Volume 9, Issue 3 - March 2008

Only Online...Expanded

Making the Map
IGMA Working Groups Seek Direction During 8th Annual Conference 
by Megan Headley

“One thing I want to come out of this meeting with is a little direction,” said Tracy Rogers of Edgetech IG during the Insulating Glass Manufacturers Alliance (IGMA) 8th annual conference. While Rogers’ comment referred specifically to the Visual Quality Working Group meeting he was chairing at the time, much the same could be said for other group and committee meetings during the conference held January 28-31 at the Sundial Beach Resort in Sanibel, Fla. 

Whether considering a drastic turn for a document, introducing an old document to a fresh set of eyes or growing ever closer to completion of a long-term project, these matters had IGMA members looking in a new direction for future projects. 

For the visual quality group, it was a new twist to an old document. The June meeting had seen a motion to revise the visual quality guidelines draft document to reflect the differences between residential and commercial insulating glass (IG) units (see July/August 2007 DWM, page 56).

A “what if” document had been produced since the last meeting to show what a separate commercial document might look like.

Bob Spindler of Cardinal IG pointed out that window manufacturers present at the meeting manufacture both residential-and high to mid-rise buildings. Rogers, in fact, took an “unscientific” survey of who in the room manufactured 100 percent residential products, 100 percent nonresidential and those who produced a blend of both; hands were scarce on the first two options. The idea, presumably, was that when manufacturers produced a blend of both, the document should reflect the same. 

“Having two documents gives a wrong impression of what the glass manufacturer can and cannot produce,” Spindler said. “From an architect’s standpoint, why would you have two documents? Does that mean you can do something better for one application than another?”

Rogers suggested that the next step would be to look at where the differences lie in the document between residential and commercial visual quality. A few were pointed out in the draft document and addressed during the discussion. For example, installation was moved as a much more important qualification to the commercial product’s visual quality than residential products, since once the commercial units are installed some obstructions at the edge will no longer be visible. 

“Back to the original question … what’s the direction that we wish to take based on what we looked at here?” Rogers said at the end of the run-through.

One document, with sections that reflect differences between visual quality for residential and commercial IG units, appeared to be the consensus. The group agreed to have a revision and draft sent around for a second review.

Glazing Guidelines Working Group
The Glazing Guidelines Working Group continued its discussion on capillary tubes, but this time had a guideline in front of it. Per the June meeting, Bill Lingnell and group chair Ken Shelbourn of Truseal Technologies combined their research on closing capillary tubes to include in a guideline (see September 2007 USGlass, page 108)

Shelbourn explained the verdict on sealing tubes after their research: “If you’re going to seal a tube in the field, you crimp or snip it with wire cutters … but then put a little dab of sealant on the end of that which will give you a 100-percent seal.” Shelbourn had been charged with drafting a guideline on capillary tubes, but instead he brought to the table a guideline for use of capillary and breather tubes from the former Sealed Insulating Glass Manufacturers Alliance (SIGMA). 

Shelbourn had made additional comments throughout the document, which the group addressed. 

With the question of closing the tubes answered, the group asked whether a note needed to be added to its document cautioning individuals not to use capillary tubes in gas-filled units. Spindler noted that it does happen that people use tubes in gas-filled units.

“The intent is that the claim cannot be made that the unit has a specific performance,” Spindler said.

“Any gas content will change if capillary or breather tubes are used,” Lingnell added.

“We’re not a group that gives permission or not,” said Chris Barry of Pilkington. “It physically can be done.” The instruction should not use capillary tubes with gas-filled units was the prevailing recommendation.

Once the capillary tubes are in, Greg Carney of the Glass Association of North America (GANA) said that it’s not unlikely that glaziers will try to take them out. “I have seen situations where they are in the way and they cut capillary tubes, altering them dramatically,” Carney said.

Section 6.0 on glazing thus gained a recommendation that capillary tubes not be shortened or removed during glazing. Rogers next brought up the joint IGMA-GANA working group and its goal of developing guidelines for use of capillary tubes. Rogers said customers are asking for guidance: “When do I use capillary tubes? What are the rules for capillary tubes?”

“It was asked that the two associations create a standardized recommendation,” Rogers said, adding, “To date we haven’t come to terms as to how.”

Webb and Carney agreed to further discuss the joint work and develop the “how.”

Gas Permeability Working Group
The gas permeability working group continued its discussion on its research project, which is growing ever closer to completion. 

“We now have the executive summary, it’s been circulated, but you haven’t seen the completed document,” said chair Bruce Virnelson of PRC DeSoto International. “That now will be the final document for that test protocol.”

This will create a test for the industry if they want to qualify and create new materials, Virnelson explained. “Again the purpose of this was to have all the testing done, same place, same time, so it’s apples to apples, and I think we’ve done this pretty well,” Virnelson said.

The group then turned to its request for proposal seeking a lab to develop a test protocol for argon permeability through IG units. To date, the group had received proposals from two different test labs, while a third lab had expressed interest and requested an extension.

Speakers from TNO and CAN-BEST were at the meeting to offer presentations on how they would conduct the tests, as well as the approximate costs of each step.

Following the big numbers, a member of the audience asked whether there was someplace else from which some of this test data could be pulled rather than seeking funding for testing. “This will be the first time it’s broken down into a small component,” Virnelson responded. “We’re pioneers.”

He explained that if the test provides good data, “then other people who want to qualify for gas fill would run this method.” The group will aim to get additional proposals in for consideration prior to the next meeting, and to have time to “really digest these proposals” made in Florida. The group plans to make a decision in time for its next meeting.

Thermal Stress Working Group
The Thermal Stress Working Group still had no responses to its survey on thermal stress breakage case studies, Webb reported. “I think some people got a little conservative,” Carney said. “If you start having problems, you don’t necessarily want to report them to others.” However, the group noted that case studies could be reported anonymously.

The group is still looking for data to proceed on its thermal stress guideline. “If you want to be a member of this committee you need to provide at least three examples,” Barry suggested. “One would be great—that would be more than we’ve got now,” said Jeff Haberer of Cardinal IG and group chair. 

The group is considering how best to send out its survey. Meanwhile, the “Recommendations to Reduce Instances of Thermal Stress” technical bulletin is being sent back to the group for comments.

Tying Up Technical Ends
The Technical Services Committee first heard a report on its 25-Year Field Correlation Study. Webb reported that the last ballot on the document received a 60-percent response, with most of the comments being editorial in nature. According to Webb, the only items missing from the study were photos for the report and a final chart. “I think we’re actually ready to vote on this,” she said.

Upon a vote, the committee moved the document through to the technical policy committee.

During updates from the working groups, a motion brought a new document to the Technical Services Committee’s realm of responsibility. “We now have a draft document on guidelines for thermal stress,” commented Haberer, chair of the Thermal Stress Working Group. A vote moved the document to the committee, where it will now be balloted by that committee, bringing it a step closer to completion. The group also revisited a proposal submitted in June on the use of the GasGlass device in the field.

“Basically, it was to validate the use of the handheld GasGlass unit in the field … as a viable way of checking gas levels in installed IG units,” Webb said.

A review task group examined the proposal in October; however, since it came with a hefty price tag, it ultimately was decided that the group would have to focus on one research project at a time, and the gas permeability project mentioned the previous day would have funds thoroughly tied up. 

The next IGMA meeting will be held June 16-19, 2008, at the Westin Resort and Spa in Whistler, British Columbia. 

Keyed in to Global Trends
“There are massive global trends that I think are sometimes easy to ignore when you’re out in the field,” said Michael Collins of Jordan, Knauff and Co. at the open of his keynote address at the Insulating Glass Manufacturers Alliance (IGMA) 8th annual conference. To bring his audience up-to-date, Collins, a columnist for DWM magazine, took IGMA members through some of those global and industry trends impacting the door and window industry and commercial construction market. With regard to windows, Collins noted that vinyl window suppliers are being pinched by rising fuel costs and energy surcharges from glass suppliers that they often aren’t able to pass onto customers because of the competitiveness of the marketplace. Despite these difficulties and the slow residential construction market, he has noticed that many window manufacturers are searching for acquisitions within the traditional door and window industry, “and that’s extremely positive.” 

Several such companies have examined an acquisition as a way to gain excess plant capacity, a positive step, Collins said, that indicates that these manufacturers are preparing to need that space once the market picks up. While Collins said that consensus shows that a bottom to the residential construction decline is coming in mid- to late-2008, the commercial construction market is expected to remain favorable in 2008. As Collins commented, “You’ll still be happier on the commercial side in ’08 than on the residential side.”

Jordan, Knuaff & Co. anticipates continued strong interest in acquiring commercial door and window companies. While Collins said that increased consolidation in the commercial area is likely, he expects that Pella’s acquisition of EFCO in 2007 (see October 2007 DWM, page 18) will not be the last instance of a residential door and window manufacturer purchasing a commercial company. Collins also touched briefly on building information management (BIM) systems, which he explained will be the “replacement to 3D CAD.” 

This software is able to store a variety of information regarding every part and component of a building, much like 3D CAD. 

However, where CAD libraries were private, companies are being formed to create BIM libraries for a number of manufacturers, allowing architects to reference this information. According to Collins, this is a trend that all commercial building product manufacturers will be following—especially because overseas companies will be jumping on it. As he explained, the BIM library provides overseas manufacturers an instant audience of architects. 

“I’m encouraging companies to get ahead of this,” he said. And speaking of overseas competition, Collins also touched on the topic of competition with China. During his research on this topic, he said, “it became clear that different companies were at risk and different companies were not at risk.”

Product areas with a high threat assessment included architectural flat glass, curtainwall, extrusions, door and window production machinery and hardware, due to their long, uniform production runs; high labor and materials content; and high ratio of value to weight and volume. One member of the audience asked if the lower quality of Chinese products was swaying customers from buying overseas.

“Companies that are outsourcing there will tell you that the quality’s there,” Collins replied. “It didn’t use to be, but now it’s there.” In order to compete effectively, Collins advised his audience on several points:

  • Spend as much time as possible interacting with the end customer and their customers. “I’m always stunned about how little [manufacturers] know about the people who use their product,” Collins said. “You’ve got to be a miner of data about your company.” That data can provide early indicators of market needs, he explained.
  • Cater to those customers with “tough” requests. Customers with frequent changes and short lead times will find it difficult to switch to an overseas supplier. 
  • Support innovation. Collins noted that patents from small companies are twice as likely as large companies to be among the top one percent of high-impact patents. While large companies tend to focus on making existing products better, or more affordable, it’s innovation that will help keep companies ahead of Chinese competition. 
  • Embrace lean manufacturing. Shortening lead times and becoming more cost-competitive will help give North American manufacturers an edge.

Megan Headley is a contributing editor for DWM magazine.


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