Volume 14, Issue 4 - May 2013

What's News

Industry Growth: All Segments
Expand in Recent Months

We’ve all heard about rising housing starts, and various good news indicators, and it seems many in the door and window industry are participating in those positive stories as well. Just look at what’s been happening in the first quarter of 2013.

In March, Kensington Windows, based in Vandergrift, Pa., announced that an ownership group led by its local management team purchased the company back from Serious Energy. Serious had purchased Kensington in 2009. The window manufacturer, which resumed business under the Kensington brand as Kensington High Performance Products Inc., plans to emphasize its core business of vinyl replacement windows for residential customers.

The new ownership group is led by current plant manager and vice president Chuck Wetmore, who serves as CEO, and John Barker, who continues his role as CFO. Wetmore has managed the Pittsburgh-based facility since 1997 and has been in the window industry for more than 30 years.

Barker has been in the building materials industry since 1990 and in executive roles with Kensington since 2006. Wetmore and Barker plan to retain all of the current employees, will add workers as demand grows for Kensington’s products and plan to double the total number of employees in the next three to five years as the business expands.

Wetmore and Barker aren’t the only ones who believe that the greatest opportunity for growth is in the residential market, as the housing market continues to recover. “Our track record in residential work goes deep—and this is where our true expertise and passion remain,” said Wetmore.

Gerkin Windows and Doors, based in South Sioux City, Neb., moved into a new facility in January 2013 to increase glass production and enable expansion down the road if needed. Steve Schneider, president and CEO, said it is one of the few companies that serves both the residential and commercial markets. It also may be one of a handful that has grown year over year.

Was it difficult to take on an expansion when the market was still in a downturn? Hardly.

“If we didn’t expand we wouldn’t have been able to keep up with demand,” he said. “We have grown each year for the past 20 years.

Schneider said there are many reasons the slowdown and market crash did not affect his company. For one, Gerkin doesn’t participate in the lower end of the marketplace.

“In times of lull the lower end companies go first,” he said.

It also helps that Gerkin serves residential and commercial markets. When one is down the other keeps the company going.
“We have commercial aluminum products and we have residential vinyl products and those are countercyclical markets,” Schneider explained. “In my 23 years experience, I have found that when one is down the other is up. Occasionally they run up together but I never have seen them run down together even in 2006 or 2011.”

Last year, in fact, Gerkin posted a 20-percent increase in sales.

“I know that did not happen for everyone and I know there are some that are still hanging on by a thread,” he said. “It’s a whole mentality and how you operate in general, reinvesting back in your business. When you go into a downturn like that you need to retool and revisit your product lines and I don’t know that everyone did that.”

The company’s existing building is still used for window production, as the new facility was built strictly for production of its IG units as the company was short on space for this process.

Gerkin purchased new automated machinery for IG production which has helped the company produce more units. This included a new glass optimization system and cutter and a fully automated production line. Schneider said the company has space for another fully automated production line and another washer and may be looking at these purchases down the road.

“We did a lot of little things that add up to more windows and more IG units per day,” he added. “When we built the plant we upgraded everything with the goal in mind to increase production.”

It’s not just window manufacturers who are posting good news. Power Home Remodeling Group continues its growth as it has expanded its operations in Rosemont, Ill., thus adding jobs in the greater Chicago metropolitan area. Power has hired more than 75 employees in the Chicago region with plans to create at least 150 additional jobs in 2013.

Suppliers are on the uptick as well and one Canadian machinery company has expanded into the U.S. Pro-Line Automation, headquartered in Woodbridge, Ontario, announced its entrance into the U.S. market with a new location in Akron, Ohio. Pro-Line, a supplier of equipment for vinyl window manufacturing, joined forces with Todd Tolson and Tom Whitehead, who both have more than 20 years’ experience in the door and window industry. Does this perhaps signal that window companies will start buying again? That remains to be seen but Tolson did tell DWM magazine that companies are looking to be more efficient and machinery and equipment can help fill that need.

“The markets are getting better,” said Tolson. “I don’t know [that] it’s tremendously better but it is tremendous for technologies.”

He said residential companies are definitely expanding into the light commercial market. “We are working with a company in Minnesota that is adding a light commercial twist to what they are doing now. That is where the growth will come.”

Add to that, the formation of new companies, and it’s clear the industry is looking up. WFI Global LLC, a new specialty chemical coatings and foam company, has been established by Terry Walker and Joseph (Jay) G. Fabick, Jr. in Madison, Wis. Walker has 30 years of experience in the urethane foam and coatings industry and Fabick is president of Fabick Inc., a manufacturer of industrial spray-on coatings.

WFI Global’s initial product offering will be low-density polyurethane foam systems for the fenestration industry with other chemical coating products to follow.


Royal Building Products and FeneTech Sign On to Sponsor Fenestration Day

The fourth annual Fenestration Day™, sponsored by DWM magazine, will take place October 31, 2013, in Schaumburg, Ill., a suburb of Chicago. Royal Building Products and FeneTech have once again signed on as sponsors of this educational event. Fenestration Day brings together door and window manufacturers and dealers for some joint educational sessions as well as individual sessions tailored to those groups.

Royal is sponsoring the session on lean manufacturing. Attendees will hear from a panel of experts, including manufacturers and suppliers, about how to incorporate lean principles into plant operations. Questions such as how to integrate automated operations into lean manufacturing plans will be addressed. Panelists include Steve Waltman, vice president, Stiles Machinery; and a member of a top window manufacturing firm.

“Royal is excited to support Fenestration Day because it represents a unique opportunity for education,” says John Vukanovich, director of marketing Royal Building Products/Window & Door Profiles. “The ability to understand and communicate information is a competitive advantage – no matter what role you play in the industry. To be successful, everyone needs to have knowledge about the products they manufacture, sell, install, service or support.”

Attendees will have the opportunity to network with all sponsors throughout the event.

FeneTech will sponsor the session, “Smart Optimization for Improved Profitability.” Attendees will learn from Geoff Roise, owner of Lindsay Window in North Mankato, Minn., who has implemented some new methods for raw material optimization. Join this discussion regarding new ways of thinking in regards to optimization.

“FeneTech is a strong supporter of the industry, from our own User Conference and Glass Processing Automation Days events, to trade shows, organizations and Fenestration Day,” says Ron Crowl, president of FeneTech. “We feel that continued education is a key to success in today’s challenging business environment. Fenestration Day provides a unique single-day opportunity to attend a variety of seminars that offer insight into marketing, sales, legal and manufacturing topics. We are extremely pleased to be sponsoring a session that every manufacturer should be very interested in.”

Attendees will have the opportunity to network with sponsors during the coffee break/registration and during the lunch.

Additional information, including a full event schedule, registration information and more is available on the Fenestration Day website at dwmmag.com/feneday. Additional sponsorships are still available. If you would like to serve as a sponsor contact Tara Taffera at ttaffera@glass.com.


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