Volume 43, Issue 2 - February 2008

H • a • r • d • w • a • r • e

Panic Button 
There’s Nothing to Fear When It Comes to Electrified Hardware
by Ellen Giard Rogers

If electrophobia is the fear of electricity, what’s the fear of installing electrified hardware? While thousands upon thousands of phobias exist, a word has yet to be created that describes this specific fear, common among contract glaziers. Maybe not to the extreme that it need be labeled a “phobia,” but some contract glaziers do shy away from taking on certain jobs when there’s an electrical element involved.

But this work doesn’t have to be scary. Hardware suppliers and manufacturers, as well as seasoned installers, say there’s nothing to fear when it comes to electrified hardware; all you need is the right information and an open mind.

“Many companies shy away from anything with wires,” says Brian O’Dowd, general manager of Mayflower Sales in Brooklyn, N.Y., “and doing so leaves a lot on the table.”

Mark Allen, manager, product management/marketing with Kaba Access Control in Winston-Salem, N.C., says this is true, because so many people do not realize what they can offer through these access control systems. Audit trailing is one example Allen gives.

“Contract glaziers can use this as an add-on sales tool,” says Allen. “The customer may not have yet been approached about [having an audit trail], so they don’t know about it. Contract glaziers are already talking to the customer and this [access control] can provide them with something that looks nice aesthetically,” but also provides the benefit of monitoring who is entering and leaving the building.

And from the installer point of view, Bill Sullivan, president of Heartland Glass Co. in Waite Park, Minn., agrees, it can definitely be beneficial, so long as you take the time to prepare.

A Great Opportunity 
Whatever the reason, be it a desire for more access control or simply monitoring who’s coming and going into a building, the demand for electrified hardware is increasing. Electrified products that contract glaziers often sell include a door’s locking mechanism, such as a panic device or magnetic lock; electric strikes and latches; power transfers for the electric latch; and the power supply. Card or proximity readers (an eye scan or fingerprint reader, for example) are typically provided and installed by a security company hired by the owner. Though the use of these products has increased in recent years, too, it’s an area in which contract glaziers don’t usually get involved. Sullivan explains that these systems have to be coordinated with all of the other doors and life safety equipment in the building.

“We don’t have the experience and/or the training to sell or install this equipment,” says Sullivan. “It involves a lot of computer programming because of the complexity of the system.”

Contract glaziers may not have to worry about installing a super-complex security system, but that still doesn’t make their segment of electrified hardware an easy task. “Anything with wires is scary,” says Mary Hester, outside sales manager for JLM Wholesale in Oxford, Mich. Sullivan agrees that this type of work can put off some companies. “Maybe it’s lack of knowledge about the unknown and not having the time to learn about it and how it works,” says Sullivan. “It’s also more complicated [than other products] and the systems are expensive.”

But taking the time to learn about electrified hardware can be a lucrative step for glass companies. Offering this service can mean more business and more revenue. Sullivan says his company often gets referrals from a local locksmith who doesn’t handle electrical work.

“Other times we get calls to come out and fix [another’s] installation gone bad,” says Sullivan. “It has definitely opened up possibilities for us.”

Getting started may require a bit of investment the first time, but additional business will soon follow, says Allen.

“Don’t be intimidated. It can be a great addition to your business and you’re providing a convenient solution to customers that’s worth the price,” says Allen. “Take the plunge; it’s another revenue stream.”

But before you jump in both feet first, there are a few considerations to keep in mind.

Prepare Yourself
Taking advantage of available training is a good first step, and one of the best places to start is with the hardware suppliers.

“They can help you through the installations,” says Hester, who adds that some manufacturers offer training courses. “Depending on the product manufacturer, you can often find classes through the manufacturer. Usually the classes are product-specific,” she says, adding that this may not be an option for all companies. “Unfortunately, small glaziers don’t always have the budget to take advantage of these classes, especially if they are ones to which they must travel.”

But there are alternative training sources. “If you’re going to a trade show, take advantage of the classes and education that’s often offered,” says Hester. “Also, get involved with local associations; associations often push education.”

Another preparation step is research and planning.

“Have copies of the literature from all of the manufacturers selling hardware you’ll be installing,” says O’Dowd. “Get templates and diagrams upfront.”

Sullivan agrees that having diagrams and templates is helpful.

“They aid us and the electrician during hook-up,” says Sullivan.

O’Dowd adds another consideration: test everything before it leaves the shop. “Make sure when it’s powered on it works. [If there’s a problem after it’s installed] it can be difficult to troubleshoot the problem once everything is wired into the wall.”

Allen agrees.

“Understand what you’re installing before you’re in the field; understand it while you’re still in the shop,” Allen says.

Reading all of the hardware’s supporting documentation is a preparation step that’s often overlooked. “Familiarize yourself with the supporting documentation and make sure the guys in field read it, too,” says Allen. “Take the time to read the documents, and if something doesn’t make sense call tech support for help.”

Contract glaziers also need to be aware of the specific requirements for individual jurisdictions.

“Be well-versed in building codes and fire codes,” says O’Dowd. “For example, some jurisdictions don’t allow electrified hardware.”

Likewise, some states, such as Minnesota, require installers to be licensed. Sullivan explains that at Heartland, employees working with electrified hardware are licensed as Power Limited Technicians. “We have to have that in order to work with low-voltage hardware,” says Sullivan. “Every two years we’re required to have eight hours of continuing education to maintain our licensing.” He says they are able to earn many of these credits through courses that are offered through vendors and suppliers.

Understanding is Key
The next step is to make sure you know and understand what the job requires. This means familiarizing yourself with the application and the jobsite.

“It’s important to make sure the existing hardware is in good condition, and inspect the door itself,” says Kevin Pack, a product engineer with Kaba.

Allen agrees. “If the door is sagging on its hinges there may be installation problems,” he says. “There could be issues if you install the product in an imperfect environment. Be sure and optimize the opening first; from the installer perspective you’ll have fewer callbacks.”

O’Dowd says before he offers the contract glazier any installation guidelines he needs a bit of information himself.

“The first thing we do is ask questions and ‘what does the specification say?’ is our biggest question,” O’Dowd says. He adds that when contract glaziers call in to order electrified hardware they don’t always understand what the specification requires. “We need to know where and how that product is going to be used,” says O’Dowd. “Installing electrified hardware is not like putting a hinge on a door; it requires a higher caliber.”

Who’s Responsible for What?
Once you’re on the job, it’s also important to know which party is going to be doing what specific tasks. This is one reason maintaining open and constant communication is critical.

“Our biggest coordination challenge is among the different parties involved,” says Sullivan. “We [the contract glazier] do a portion, the electrician does the hook-up and then there’s also a security company that the owner hires. So you have to coordinate all three parties. And we’re not always privy to what card reader, for example, is being installed and how it will work with our requirements.”

Sullivan adds that in some cases his company might not be supplying the hardware, which also can mean coordination challenges. “The hardware supplier needs to talk to us upfront and communicate with us about what we’ll be installing. You have to be proactive to alleviate some of those issues.”

When All is Done
Once the work is finished, the job isn’t necessarily over. It’s important to take the time to make sure the building owners and managers also understand how to use the new equipment. Pack suggests the contract glazier take a few minutes and explain to the building owners, managers and anyone else who will be using the door how the product works.

“Show them how it works and give them a few basic scenarios, such as [typing in the wrong pass code] and explain what they need to do in these situations,” Pack says.

Allen agrees.

“The installer needs to understand how the customer will be using the lock because that varies customer to customer,” Allen says. “Take the time upfront and find out their unique needs.”

Just as a homeowner selling a house should leave the appliance manuals for the new owners, installers should leave the manuals for the electrified hardware with the building owner. But O’Dowd says this doesn’t happen as often as it should. “Most installers probably don’t turn the manuals over to the building owner or prime contractor and they should be doing this so that the next person responsible for the hardware can take care of it,” says O’Dowd.

Final Thoughts
Electrified hardware installations can mean additional business opportunities for contract glaziers. And though it may seem a bit scary at first, it may be something that’s worth considering.

“Don’t say ‘no’ right away,” says Hester. “Call your suppliers, tell them what the job is and ask for assistance. Don’t be afraid of the electrified world,” she says, and adds, “if you sub out this part of the job, it’s defeating the purpose of growing your business.” 

Regional Events Equal Education Opportunities 
Training is a good first step toward learning more about how to install electric hardware systems, and trade shows provide an excellent opportunity for pursuing education. Two regional glass expos will be held this year with educational opportunities near you. Glass TEXpo™ will be held April 10-12, 2008, at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio, Texas. Glass Expo Midwest™ 2008 will be held December 9-10, 2008, at the Renaissance Hotel and Resort in Schaumburg, Ill. Both events, sponsored by USGlass magazine, will feature a number of seminars and opportunities for networking.

Visit www.glassexpos.com for more information about these events. 

Ellen Giard Rogers is a contributing editor for USGlass magazine.

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