Volume 36, Issue 1, January 2001

Skylights Now

Contract Glaziers Praise E-skylight.com™ for its Efficiency and Immediacy

by Penny Beverage

With the rise of Internet technology, one can purchase anything online—from rare baseball cards and favorite CD’s, to clothes. And now, thanks to the advent of http://www.e-skylight.com, one can even purchase skylights—making a job a little simpler and eliminating lots of paperwork. The site was designed by Mike Descoteaux and his staff at the Waterboro, Maine-based company, a subsidiary of Architectural Skylight Co. (ASC). It gives browsers the opportunity to design their own skylights online with just a few clicks.

Offering a variety of options, the site guides customers through a step-by-step design process and then provides a CAD drawing of the skylight in its entirety—including customized features. Among features available for customization are size, width, shape, color and glass design. “The main goal was to simplify the design process, to make it as easy as possible,” Descoteaux said.

In addition, a customer can make adjustments to t he 3-D CAD diagram on the site, using a point-and-click design process. For example, he or she can adjust the color of the skylight while watching it adjust on-screen; he or she can do the same with its shape, glass design or any other visible attributes.
When the online design process is complete, the software calculates the skylight’s estimated cost and gives the designer an opportunity to purchase the skylight directly from the site with a credit card, much like the way popular sites like http://www.ebay.com, http://www.amazon.com and http://-www.cdnow.com work.

Descoteaux began working on e-skylight.com two years ago, shortly after ASC purchased a custom CNC-cutting machine, designed in Europe specially for the company. At the same time, the company decided to develop an internal CAD program so that the designs generated in the program could be sent directly to the new machine, eliminating a few steps in a job.

“The senior managers at ASC are very forward-thinking,” Descoteaux said. “To get this going, it had to work to fit the industry, it had to fit the design specifications needed in the industry and it had to fit in with our business.”
Once the CAD program was developed, the company had to figure out how to provide access to it through its website, all of which was done within the company. When that step was complete, the site was ready to go and Descoteaux says it hasn’t slowed down since.

e-Skylight.com At Work
Although it was just launched in April 2000, several in the industry have employed e-skylight.com’s handy design features for quotes, design ideas and the actual purchase of skylights for various jobs they have undertaken.
Despite Descoteaux’s one worry about the website—that steering people towards the site might be difficult—glaziers across the United States are visiting it regularly, whether they find it originally through a search engine, advertisement from the company or a recommendation from colleagues.

Jim Fox, president of Fox Glass Co. in Uniontown, Pa., has utilized e-skylight.com a number of times for the commercial and contract glazing jobs that his company handles. Although he has only purchased one skylight from the site, he uses it often to obtain quotes for job bids. He added that he would have purchased the skylights those additional times if he had won the contracts.

“It was a different experience,” Fox said. “You go on to the Internet and you design your drawing. Then you click the button and it comes right when they say it will. We did the whole thing without ever talking to a human being.” The skylight Fox purchased from e-skylight.com was for an office building project. He had previously received a flyer from e-skylight.com and was curious as to what the site might be like when he received the office building job.

“I was just cruising the Internet and decided to check it out,” he said. “We’d already bid the job with another skylight, but we put it in [to the site] and it was quite a bit less expensive. We talked to the owner and they approved it, so we saved them some money.”

Ian Josloff of Josloff Glass in Newark, N.J., said he found similar benefits to e-skylight.com when he purchased two skylights from it several months ago for his own office

“The prices were competitive,” he said. “And, you really could do everything you needed to do from building the unit online to getting the quote.” Both men added that the paperwork involved in using e-skylight.com was minimal, which both considered a great bonus to the site.

“There’s very limited paperwork back and forth and the quote was generated quickly,” Josloff added. “The order processed in time. It was a very helpful process.”

Fox agreed, “I’ve had transactions on ebay™ that took longer … it certainly showed me how far you can go with computers and the Internet. E-skylight.com is certainly far ahead of any of its competitors with this.” Fox added that e-skylight.com required less information on his company than most places where he has received estimates.

The only complaint either had about the site was payment—and both insisted that it was not a complaint, merely something that could be a downfall for some using the site. Because paying by credit card is encouraged so the entire process can be carried out electronically, Fox said that some may find that too much capital is tied up when using e-skylight.com for a project. Josloff added that although a customer can pay by check, he or she must call the company and confirm the payment. But, on a positive note, Josloff continued, “We really didn’t have any issues at all … the only time you have to talk to a person is if you want to write a check, then you have to call them, but otherwise it’s totally electronic.”

Outside the Industry
Gerald Althen, an engineer from Charleston, S.C., of Southern Detailing, also found the site to be helpful, despite his limited experience with the Internet and skylights.

“It’s pretty slick actually,” he said. “I’m more into engineering than I am computers, but this works really well.”
Althen ordered a skylight for his own company last March, but has not yet had it installed.

“The proof is in the pudding—we’ll see what happens when we erect it,” he chuckled. “We have an erector recommended by Mike [Descoteaux], though, so I don’t think we’ll have any problems with it.”

Down to Business
Although Althen has not yet had his skylight installed and is uncertain of what to expect, Josloff and Fox say e-skylight installations usually go smoothly, at least they have in both of their experiences.

“It came knocked down. Then, we just assembled it and glazed it on the site,” Fox said. “The whole process was a six-week deal.” Josloff added that his company didn’t have any problems with assembly either, utilizing e-skylight.com’s extensive instructions.

“This is the first time I’ve dealt with this company, but it’s easy and   streamlined,” he said. “And, the product came on-time—there’s nothing more you can ask for.”

When it comes to recommending the site to fellow glaziers and contractors, both Josloff and Fox agreed that it would certainly be a service to anyone installing a skylight. However, Fox added that the only reason he would be against recommending the site is because it is one of his secrets of success. “Because it’s so easy to access, I could recommend it to other glazing contractors, but I don’t want them to know about it,” he said. “I’m keeping my mouth shut; when people see how fast they can get on there and get a quote, it’s going to get really active.”

Descoteaux said that from his standpoint, the site is booming. E-skylight.com has calculated quotes for more than 7,000 customers, averaging approximately 75-80 quotes a week since its inception in April 2000. He added that in that time, the company has shipped skylights all over the world, including three 20-foot units to Puerto Rico and a 20-foot pyramid skylight to Aruba, along with two smaller hipped ridges.

“The power behind the site is the CAD model and the CAD software we’ve developed internally here,” Descoteaux said. “And, I’ve had some inquiries from others in the glass industry looking to develop similar systems for their products.”