Volume 11, Issue 1 - January/February 2010


Get Ready for the City
Canada’s Window City Enters U.S. Market
by Tara Taffera

“I’ve had customers who have wanted to give us all their business at once. I’ve said, ‘Let’s talk and see how we can work together.’”

This statement, made by Jeff Sadr, president of Window City Industries in Toronto, exemplifies the company’s “walk-before-we-run” philosophy”—a philosophy that has served it well—very well. While many companies are struggling, this Toronto-based company grew by 40 percent in 2009 and 80 percent of that growth came from existing customers.

“Never has Jeff asked for all of a company’s business,” adds Pete Yuhas, national sales manager. “We’re not over-promising. That’s why we’ve seen growth.”

“To watch a world economy go where it went and to see us grow is amazing,” he adds.

Fulfilling a Vision
If you’re in Canada, specifically Toronto, you are probably aware of Window City. As is true of hundreds of window manufacturers in the Toronto area alone, Window City has spent time and money making their name, and mainly their products, stand out. But if you’re in the United States you may not be as familiar with the company. That likely will change as Window City is about to embark on a plan to expand its distribution in the United States—and it is armed with a new and unique product that Jeff Sadr says will gain the interest of select U.S companies in search of something different.

Jeff Sadr runs the 19-year-old privately held family business along with his brother, Matthew who serves as vice president. The two have grown the company to include a highly automated 500,000-square-foot production plant in Toronto and another 100,000-square-foot facility less than a mile away. The plant has the capacity to run several thousand windows per shift. Although they are happy with the current production numbers “we still have room for additional business” says Yuhas.

“In 1998 he [Jeff] told me about this facility and what he wanted to do here,” says Yuhas “In 2007 he did it.”

Jeff Sadr says another expansion is likely coming in another five years.

Eighty percent of the company’s business is tied to renovation, a huge market in Toronto. The company sells custom products to fit any architectural style and complement any size home and has dealerships set up across Canada. In fact, Window City recently expanded into Western Canada in 2009 and Yuhas says there is still “a lot of room to grow in the Canadian market.”

The Toronto facility also has a showroom where a large number of local builders and contractors in come and order products.

“This helps keep us close to the customer and know what the customer wants,” says Yuhas.

Heading into the U.S. with New Products
Jeff Sadr explains that the U.S. expansion was planned years ago as it required a lot of investment in terms of design, etc. He says, “We needed to be ready,” and jokes, “We didn’t miss too much in the U.S. market.”

He acknowledges that some companies may find it odd that, at a time, when many Canadian companies are exiting the U.S. market, Window City is making its entrance.

“I’m not competing with what’s already there,” he says. “I’m offering something different.”

This something different includes a variety of factors, which, in total, account for much of the company’s success. For one Window City offers 3-mil double strength glass with Cardinal Low E2 coatings as standard on its windows.

“What we do standard, most people charge as an upgrade,” says Yuhas. “Our dealers realize it.”

Yuhas explains that with its unique Heritage Maximum casement window series, the vinyl profile reduces frame obstruction by 40 percent compared to most standard vinyl profiles.

“That gives us a competitive edge,” he says.

And while the company has focused mainly on windows, it is entering the U.S market with a new swing door system that has been five years in the making.

The Lifetime Entry Door System will be available to all Window City customers and the company will take steps to ensure that those who install it are trained, and this will include an installation training video.

“There is an amount of training that has to be done on a high-quality product to keep it a high-quality product,” says Yuhas.

And everything about it is high-quality, he says, including the standard European-style multi-point hardware supplied by Winkhaus.

He points out that Window City used to buy its sliding patio doors from another supplier and sold approximately 5,000 per year, then decided to bring its sliding door production in house. The result has been exponential sales increases, according to Yuhas.

According to the company, a dealer can purchase a Lifetime Entry Door System and have the choice of using an all uPVC panel or choose from a fiberglass and even wood panel option. It will be available in standard or custom sizes without any extra lead time required.

“We want to fit the need of the dealer who can’t offer customization,” says Yuhas.

He knows some may be skeptical, but once they see the product these doubts will fade. The Ultra Sliding Patio door is
available assembled or in a knock down form for easier handling and offers transportation and warehousing options.

“A dealer said, ‘I don’t want a knock-down door.’ On a bet I said I could give the sales pitch and install it in 15 minutes, which I did and he bought it,” says Yuhas.

Though opportunities abound, Window City still is working out some challenges such as packing and shipping these products but is working with a large door manufacturer that has a great deal of expertise in this area.

“Doors are always a challenge,” says Jeff Sadr.

Window City says this new product may be of great interest to some window manufacturers that may want to offer a door product, but don’t want to manufacture the doors themselves.

“We’re looking at opening this up to other vinyl manufacturers,” says Yuhas. “We’re willing to talk with the right partner. We would sell them a finished product that they can sell. We want to be able to produce 100 to 500 custom doors a day.”

“With one-step distributors you have an opportunity to develop a relationship with
them and get the right people selling the right products.”
—Jeff Sadr, president

Committed to Automation/ Controlling the Process
“Part of the long-term vision [of Window City] is [that] quality begins with commitment,” says Yuhas. “If you’re not committed, you have a 50-50 chance of surviving. It comes down to your mindset and you’re willingness to invest.”

Window City has invested in all this automation because the company believes in controlling all aspects of the window manufacturing process without having to rely on outside sources. It makes its own extrusions, screens and laminated glass just to name a few.

As far as making its own compound, Yuhas says, “This is unheard of for a window company of our size.”

The compound is automatically fed to the extruders, which Yuhas describes as one giant Play-Doh machine, and the co-extruded cap stock color material is bonded to the profile.

“The extrusion process is very unique to our product, we introduced this process to Canada 15 years ago and it has been extremely successful for us” adds Yuhas.

The company relies on Edgetech to supply its Super Spacer product, which is standard on all its products. The spacer is applied using an automated process, which results in less error than if it were applied on a table, according to the company.

The machine used to apply the spacer, as well as a myriad of other steps in the window process, is one of the two Lisec fully automated glass lines found in the plant. (Window City is in the process of considering a third to manufacture quad units with an R-value of 13 or 14).

This extremely automated machine also fills the argon or krypton gas content right on the line and prints the content on spacer, and Yuhas says Window City is the only company in North America that can make that statement.

The reason they do it is simple. “We want to make sure the consumer gets what the dealer sold them,” says Yuhas.

Some manufacturers krypton-fill to meet advanced energy efficiency requirements. Some do it in lieu of triple glazing and some combine the two. Sixty to seventy percent of Window City’s products are triple-glazed as the company strives to exceed Canada’s Energy Star® standards, which are becoming more stringent than U.S. standards. In June 2010, for example, Canada’s Energy Star program is putting new guidelines in place making their guidelines more stringent than the United States.

“In the prairies, double-pane is pretty much eliminated,” says Yuhas.

While many window companies in the United States are reluctant to move toward triples, that’s not the case at Window City where even quad units are manufactured on the Lisec lines.

But the company cautions other manufacturers to not just take an existing design and put heavier glass in it.

“We’ve designed windows to carry it [due to reinforcements put in the windows],” says Yuhas. “Some companies put in heavier glass, but the window wasn’t designed to carry it and the windows will fail over time.”

In addition to glass production, other automated machines found in the plant include a series of welders to operate multiple profiles from suppliers such as Sturtz and Urban. The machines weld the sash and frame in a stack situation. In fact, the company has a Sturtz machine dedicated to welding Window City’s Heritage line of products.

Again, Yuhas points out how these automated machines makes the company’s products stand out.

“You don’t see a lot of contours in the vinyl window industry because you can’t do it by hand,” he says. “The machine has already calculated how much “squeeze out” there will be, etc., and it accounts for that.”

Screen production is another challenging part of the window manufacturing process.

“You can get a lot of callbacks on screens,” says Yuhas, who says Window City brought this process in-house about a year ago to again control the process.

The company uses a Winpro roll-forming machine, then the roll-formed screen is cut to length.

With Window City so highly automated it would only make sense that the company’s software is as well. The company uses the Cantor software from Albat and Wirsam and all software components in the plant were created directly for them.

“Because of a scanner we can track the whole process,” says Jeff Sadr. “There is no guesswork.”

Selling through the Supply Chain
When it comes to selling their products, Window City works with dealers who realize the quality of their products and processes.

“We have focused on capital investments and our dealers know that,” says Jeff Sadr. “People aren’t coming to us for the lowest price.”

The company is also very focused on working with the “right dealers” to sell their products.

“With one-step distributors you have an opportunity to develop a relationship with them and get the right people selling the right products,” says Jeff Sadr.

This allows the company to then sell a customized set of solutions to the end consumer. For example, Window City has a program called Solar Solutions where the dealer can customize the solutions for a home. For example, a residence can have four different glass options in a house to account for different exposures, and other issues, such as sound abatement, etc.

This is a win-win for Window City and the dealer. The dealer also has the option of ordering window size or brick mould size.

“Dealers have said their success is due to their affiliation with us,” says Jeff Sadr. “We have grown with our established customers. This will allow us to grow more in 2010 in Canada and the United States.”

The company even ships a lot of products internationally, such as Trinidad and Africa.

Not Finished Yet
With such a high degree of plant automation and commitment to producing products that exceed energy standards, it may seem that there’s not much more for Window City to conquer. But the company still has big plans and the patience to achieve them.

Jeff Sadr says investing millions in door production is the company’s next steps.

“We know we have to do this to go to the next level,” he says.

But Yuhas says company management realizes that sometimes patience is needed.

“Success takes time and you have to do a lot of things right,” says Yuhas. “Patience has proven to be successful.”

“I’m setting the table,” says Jeff Sadr. “If they like it, they will come back.”

Tara Taffera is the editor/publisher of DWM magazine.



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