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Volume 38, Issue 4, April 2003

The Farnady Files

Here We Go Again

Time to Take a Refreshing Look at Low-E

by Dez Farnady

As a true believer in the virtues of the second generation of low-E products, and having removed myself at least half a step from the daily trials and tribulations of the glass industry, I thought it could never happen to me again. But here I am, up to my ears in the glass battles. And of all things, my battles are because of low-E all over again. I have done this before and did not want to do it again, but I guess there is no escape for me.

It's My Fault

The whole thing started when I opened my mouth (or pen or, more likely, my computer) and put words to paper in the column "Where Is My Order?" from the August 2002 USGlass (see August 2002 USGlass, page 14). Well, lo and behold, I spent the last month chasing orders. My tormentors, who shall remain nameless and who know who they are, are well-intentioned and usually reliable glass suppliers. At first I wondered if it was a plot buy; it could not have been because it hurt them as much as it hurt me. The remakes and extra trucking cost them money they had certainly not planned to spend.

What happened was that while one was doing an equipment update by installing a new furnace, the other was learning to run a new product. This information was late news that I got long after the trouble was already deep. The net result was that a whole bunch of our orders got messed up one way or another. Needless to say, we were running from pillar to post. We were trying to find back-ordered glass, replacing defective glass, looking for late glass, apologizing to customers for late orders and begging our customers for mercy over screwed-up orders. Meanwhile, I was trying to pacify our frustrated production and shipping people by telling them that "stuff happens," and the entire glass industry was not a total gang of incompetent nincompoops, it was not a conspiracy, glass was coming and they were trying.

Of course every bit of all of this glass was second-generation, low-E glass.

The Trouble with Low-E

As the storm was about settled I got smacked with another little surprise. We had been trying to ship a little ten-lite, double-hip skylight for what now seems like a decade. It was late because it too had been caught in the glass problem maelstrom. It was now shop-glazed and ready to ship.Then the head of production, a well-known perfectionist, came into my office to tell me that our "in-trouble" supplier was in the grease again.

"Oh, man," I said, "I thought we were all cleaned up."

"No," he said. "You better come and see this mess."

By now I was hoping that it was going to be a scratch or maybe some foreign product in an insulating unit and he was just upset about the recent mess and was nit-picking our troubled vendor. No such luck.

He did not even need to point it out to me. I could see it from 50 feet away. Our little ten-lite skylight looked like as though it belonged on a church roof with all of its multi-colored glass. The glass actually looked like it was from a collection of random samples from every low-E manufacturer in the Western world. That skylight could never go on a church because it really looked like hell. And no, it was not from the suppliers in trouble. This order was from a third supplier who, up to that point, had been perfectly reliable. Yes, the glass was the same kind of stuff-second-generation, cure-all, low-E, the salvation of the glass industry and a boon to all mankind, except me.

If there is a moral to this story, it is about having all your glass in one basket, particularly if all of your glass happens to be low-E glass. Even the use of three suppliers may not be enough to keep you from occasionally falling into the grease when it comes to the high-tech glass products of the 21st century.

Dez Farnady

Dez Farnady serves as general manager of Royalite Manufacturing Inc., a skylight manufacturer in San Carlos, Calif. His column appears monthly.