Volume 12, Issue 1 - January/February 2011


Making a Grand Entrance
Las Vegas Plant Makes Openings a Priority
by Tara Taffera

“People ask us, ‘What is your standard size?’ We can do anything. The word ‘no’ is non-existent here. I don’t want to say we can give you the moon but we almost can,” says Avi Shoshan, president of Panda Windows and Doors, based in Las Vegas.

Panda’s expansive door and window products include lift-and-slide doors that can be made as high as 20-feet tall. They are on display in high-profile luxury projects such as the City Center in Las Vegas. The products, suitable for both residential and commercial applications, help account for the 300 percent yearly sales growth for the company since 2004. Today, the company produces approximately 3,000 custom units per year and is focused primarily on the luxury market.

Slow then Steady
But the impressive growth didn’t start right away—and it didn’t start in Las Vegas—or even in the United States. Shoshan founded the company in his native Israel in 1990, then moved it to the United States approximately ten years later.

“I got a call from a friend [in the United States] who told me that no one there was doing what we were doing in Israel,” says Shoshan.

His conversations with architects confirmed that his friend was correct. So in July 2002 Panda Windows and Doors opened with Shoshan and his friend as partners.

“After leaving Israel, everything was new here,” says Shoshan, who moved here with his wife and two children eight years ago. His wife is involved in the business as well and handles the accounting.

After two years Shoshan says he realized he and his partner couldn’t work together so Shoshan bought him out.

“I had a lot of ambition and a lot of energy,” he says. “We realized how our differences in our drive and commitment to success was not efficient and did not allow for growth.”

Since Shoshan took over sole leadership in 2003, the company has grown 300 percent from 2003-2007; today, it has 35 employees that handle day to day operations. But that number can grow to 300-plus for particular large-scale projects.

For the first year much of the company’s business was in the Vegas market but in 2005 the company went nationwide and that’s when Shoshan says, “everything became very big.”

“I like to have control [over processes]. It cuts the time, cuts the expenses and controls the quality.”
—Avi Shoshan, president

The West still accounts for Panda’s largest market in states including California, Nevada, Utah and Colorado. However, the company has made a great investment in recent years expanding into the East Coast, and developing products specific to that market.

“We have about 200 dealers and we are putting a lot of effort into building our dealer base,” he says.

Serving Multiple Markets
When the company first started in the United States, its business was 100-percent focused on the residential market.

“We slowly started moving into the commercial market as I realized that you can use our products in both settings,” says Shoshan.

Today, 65 percent of Panda’s business is in the residential market and 35 percent in commercial.

The company primarily focuses on North America but it hasn’t forgotten about the city where it got its start.

“We get a lot of local business,” says Shoshan. “There is a market for our large-opening products here [in Vegas].”

Cooper Buranen, director of marketing, says that this is the case in spite of the fact that many projects here are on hold due to funding.

“We [Vegas market] have felt the downturn of the economy, no doubt. However, Las Vegas continues to be a good local market for us as even when things are bad here, it’s still a growing city,” he says. “There are projects that lose financing and go under, but there are still many projects underway that have secure financing and require nothing but the best products to please the guests of our city. As with the housing industry here, we have done many residential projects because, for people wanting an investment property or that find a deal on a great luxury home, they then have money to improve the property with a custom door to their infinity pool or patio.”

A European Influence
Panda’s products are based on European designs, as that is part of Shoshan’s background. The company’s signature lift-and-slide products include wood, thermally broken, as well as automated options and radius units.

Shoshan speaks a great deal regarding Panda’s differences from other manufacturers.

“Our core is aluminum,” he says. “We can do larger sizes and with more stability. We offer the largest lift-and-slide, the biggest sizes and a multi-point locking system standard in all our sliders, which is unique.”

The company’s products are made of reinforced profiles so it can produce large panel sizes and hold thicker glazing.

“We can accommodate any type of glazing so we can design products for impact applications,” says Shoshan.

In fact, it has many systems that were tested and certified to meet Miami-Dade County standards.

“That will help us sell in hurricane-prone regions,” says Shoshan. “We are working to educate architects and builders regarding what the difference is between their own products and the competition.”

He attributes one difference to a thicker extrusion.

The efforts seem to be working as Shoshan says Panda has received more inquiries this year than in the past. Panda also listens to its customers.

“We look at what the market has and we try to come up with a better solution,” says Shoshan. “We currently are developing a lift-and-slide product with a two-inch stile—most are four inches. That came from input from an architect.”

Panda also manufactures French and pivot doors, the latter for which Panda offers a unique option.

“With pivot doors you can put the hinge wherever you want,” says Shoshan. “One of our customers said he had searched and couldn’t find a company that made aluminum pivot doors.”

The company also introduced an aluminum-wood window.

“We’re starting to sell more windows,” says Shoshan. “These can be used for commercial and residential applications.”

Whether it’s for its door or window products, a huge focus at Panda is on new product development. And, while the company offers products for impact regions it offers products that can help achieve energy goals as well. Shoshan reports that Panda supplied some systems for the Las Vegas City Center, the largest LEED-certified project in the world.

For its thermal breaks, Panda uses polymide, while most companies use gel. “This allows for a better U-factor,” he says, and adds that there is great interest in its thermal-break systems and this is an area where the company will introduce more products in the future.

Shoshan explains that the material plays a crucial role in the product but also very important is the way Panda produces its thermal breaks.

“As we all know aluminum is a thermally conductive material but when split with a less conductive material this greatly improves the thermal values by decreasing thermal conductivity,” explains Buranen. “Most companies use a low-cost option to do this by removing strips of the extrusion and filling those areas with a resin that provides very little strength. This means that they must keep the aluminum every few feet to keep the extrusion from falling apart, this is called ‘Fill and De-Bridge.’ We actually use two separate extrusions and then crimp them together using the polyamide iso-bar as the joining material. This material provides strength so that we can use two extrusions thus allowing for no aluminum connection while providing the structural strength to support the large panels.”

When it comes to energy efficiency, again it comes down to developing a custom system that meets the needs of the customer.

Shoshan says he works with a variety of glass manufacturers.

“The customer may say I want x glass,” he says. “I may work with five to six different suppliers.”

A Custom Plant Creating Custom Products
Shoshan purchased Panda’s 50,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in 2007. When you walk in you notice a lot of light—from both nature and the energy-efficient lighting system installed recently. The company took advantage of an innovative system from Nevada Power to light the plant more efficiently.

“We use crates—it costs more the way we ship but zero come back. In the last three years,
nothing has come back damaged.”
—Avi Shoshan, president

“We pay much less than we used to for our electricity,” says Shoshan. “We also offer a lot of natural lighting through installation of skylights throughout the plant. We save a lot of energy by not having to use regular light. I was determined to have skylights. We have 300-plus days of sunshine to utilize.”

And it’s hard to not notice the pride Shoshan takes in his manufacturing facility.

“Everyone knows I’m crazy about cleaning,” he says. “You can almost eat off the floor at the end of the day.”

But even more pride is given to the way Panda’s systems are manufactured; Shoshan points out that this isn’t your typical manufacturing plant.

“We do very customized work here,” he says. “We produce about 200-300 systems a month. We are craftsmen.”

The company strives to control as much of the process as possible, which is why it also does powder-coating in-house.

“I like to have control,” says Shoshan. ”It cuts the time, cuts the expenses and controls the quality.”

Once the extrusion leaves the spray booth it moves to the oven, which Shoshan describes as “one of the biggest.”

After powder-coating, the product moves back to the table for hardware which is supplied by a select number of companies, including G-U Hardware. The company also offers multi-point locks standard on its products, which is another offering that Shoshan says sets his company apart from others.

While Panda has been part of some high-profile projects, Shoshan describes the company as “a mom-and-pop shop.”

Even the machines used are custom-made and most are imported. The CNC machine was built custom to Shoshan’s request by a German company, while the punching system was made in Israel.

Another machine was supplied by Italy’s Famatec and it can pick up glass and travel anywhere in the plant.

“The system was made to be stationary, but we modified it to be able to move it around the facility. It can lift 600 pounds of glass with no risk to anyone,” says Shoshan. “These are the simple things we do that show we think out of the box.”

The bending machine in the plant was built by Shoshan himself, who has a lot of background in this area. The machine, used for panoramic sliders and other products, was made in Israel then brought to the United States.

“I have a lot of sentiment for the machine I built. We’re not using it anymore but it is still here,” he says.

Once the products are manufactured every system is checked by quality control. “We test all the sliders before they leave,” says Shoshan.

When it is time for shipping, Panda doesn’t go with the cheapest method.

“We use crates—it costs more the way we ship but zero come back. In the last three years, nothing has come back damaged,” he says.

Once the systems arrive on the job site they are installed by installers who have been trained and then certified by Panda. The company offers training in-house or at the company site.

Unlimited Possibilities
Although the company has experienced significant growth it’s not immune to challenges facing those in the entire construction industry. “We have a letter of intent for a huge project in California,” says Shoshan. “But Lehman Brothers was the investor so now the project is on hold.”

But that’s not stopping the company from continuing to produce additional innovative products. After all, the word no is non-existent at Panda.


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