-square-foot building is under construction.

It runs one shift for its window products, and a 24-hour shift for its extrusion line. 

Within the plant, each window line has a supervisor, and sometimes they will handle two lines. The supervisor has an assistant on each line, and the glass department has a supervisor. Extrusion has its own hierarchy, according to Gaskins.

Thirty-five percent of MGM employees have been with the company for 5-10 years.

“It’s not about pay; we treat them right,” Gaskins says.

Lorraine Roettger has been with the company for 11 years and works in the window plant. 

“I love my work,” Roettger says. “The company is very receptive when there are any flaws. They 

Roettger isn’t the only female working at MGM. In fact, 40 percent of the employees are women.

“We hire people without gender in mind or appearance in mind. If they have ... [a good] work ethic and attend work regularly, then we want them to stay,” Gaskins says.

A Threat to Business

MGM became involved in extruding its own PVC when its primary supplier was purchased by a consolidator. The consolidator was purchasing window companies that were direct competitors.

“This represented a threat to our business,” Gaskins says. “They did not understand the window business and certainly did not understand the extrusion business.”

Gaskins, who admits that the extrusion line is his “baby,” says that because the company is extruding and vertically-integrated it can look to make the product a little bit better at the same price point.

But prices on vinyl windows are not predicted to stay as low this year.

“[Many window manufacturers] are announcing price increases of 4 percent,” Gaskins says, explaining that component and resin price increases are the cause.

The resin companies have said that Hurricane Rita went through the path of the resin producers, and that has decreased supply, so prices have been increased, he adds.

“This is the first time I can remember [vinyl window prices increasing].”

Peeking at Chinese Products

It is evident as you walk the plant with Gaskins that he is in his element. He doesn’t hesitate to stop and talk to an employee on an improvement that needs to be made or something the he is doing well. 

Gaskins recently returned from a trip to China. “I’m taking Chinese, I’m not saying I’m learning it,” Gaskins says with a grin.

“We are trying to keep our pulse on the market, and the market is changing. There’s not anything in particular we are looking for, but we have found some extrusion tooling that is allowing us to introduce some product that we wouldn’t be able to introduce,” Gaskins says.

Gaskins adds that on this last trip to China, he was looking at fiberglass doors. 

“I’m just looking.”

Samantha Carpenter is a contributing editor for DWM magazine.

© Copyright 2006 Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.