Volume 8, Issue 8 - September 2007

Great Expectations for Glass Suppliers
Raising the Bar for Glass Suppliers
by Alan B. Goldberg

Door and window manufacturers have a lot to say about their expectations of hardware suppliers (see DWM, June 2007, page 48). As a follow-up to the survey, we asked them the same questions about glass suppliers. Is the bar the same for all suppliers? 

Quality Still Tops the List
Once again, manufacturers rated quality as the most important factor. “Quality will always be number one with us and price number two,” says Don Neil, vice president of administrative operations for BF Rich in Newark, Del. “The other factors are important but not to the same extent, as long as there is consistency. If there is no quality, there is no vendor.”

For the most part, manufacturers use more than one supplier although the reasons vary.

“We have two back-up suppliers to guarantee supply and keep track of pricing trends,” says Wayne Gorell, chairman and chief executive officer of Gorell Enterprises in Indiana, Pa. . For PGT Industries of Venice, Fla., the reasons have more to do with availability.

“We use more than one glass manufacturer [PPG and Cardinal FG] because the variety of glass types and colors are not available from [one single source],” says Brad Voss, director of materials management. Atlantic Windows in Port Elgin, New Brunswick, also uses two suppliers: one for clear float glass, low-E, and caselot tempered and another for some tempered glass.

“Our primary supplier had some delivery and quality issues on custom tempered so we went to a more local supply,” says Rob Miller, president. Product availability and logistics or proximity to a given manufacturing location are why Simonton Windows in Parkersburg, W.Va., uses multiple suppliers. According to Mark Brandow, sales manager for Centra Windows in Langley, British Columbia, more than one supplier is used because competition helps keep costs down.

Not All are Alike
But not every manufacturer follows this rule of thumb. Insula-Dome in Yaphank, N.Y., has one primary supplier and uses a local source for what Peter Kroes, its director of sales and marketing, describes as specials. BF Rich has remained with one primary supplier (AFG) for thirty years, says Neal, although local suppliers are used for specialty glass.

“They (AFG) have always treated us fairly,” he says.

That is also the case with Hurd Millwork in Medford, Wis., which uses Guardian Glass.

“We partner with one raw glass supplier for strategic reasons and for consistency in appearance,” says Pete Erdman, director of purchasing.

Most manufacturers have either considered or actually made a change at one point in time.

“We are constantly evaluating our suppliers for the total value—products, quality, lead time and cost—that they present to us,” says Troy Nesselrode, director of global sourcing for Simonton.

Quality, price and service are the reasons. “A change in suppliers is driven most often by [another] suppliers’ failure to service PGT or maintain competitive pricing,” says Voss.

He points out that the most competitive prices are not much help if deliveries are incomplete or not on time so poor service is the most common driver for making change.

That is not the case with Centra Windows.

“With good service from both suppliers and close proximity, we have no reason to consider a change,” says Dan McLean, plant manager.

Lead Time and Availability
For some manufacturers, lead time remains the second most important factor. Others say price and product availability are equally as important. According to Voss, all are necessary.

“Quality, lead times, delivery and customer service are equal in importance. While you can put any value on each, in the end, you can’t have one without the other.”

Voss says there are other factors that must be considered as well when selecting a supplier. Technology and innovation should be considered an integral part of customer service.

“What can the supplier bring to the table that makes it easier for PGT to order glass and control inventories,” he says.

For Simonton, there is even more involved to determining who will be the company’s glass supplier.

“Glass is such an important part of our product that it is vital that we partner with companies that are viable, healthy and share our core commitment to customers and employees through safety, quality, on-time and complete delivery,” adds Nesselrode.

Aiming for the Best
What manufacturers value the most about their suppliers is no different from the very qualities they want.For Kevin Bosworth, president of Avalon Windows in Houston, it is consistent quality and service.

To Nesselrode, it is a “commitment to the total value proposition.”

“The long-term working relationship and all the benefits that go with it,” Neil says.

“The partnership and being on the leading edge of new innovations,” Erdman says.

Voss describes it as “the ability of our suppliers to match their services and innovations to our business needs.”

And, if manufacturers could change one thing about their suppliers, it would be?“…get the supply of glass closer to our manufacturing so we can stock less inventory,” says Voss. Terry Piorkowski, glass buyer for BF Rich, agrees.

“One-stop shop,” Nesselrode adds.

“Better sales follow through,” Gorell says.

“Better trained inside sales reps,” Bosworth says.

“Better delivery and quality on custom tempered,” Miller adds.

“Trust our judgment when and if poor quality does arise,” Brandow says. “Since we also install, we are in direct contact with the homeowner. They are doing upgrades not only to save energy but to increase the value of their homes and they demand quality.” 

What Suppliers Are Saying
Cardinal’s customers expect the company to be on the leading-edge of technology and to be supplied with a quality product, on-time and complete, according to Bowie Neumayer, vice president of sales and marketing.

“In today’s world of short lead times, being on-time and complete is top priority,” he says.

Christine Shaffer, marketing manager for Viracon in Owatonna, Minn., agrees. In addition, she says customers expect technical assistance, prompt response for glass replacement and courteous and accurate communication from customer service.

“Incomplete or late deliveries are disruptive to production resulting in lost time and revenue,” she says.

Neumayer says one of the major challenges is educating the ultimate consumer.

“We do a large amount of training with our customers and sales representatives but sometimes the message does not reach the consumer.”

He points out that only 58 percent of residential doors and windows sold in the United States contain energy-efficient low-E glass.

Shaffer describes the biggest challenge as a supplier in one word: reliability.

“Product moves from one manufacturing operation to another and glass availability is a critical component that must fit seamlessly into their operation as if the product were being manufactured in-house.”

Is the illusive bar at the same level for glass as it is for hardware and other component suppliers? That depends on who is answering the question. 

Results of the DWM Reader Survey
Note: Some tallies do not total the full 100 percent due to survey recipients not responding to every question.

Geographic Location

Other 9%
West Coast 17%
Southeast 17%
Northeast 27%
Midwest 30%

Job Function

Other. Please Specify 3%
Senior Management 33%
Owner, CEO, President 63%

Do you use more 
than one glass supplier?

No 23%
Yes 77%

How long have you been 
using your current glass supplier?

6-10 years 16%
1-5 years 27%
More than 10 years 57%

Would you consider or have you considered switching glass suppliers?

No 40%
Yes 53%

Even if you are pleased with your 
current supplier, do you browse the options offered by other glass suppliers?

No 3%
Yes 93%

If you could change one thing 
about your glass supplier what would it be?

Answers included: Lead time, better service, nothing, better quality insulating glass, quicker availability of cut size glass, improved quality, the fact that all pass the same surcharge, price, shorten delivery time on special orders, no emergency surcharge, offer more flexibility, ship orders complete, lead times, personal contacts from office, to not view all customers the same way, better reaction to quality issues, energy surcharges, more product options.

Alan Goldberg is a contributing writer for DWM.


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No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.