Volume 44, Issue 12 - December 2009


Seeking New Directions
GlassBuild America Attendees Search for New Opportunities for Tough Year Ahead
by Megan Headley, Charles Cumpston, Ellen Rogers and Tara Taffera

A majority of the exhibitors at this year’s GlassBuild America reported that upon the show’s closing on October 3 the annual event had exceeded their expectations. That expectations appeared to have been universally low before the event opened on October 1 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta may have accounted for many of those reviews, but several exhibitors reported that they’d had their best show in years, an encouraging report for professionals preparing for the stark commercial construction forecasts of 2010.

“We exceeded our expectations, for sure,” commented Rob Botman, general manager of Glassopolis in Toronto. “In hindsight, I think that our high traffic was not hurt by the tough economy, but rather was maybe helped by it as customers are now forced to seek out the best deals they can. They can no longer buy the same old product the same old way, but in fact have the incentive now to go find the best value supplier they can find.”

Last year in Las Vegas, attendees noted the absence of most of the primary glass manufacturers, as well as several of the largest glass fabricators (visit www.usglassmag.com to read the Only Online review from December 2008). This year several others were absent from that exhibitor list as well.

That proved a boon for other companies, such as EFCO Corp.

“I think the fact that [our competitors] weren’t there helped us a lot too—it was one of the best shows I’ve ever been to,” commented Dave Hewitt, director of sales and marketing with EFCO. He added, “I don’t think I had a few seconds before I turned around and saw somebody I knew or who wanted to talk business with us. You build relationships and strengthen bonds with customers you’ve had over the years.”

Vitro America was on the floor front and center as well, displaying information on all of its products, including its PAVIA satin-finished glass. PPG Industries exhibited several new products, including its Solarblue/Pacifica products. The company also has two new products designed specifically to meet .30/.30 requirements, Sungate 400 and Solarblue 65. Both J.E. Berkowitz and Standard Bent Glass promoted their SentryGlas Expressions laminated glass on the trade show floor.

However, several local companies chose to emphasize their presence off the show floor. For example, exhibitor Grenzebach of Newnan, Ga., took advantage of the show to invite customers to an open house at its nearby factory. The company displayed one of its newest developments, an edge seaming robot, in operation on its factory floor.

YKK AP America, which chose not to exhibit this year, offered tours of its manufacturing facility in Dublin, Ga. The day-long tour gave customers the opportunity to see the entire process from casting to fabrication.

And Bonnell Aluminum of Newnan, Ga., had a presence at the show solely through an off-site reception for customers, where it publicized its forthcoming capability for producing larger-than-ever aluminum extrusions due to a 5,500-ton press that is soon to be operational.

Preparing for 2010
After some time on the trade show floor, Bonnell director of sales and marketing Ira Endres noted that the show seemed to showcase a similar level of technology to years past, and traffic had noticeably decreased. “It was down a little bit … by and large everybody is talking pretty much about the same message. They’re looking for opportunities to carry them through this economic downturn,” Endres said. “I think most everybody was very optimistic about the things that they were doing in their businesses to get through this difficult year.”

The well-timed extrusion press is Bonnell’s way of expanding into new opportunities as the extrusion company has been hit as hard as anyone by the tough year drawing to an end.

“Just to give you an idea of how deep it is, [aluminum] industry shipments through 2009 compared to 2006 are projected to be down about 45 percent; year over year through August industry shipments are going to be down probably about 32 percent,” Endres said. “As far as Bonnell Aluminum is concerned, we’re doing a little bit better than the industry—not much, we’re all in the same situation—and our view is going forward that the nonresidential segments still have some softness ahead well into 2010. Hopefully the support of stimulus funding and the return of private investment will help us on the recovery side of the cycle.”

Forecasts similar to Endres’ were echoed across the show floor.

“The economy is having a significant impact on the industry both with our customers and our customers’ customers,” commented Bob Quast, president of Lisec America Inc. “What we’re hearing from our customers is that they’re seeing orders down anywhere from 30 to 70 percent in different areas.”

Quast added that many of the machinery manufacturer’s customers are seeing a slowdown in commercial construction. “The hope is that many people out there are now are hoping to see a turnaround sometime middle or end of 2010. But, clearly, capital is constrained and a lot of our customers who are looking to purchase new machines to support their businesses are having difficulty getting funding for their capital projects specifically because banks are not lending and they’re being very risk averse now. Hopefully everything falls out the way we believe it will, and we’ll see a turnaround in this sometime toward the end of 2010,” he said.

Ed Sieber has owned a Glass Doctor franchise in Charlotte, N.C., since 1987 and worked through several downturns. However, he commented, “This has been a really hard cycle. We’ve had to do a little downsizing ourselves; we struggled a little bit at the first of the year.”

To combat that, Sieber said, “We had to get lean. Our vice president of Glass Doctor, Dan Mock, said this year we’ve got to be better businessmen and that’s what we’ve really had to do: we’ve had to really focus on the numbers to get all of our people working as efficiently as they can—and everyone has. Our team has stepped up and is working a lot harder doing more than they’ve normally had to do.”

Sieber also commented that this year’s event in Atlanta had a number of vendors on-hand with enticing solutions for business operations.

“I’ve been really impressed with the machinery this year and all the representation,” Sieber added.

Product Fabrication Expansion
Indeed machinery seemed to provide a popular avenue for entering new markets. “It’s interesting how many customers I did talk to who came to see us who … said they wanted to go look at equipment,” Hewitt noted. “You know it’s going to turn and if you’ve had a lot of cash flow and been successful—if you’ve got the money now’s the time to get the best deal, and I think that probably applies to windows and equipment.”

Bob Carter with Salem Distributing remarked that the company’s traditional fabrication equipment on display got less interest from attendees than its new HOAF laminating system. “We’ve had hundreds of people come by wanting to look inside,” said
Carter. “It’s been by far the attention-grabber in our booth.”

Carter suspected the reason for that is that many glass fabricators are looking for “new directions” for their business to keep busy in 2010.

“It’s a new direction glass fabricators could go,” Carter said of the laminating kiln. He added, “It’s custom—and import-resistant.”

After visitors toured the inside of the oven—which is made from recycled shipping containers in a unique example of being green—they could examine examples of decorative laminated glass.

Giovanni Barbareschi, North American business development manager for Tekna, saw traffic in the company’s booth interested in automatic CNC fabrication equipment. As Barbareschi optimistically pointed out, the company has continued to increase in the North American marketplace despite the down economy because it is just expanding into this marketplace.

Over the last 10 or 15 years Tekna has supplied more and more automatic CNC equipment. “The advantage of the CNC equipment is that you program the machine to do whatever you have to do and you don’t have to reset the machine very often with tooling and dies and so on,” Barbareschi explained. “Also, with the increase of the fenestration software in the industry you can implement the complete automation from the office to the shop floor. I have to say that Europe, in terms of technology, is a little bit more advanced compared to North America, but America is really picking up; there are a lot of shops that are transitioning from manual machinery to automatic machinery. That’s actually the trend.”

The company displayed examples of its CNC machining center during the show, including one already-purchased example of an automated cutting machine. Barbareschi noted that part of what’s allowing the company to grow with this trend is its service policy.

“Our products our good, but we know that a key factor in North America is service and I think we have been very good in that,” Barbareschi added.

Carey Brayer, vice president of sales for Intermac America, noted that the company saw a 38-percent increase in booth
traffic compared to last year.

Intermac received a variety of new projects from visitors that currently have few fabrication machines, as well as visits from companies with active projects.

FeneTech reported a record number of visitors in its booth compared to previous years. Ron Crowl, FeneTech president, commented, “We approached this year’s GlassBuild show with apprehension as we were not sure what to expect based on the ongoing economic downturn. While attendance at this year’s show was lighter than previous years the quality of attendees was exceptional. Traffic in our booth could only be described as encouraging.”

FeneTech is among those companies looking to enter new markets.

“About two years ago at FeneTech we determined that to avoid participating in the industry downturn that we wanted to diversify the products that we offer and the geographical locations that we serve. We decided to partner with a company from Austria called SoftSolution and we’ve brought to the North American market the FeneVision line scanner,” Crowl said. In addition, “FeneTech is now an international company; we have active projects in Indonesia, Thailand, France and Egypt as well as throughout North America.”

Finding New Markets
According to Fred Gebauer, business development manager for Insulgard Security Products, the security glazing market is among those remaining strong. “We see good opportunities,” he said. As an example he pointed to the Appeals Court in Atlanta where his company is installing both bomb- and bullet-resistant glazing. “FEMA is becoming an important aspect of our products,” he added.

Art Marino of SAF-Glas described the market as “spotty.” He explained, “Until the money is on the street from the stimulus package, I think it’s going to be spotty. Upgrading government facilities is part of the package.”

According to Marino, in the work that is currently being done they’re using the lowest upgrades possible to save money. “Hopefully, when the stimulus money comes in, they upgrade,” he said. “In the U.S., we had banner years last year and the year before; but this year it’s dried up,” he added. “Prisons and other security facilities are waiting for the stimulus money. It’s like the cash-for-clunkers program.”

Marino said that his company is looking internationally and has built a plant in Taiwan to service the Far East and Europe, based on the value of those currencies verses the U.S. dollar.

Gebauer echoed the sentiment about not seeing the stimulus money. “The projects we’re working on have been in the works for some time,” he said.

According to Hewitt, “A lot of these glazing contractors] that have been doing office buildings during the boom run are out of office buildings to bid, so they’re looking for schools and educational [projects].” He added, “Schools have been strong for us; it still doesn’t make up the reduction of office and retail and condo.”

This year EFCO Corp. kept the spotlight on its 8700 and 8800 unitized curtainwall series, introduced at the AIA Convention (see June 2009 USGlass, page 64).

“We had a lot of interest in that because … that was the last piece we didn’t have and we used it to fill out our product line; for us it’s kind of a natural completion of the line. … And yes, we’ve had a lot of interest for it because a lot of our window customers want to get into that business,” commented Hewitt.

Coral Industries, which was once known solely as a shower door company, highlighted a new direction, focusing on its residential and architectural product segments. The company displayed a variety of glass products, including an array of patterned glass.

Jennifer Heidrick with World Glass noted that the company is moving toward more pre-fabricated products. “We’re supplying something [glaziers] can just buy and install and we’re seeing lots of interest in this,” Heidrick commented.

That company, however, also got a great deal of interest from attendees in its glass flooring and stairs, which they also offer backpainted. The company also showcased its new acid-etched patterns for glass and mirror for closet doors, as well as sliding doors.

The Energy Push
“Energy is the hottest topic in the news everyday,” commented Mark Silverberg of Technoform. It kept traffic coming to Tehcnoform’s booth to check out offerings such as its Bautec structural insulating strut.

Silverberg is predicting that the next generation of windows will be built around thermal strut and warm-edge spacers. He sees movement into use of warm-edge spacers in the commercial arena accelerating, even as Technoform has spent the last year expanding its capabilities with hollows.

“[There’s] an unprecedented level of design activity in the commercial window frame,” Silverberg commented.

Expect to see more hybrids, he predicted, as commercial window manufacturers move from all-aluminum products to a mix of aluminum with composites.

Continuing that trend of energy concern, Glasslam demonstrated in its booth how to make an insulating glass unit with its new Air-Tight™ SmartEdge spacer.

“It’s just been a fantastic show,” commented Matt Hale. He said that interest ran high in the new SmartEdge warm-edge spacer product thanks to the live demonstrations.

The continued focus on energy concerns prompted Lisec to display its TriSeal applicator at this year’s event. “As many are aware with all the Energy Star, code requirements and things that are coming into place, customers really need to switch over to a warm-edge spacer system or running triple glazed units for stainless steel bent spacers in combination with other low-E coatings in order to be able to comply with the Energy Star requirements,” Quast said.

Joe Erb, commercial product manager of Edgetech, the manufacturer of the TriSeal SuperSpacer, explained that the spacer product “is a flexible warm-edge with the metal removed but you still get all the structural integrity, the condensation resistance and thermal improvements that are necessary to meet the codes. When you can do that with a reduction in labor on the line it makes for a very good system to put into place.” Erb added, “We’re definitely seeing a continued growth for this market because of the energy codes.”

Mike McHugh with FeneTech explained that energy demands had prompted the company’s latest offering as well. “With some of the changes in our industry regarding Energy Star, NFRC’s increased the labeling requirements for windows dramatically. Many people have access to lasers, many people have information databases; what’s really lacking is the capability to integrate this information on the factory floor,” he said. “What we have devised is a system where the operator can simply touch the screen, feed the glass; in real time our computer system will label the glass intelligently.”


the authors: Megan Headley is the editor and Charles Cumpston, Ellen Rogers and Tara Taffera are contributing editors of USGlass.








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