Volume 43, Issue 3 - March 2008

USG Only Online--EXPANDED   

Making the Map 
IGMA Working Groups Start New Projects During 8th Annual Conference 

by Megan Headley

The Insulating Glass Manufacturers Alliance (IGMA) held its 8th annual conference January 28-31 at the Sundial Beach Resort in Sanibel, Fla. Whether considering a drastic turn for a document, introducing an old document to a fresh set of eyes or growing ever closer to completion of a long-term project, these matters had IGMA members looking toward future projects. For the Visual Quality Working Group, it was a new twist to an old document. 

The June meeting had seen a motion to revise the visual quality guidelines draft document to reflect the differences between residential and commercial insulating glass (IG) units (see September 2007 USGlass, page 108).A “what if” document had been produced since the last meeting to show what a separate commercial document might look like.

Bob Spindler of Cardinal IG pointed out that window manufacturers present at the meeting manufacture IG units for both residential and high- to mid-rise buildings. The idea, presumably, was that when manufacturers produced a blend of both, the document should reflect the same. “Having two documents gives a wrong impression of what the glass manufacturer can and cannot produce,” Spindler said. “From an architect’s standpoint, why would you have two documents? Does that mean you can do something better for one application than another?”

The next step was to look at where the differences lie in the document between residential and commercial visual quality. For example, installation was seen as a much more important qualification to the commercial product’s visual quality than residential products, since once the commercial units are installed some obstructions at the edge will no longer be visible. One document, with sections that reflect differences between visual quality for residential and commercial IG units, appeared to be the consensus. The group agreed to send a revised draft around for a second review.

Certification and Education
Direction was on the agenda for the Certification and Education Committee as well. That is, the group looked at further developing a seminar on IG quality procedures.

“This thing has been stalled for basically two years,” Webb said. At a previous meeting the preparation of this seminar had been assigned to an outside group, who has since withdrawn. Webb added, “I personally think we need to do this. The most common question we get is on quality procedures.” “This has been talked about in China and other places and all around the world now,” added IGMA technical consultant Bill Lingnell. According to Webb, one of the things that makes the development of this potential seminar so tricky is that it isn’t just teach a skill, it’s teaching a way of thinking. “One of the things you actually have to transfer is a different way of thinking; a different commitment,” Webb said. “The biggest problem is not how to run a desiccant test but why to run a desiccant test,” said John Kent of the Insulating Glass Certification Council (IGCC).

Webb added, “In the long haul what it means is you’ll have better performing IG units.”

Webb and Tracy Rogers of Edgetech IG agreed to work on putting together an outline to distribute; Rogers is aiming to get an introduction to the seminar out by the next meeting.

With regard to harmonization of IGMAC and IGMA certification procedures, Kent said, “We’re not quite there yet but we’re a lot closer than we were three or four years ago.” Kent also provided information about current participation levels and IG certification activities. Kent noted that in August the first non-North American lab, in Beijing, was approved to participate. Kent said this lab would be able to test product sent to them from other countries.

In other certification news, Webb briefly noted that Keystone Certifications has terminated its relationship with IGMA. “The only administrator for IGMA now is IGCC,” Webb said.

Glazing Guidelines Working Group
The Glazing Guidelines Working Group continued its discussion about capillary tubes, but this time had a guideline in front of it. Per the June meeting, Lingnell and group chair Ken Shelbourn of Truseal Technologies combined their research on closing capillary tubes to include in a guideline. Shelbourn explained the verdict on sealing tubes after their research: “If you’re going to seal a tube in the field, you crimp or snip it with wire cutters … but then put a little dab of sealant on the end of that which will give you a 100-percent seal.” Shelbourn brought to the table guidelines for use of capillary and breather tubes from the former Sealed Insulating Glass Manufacturers Alliance (SIGMA). 

Shelbourn had made additional comments throughout the document, which the group addressed. With the question of closing the tubes answered, the group asked if a note should be added to its document cautioning individuals not to use capillary tubes in gas-filled units. Spindler noted that it does happen that people use tubes in gas-filled units. “The intent is that the claim cannot be made that the unit has a specific performance.” “Any gas content will change if capillary or breather tubes are used,” Lingnell added.

“We’re not a group that gives permission,” said Chris Barry of Pilkington. “It physically can be done.” That the instruction should say not to use capillary tubes with gas-filled units was the prevailing recommendation.

Once the capillary tubes are inserted, Greg Carney of the Glass Association of North America (GANA) said that it’s not unlikely that glaziers will try to take them out. “I have seen situations where they are in the way and they cut capillary tubes, altering them dramatically,” Carney said.

Section 6.0 on glazing thus gained a recommendation that capillary tubes not be shortened or removed during glazing. 

Gas Permeability Working Group
The gas permeability working group continued its discussion on its research project, which is closer to completion. “We have now the executive summary, it’s been circulated, but you haven’t seen the completed document,” said chair Bruce Virnelson of PRC DeSoto International. “That now will be the final document for that test protocol.”

This will create a test for the industry if they want to qualify and create new materials, Virnelson explained. The group then turned to its request for proposal seeking a lab to develop a test protocol for argon permeability through IG units. To date, the group had received proposals from two different test labs, while a third lab had expressed interest and requested an extension.

Speakers from TNO and CAN-BEST were at the meeting to offer presentations on how they would conduct the tests, as well as the approximate costs of each step. Following the big numbers, a member of the audience asked whether there was someplace else from which some of this test data could be pulled rather than seeking funding for testing. “This will be the first time it’s broken down into a small component,” Virnelson responded. “We’re pioneers.”

The group will aim to get additional proposals in for consideration before the next meeting, and to have time to “really digest these proposals” made in Florida. The next IGMA meeting will be held June 16-19, 2008, at the Westin Resort and Spa in Whistler, British Columbia. 

Keyed in to Global Trends
“There are massive global trends that I think are sometimes easy to ignore when you’re out in the field,” said Michael Collins of Jordan, Knauff and Co. at the open of his keynote address at the Insulating Glass Manufacturers Alliance (IGMA) 8th annual conference. To bring his audience up-to-date, Collins, a columnist for USGlass magazine’s sister publication, DWM magazine, took IGMA members through some of those global and industry trends impacting the door and window industry and commercial construction market. 

With regard to windows, Collins noted that vinyl window suppliers are being pinched by rising fuel costs and energy surcharges from glass suppliers that they often aren’t able to pass onto customers because of the competitiveness of the marketplace. 

Despite these difficulties and the slow residential construction market, he has noticed that many window manufacturers are searching for acquisitions within the traditional door and window industry, “and that’s extremely positive.” 

Several such companies have examined an acquisition as a way to gain excess plant capacity, a positive step, Collins said, that indicates that these manufacturers are preparing to need that space once the market picks up. While Collins said that consensus shows that a bottom to the residential construction decline is coming in mid- to late-2008, the commercial construction market is expected to remain favorable in 2008. 

As Collins commented, “You’ll still be happier on the commercial side in ’08 than on the residential side.”

Jordan, Knuaff & Co. anticipates continued strong interest in acquiring commercial door and window companies. While Collins said that increased consolidation in the commercial area is likely, he expects that Pella’s acquisition of EFCO in 2007 (see October 2007 USGlass, page 17) will not be the last instance of a residential door and window manufacturer purchasing a commercial company. Collins also touched briefly on building information management (BIM) systems, which he explained will be the “replacement to 3D CAD.” 

This software is able to store a variety of information regarding every part and component of a building, much like 3D CAD. However, where CAD libraries were private, companies are being formed to create BIM libraries for a number of manufacturers, allowing architects to reference this information. According to Collins, this is a trend that all commercial building product manufacturers will be following—especially because overseas companies will be jumping on it. As he explained, the BIM library provides overseas manufacturers an instant audience of architects. 

“I’m encouraging companies to get ahead of this,” he said. And speaking of overseas competition, Collins also touched on the topic of competition with China. During his research on this topic, he said, “it became clear that different companies were at risk and different companies were not at risk.”

Product areas with a high threat assessment included architectural flat glass, curtainwall, extrusions, door and window production machinery and hardware, due to their long, uniform production runs; high labor and materials content; and high ratio of value to weight and volume. One member of the audience asked if the lower quality of Chinese products was swaying customers from buying overseas.

“Companies that are outsourcing there will tell you that the quality’s there,” Collins replied. “It didn’t use to be, but now it’s there.” 

In order to compete effectively, Collins advised his audience on several points:

  • Spend as much time as possible interacting with the end customer and their customers. “I’m always stunned about how little [manufacturers] know about the people who use their product,” Collins said. “You’ve got to be a miner of data about your company.” That data can provide early indicators of market needs, he explained.
  • Cater to those customers with “tough” requests. Customers with frequent changes and short lead times will find it difficult to switch to an overseas supplier. 
  • Support innovation. Collins noted that patents from small companies are twice as likely as large companies to be among the top one percent of high-impact patents. While large companies tend to focus on making existing products better, or more affordable, it’s innovation that will help keep companies ahead of Chinese competition. 
  • Embrace lean manufacturing. Shortening lead times and becoming more cost-competitive will help give North American manufacturers an edge.

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