Volume 33, Number 10, October 1998


Industry News

Crafton Glass Pleads Guilty to Price Fixing in Ongoing Investigation

Crafton’s Glass Inc. of Lubbock, TX, has pleaded guilty to conspiring with other auto glass shops to fix automotive replacement glass prices in the Lubbock area. The company was charged by the United States Department of Justice with fixing automotive replacement glass prices by increasing installation labor rates and lowering the discounts on glass.

The charges resulted from a Dallas grand jury’s investigation of suspected price fixing in the AGR industry. When asked if more companies would be charged, Department of Justice spokesperson Jennifer Rose would not comment. However, Rose did acknowledge that there was an ongoing investigation of price fixing in the auto glass industry.

The next step for Crafton’s is sentencing, which could occur within the next 60 days. Though the corporation faces criminal charges, the owners, as individuals, do not, according to Crafton’s attorney, Dan Hurley. The corporation could face a maximum penalty of ten million dollars.

According to Hurley, the company pleaded guilty to an information charge, which is an agreement between prosecutors and defendants that is reached without indictment. Crafton’s pleaded guilty on the same day that it was charged.

"Crafton’s Glass Inc. chose to do what they considered the right and proper thing by entering the plea of guilty," Hurley said.

Mirror Manufacturers in Transition Period

Increased competition in the mirror industry, partially caused by the expansion of float glass manufacturers into mirrors, has led to tighter times for mirror manufacturers.

According to one industry representative, the beneficiaries of this competition are the customers. Fred Wallin of AFG Industries in Kingsport, TN, says the quality of mirrors is better than ever. "There are no bad mirrors being made, that I’m aware of, in North America," he said.

With the industry providing high levels of quality, companies have had to diversify to generate more revenue. "There are a plethora of opportunities for companies to specialize in," he said. "A few companies have become players in the distribution and stock sheet markets, while a number of companies have turned to the furniture market."

Carolina Mirror Company of North Wilkesboro, NC, is carving its niche by serving its independent distributor market, according to John Matthews. "We back them by not calling on their customers, the ‘mom-and-pop shops,’" he said. "We have to support independent distributors with one or two branches. The independents we support are in competition with the companies that own plants and distribution centers."

Also, advances in the production and testing of mirrors have improved the quality of mirrors, according to Wallin. "There have been a lot of equipment changes," he said. "The manufacturers are also lowering costs by lowering the cycle time of a piece of glass."

Even with this reduction in costs the large glass-producing companies have an edge because they do not have to purchase their glass from an outside source, according to Matthews.

However, he cautions that the many functions of mirrors make them different from other mass-produced products manufactured by these large companies. "If we are not careful, mirrors will be a commodity product because the people that make the glass run their factories 365 days a year, he said. "Therefore they will need volume and may soon forget that it is a value-added product."

Apogee Consolidates Claims Processing Business

Minneapolis, MN-based Apogee Enterprises, Inc. has announced that it has consolidated its claims and policy management businesses to form Harmon Solutions Group, a group created to service property and casualty insurance companies. The new business includes the recently acquired VIS’N Service Corporation as well as ProClaim, the outsourcing company previously operated by Harmon AutoGlass. Harmon is a division of Apogee.

Touted as a "one-stop" outsourced solution for property and casualty insurance companies to better manage their claims and policy operations and costs, Harmon Solutions Group offers clients 24-hour service from five locations stretching from Florida to Minnesota.


ASTM Releases New Glass Standards

Subcommittee C14.08 of the American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM) has introduced two new standards: C 1376, Specification for Pyrolytic and Vacuum Deposition Coatings on Glass, and C 1377, Test Method for Calibration of Surface/Stress Measuring Devices. C 1376 covers optical and aesthetic quality requirements for coatings applied to glass used in architectural glazing, and also addresses blemishes related to coating. Standard C 1377 is a test method for calibrating stress-measuring devices used in flat glass. It covers calibration or verification of calibration or both, of devices to measure stress in annealed and heat-strengthened or tempered glass, using polariscopic or refractometry-based principles.

Subcommittee C14.08 is also working on three new draft standards on portlight, bent glass and chemically-strengthened glass.


Security Lock Hosts "Dealer Ed" Meetings

Security Lock Distributors is hosting a series of face-to-face discussions with manufacturers of electrical and mechanical security products at its Las Vegas, NV facility. The interface allows discussion of product specification, application and installation, with trouble-shooting tips and product comparisons, according to the company.

David Middleton, district manager of Locknetics, addressed a recent meeting with discussion of electric circuitry, codes, life safety requirements and new products. In addition to a variety of access control product seminars, Security Lock says it plans factory certification courses.


Operable Windows Making a Comeback in Offices

One of the "newest" trends in office buildings is actually an old idea—windows that open. By the late 1960s, when central area conditioning had become more common in office buildings, operable windows had all but disappeared from new buildings. Now, as architects and employers move to give employees more control over their environments, operable windows are making a comeback.

New technology is partly responsible for the trend, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. When the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay begins construction on a 125,000-square-foot building with operable windows next year, it may include a system of automatic switches located on each operable window. The switches would shut off local air conditioning when the window is open, eliminating the problem of "balancing" an air conditioning system when an unknown number of windows is open.

The report states that the new generation of working corporate windows don’t leave much room for error—or for jumping. Many are hinged at the top and open on a sliding track approximately six inches long.


Ugandan Police to Probe Alleged Curtainwall Contract Bribe

Uganda’s inspector general of government (IGG) asked police in May to probe the alleged bribery of some officials involved in the awarding of a contract for the construction of the curtainwall at a Social Security House in the center of Kampala. IGG Jotham Tumwesigye also requested a criminal inquiry to establish the alleged diversion of $1,028,055 US meant for the importation of curtainwall glass from South Africa for use in the 19-story building.

Tumwesigye’s letter requesting the criminal inquiry alleges the bribery by Alcon International of top officials of the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) and others involved in the award of the contract. Alcon International directors told a parliamentary committee that they bribed the NSSF managing director and project architect, with alleged payment effected between March and May 1996. However, the NSSF managing director has categorically denied the allegations.


Pilkington-LOF Opens Rebuilt Line at Rossford

Pilkington-LOF of Toledo, OH, officially opened its $75 million rebuilt float glass manufacturing line at its Rossford facility in Toledo, in a formal ceremony August 25.

The Rossford facility has two float glass manufacturing lines that have been operating for a number of years. The rebuild of one of these lines began in January 1996 and was completed recently on time and on budget, according to the company. It added that the rebuilt line includes a new automated raw materials delivery system, computer-controlled systems, advanced robotics and an oxygen fuel firing system that is the first in the industry.

"It means we have here in Rossford the most technologically advanced float glass manufacturing line anywhere in the world and that’s something we can all take pride in," said Steve Kalosis, president, building products, North America.


Glass Wholesalers Plans Relocation, Expansion and New Tempering Facility

Houston, TX-based Glass Wholesalers, Inc. (GWI) has announced plans to expand its Houston operations by building a new corporate headquarters and manufacturing facility in Northwest Houston. The project will allow it to expand its services to include flat glass distribution and insulating. The company will also begin manufacturing tempered glass in the near future.

The 114,000-square-foot facility is expected to add 30 new jobs in the Houston area, and 32 more indirectly. Added to the retention of 80 existing positions, GWI expects total annual estimated economic impact for the Houston area to be approximately $22 million. Completion of the building is expected by year-end.


Patent Infringement Case Against A Best Enterprises Dismissed

The U.S. District Court in New York has dismissed Nanuet, NY-based W&W Glass Systems, Inc.’s patent infringement suit against A Best Enterprises, Inc. of Brighton, CO. The suit, filed in summer 1997, alleged that a door hinge used in glass walls for squash and racquetball courts manufactured and sold by A Best Enterprises infringed on a 1985 patent owned by Prospec International of the UK. W&W is the U.S. sales agent for products manufactured by Prospec.

The court found no grounds for the suit, according to A Best Enterprises, which says it will continue to market its patented Doubleplay wrap-around hinge.

W&W stated that the visiting judge who rendered the decision had erred by not considering affidavits submitted by the inventor of its patented hinge, Jonathan Pearson. W&W added that the presiding judge had called a conference for August 20 where the matter would be reviewed. The company plans to appeal any decision of non-infringement aggressively.

"We will continue to pursue A Best both in court and in the marketplace," said Ron Haber, president of W&W.


New Flashlight Can See Through Walls

Engineer Gene Greneker and a group of researchers at Georgia Tech Research Institute in Atlanta have invented a flashlight that uses microwave technology to detect a person through a wall or behind a door. The flashlight works by sensing movement and then displaying the resulting data on a screen. The flashlight has many possible applications including use in detecting leaks in walls and in police work.


Copyright 1998 Key Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.