Door
by Tara Taffera
June 10th, 2013

Foreign-Exchange Program

When employees leave Nordglass a sign thanks them for their work and wishes them a safe drive home.

When employees leave Nordglass a sign thanks them for their work and wishes them a safe drive home.

Isn’t that the term used when students travel abroad for a specified period of time: whether it’s a semester, a few months or a few weeks? Let’s just say I experienced my own foreign-exchange program though it only lasted a few days. What I learned, or in some cases, was simply reminded of, made it worth the trip—flight cancellations and all.

Last week, I was fortunate enough to travel to Poland to visit the two factories operated by auto glass manufacturer Nordglass. DWM’s sister publication AGRR™ magazine, needed a little help and I was more than willing to step up. On several occasions I found myself thinking of the door and window industry and how many of the principles applied here were relevant to any industry—including ours.

Chinese quality/price points. Thankfully it’s not as easy or cost effective as say, auto glass, to ship finished doors and windows from China. But even in our industry I have sat in industry meetings where the quality of Chinese components, such as extrusions and hardware, has come into question.

Many companies talk about the high quality of their products but with Nordglass their customers are telling them they can literally see the difference.

Adam Wachowicz, chief production officer puts it simply: “We give what Asia can’t.”

Steve Skorupa, president, North America, says it’s about reeducating the market on quality.

“Once the market is reeducated, price won’t always be king,” he says.

But what if some companies want the lowest price?

“One distributor we work with says, I have Chinese and I have European. Which do you want?” says Skorupa.

CEO Grzegorz Lajca takes an even harder stance saying, “We will not fight by price. That’s why we advertise.”

“We manufacture windshields to make a profit,” Skorupa adds.

Wow, what a concept?

Europe/The Gold Standard. While working on a few articles for DWM lately, I have been reminded constantly of the fact that Europe is always a step ahead when it comes to new products and technologies. For example, an article coming out in our July-August issue talks about new glass technologies and again, Europe has these first. Sooner or later, technologies such as vacuum insulating glass will come to the U.S. market.

This same issue came up repeatedly while touring Nordlgass. The executives talked constantly about testing to European specifications and how they are “the highest in the world.”

Impressive Observations. A few other things that struck me during my time in Poland included the company’s commitment to purchasing the highest-tech machines and how it helps contribute to that high quality they offer.

“Other companies’ fabrication plants are pretty dated,” says Skorupa.

Even with the company’s success and growth year after year they don’t claim to be perfect.

“We have problems like everyone else but it’s how you address those problems,” says Skorupa.

“The reason we are growing is because we listen to our customers,” adds Lajca. “We are not arrogant. We are not magicians.”

These executives are on the same page when it comes to customer service and every other part of its core mission. I have visited numerous companies over my last 15 years in the industry, and never have I encountered three top executives who were more united in their mission. We interviewed each executive on camera separately and they were unified in their answers and how they won’t stray from their core values.

That’s another thing that struck me. When we were leaving the plant, Skorupa pointed out the sign that employees see when they leave the plant (see photo): Thank you for your good work. Be careful and have a safe drive home.”

No wonder why the company says finding quality employees is not a problem here.

How do you handle complaints? Is your top leadership united in your mission? What’s your stance when it comes to technology and purchasing the latest equipment to help your plant more efficiently? Are your customers willing to pay a bit more for your high quality? Take the time to answer these questions and perhaps you will find yourself in the midst of impressive growth as well.



2 comments
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  1. Did you gain any insight as to the profitability of these Euro fenestration manufacturing companies? I have heard that EU firms and especially eastern European companies have historically had problems being profitable? What does your reporting indicate?

  2. Thanks for your comments. I did try to visit a window company while there but logistically it didn’t work out. I do however plan to follow this angle shortly and talk to some European manufacturers there. I did however learn that Poland is the fastest growing company in Europe. I inquired with the executives at Nordglass about this who said that this is due to the fact that other European countries are suffering due to the value of the Euro. However, Poland has its own currency so they believe this is one of the reasons for the success many companies are having there.

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