September 12th, 2013
The Best of …
It’s time for my annual list of my best moments from the Atlanta trade show. The categories are all over the board this year but highlight interesting tidbits of what I have seen and heard. So here we go.
Best conversation with a CEO: Bill Giffiths, Quanex. I enjoyed speaking with the new Quanex CEO when he took over two months ago, and it was even better to meet him in person. His candid, fresh approach to the business, and a solid focus on growing profitability, “both top and bottom,” will be interesting to watch.
Innovation in fiberglass: It was great to see many fiberglass companies on the show floor, including Omniglass. Laurie Davies told me that for fiberglass, joinery has always been an issue but that the company has changed that. The company developed a process of a mulled in corner where you inject self-leveling urethane. “You can put the sash and frame together in less than two minutes and it is structurally sound and puts to bed that issue of failures,” says Davies. “We had an attendee in here who is a weight lifter and he was trying to break and couldn’t.”
Innovation in screens: Screenco introduced its OneScreen system that offers just one screen for all your window systems. “We haven’t come across a window that it doesn’t work for,” says Jayme Tilley. “One manufacturer came by and was so excited to see something new, and even better was that it won’t ruin his seals.”
Best dealer tool: I was talking to a representative of Royal Building Products who was telling me about the great selling tools available to those who sell its window systems down the chain. What was most interesting was a dealer tool that allows a homeowner looking for windows to find out if the windows have been installed in the area. Let’s say a homeowner has those windows, two blocks down. Take a walk, take a peek and the rest is history. What a great idea!
Best thing to hear multiple times. I loved that companies are taking a real interest and placing a focus on Made in the USA.
Best customer service: Sorry, but I have to give it again to Royal. This truly was one of the best things I have heard. The company did a customer satisfaction survey, and compiled the results and put it into an iPhone app. Here’s the truly cool part. Before a sales rep walks in to see an account they look at the results for that particular company. So when they go in they know they have concerns about a particular issue and can address that head on. What a great proactive approach which, sadly, you rarely see.
Best news of an expansion.NortheastBuilding Products in Philadelphia is growing again. President Alan Levin told me they will open a 170,000 square foot plant. Why? Because they are up 30 percent this year. That’s just the best news period.
Best conversation about hard work. Hands down, this was with Fran Levin, Northeast Building Products. The company continues to grow (see above) but Fran always tells it like it is: “It’s hard work. The business won’t come to you. You have to go get it.” This may be my favorite conversation also. It was great to hear that her son and daughter, one in college, and one a junior in high school are interested in the family business. “That’s our succession plan she says.” If they have the passion of their parents, and it sounds like they do, that’s one great plan.
Best multiple expansions. I was glad to catch up with Earl Rahn, president of Tampa-based NewSouth Window Solutions. But the company is expanding way beyond Tampa. They now have retail locations in Orlando, and as of October 1 will have one in Boca Raton.
Best surprise interest in a product category. J.P. Braaten at Westech Building Products reported the company was getting a great amount of interest in its decking which he says can also be used as fascia boards to trim the window.
Best analogy. Mark Toth, HB Fuller, beckoned back to the days when the door and window industry would maybe make it to one trade show a year and it would be the one time for the industry to get together. As he put it, they had to. They didn’t have the Internet and suppliers sending them information daily, etc. That being the case, fewer companies attend the GlassBuild America show, and others like it. “It used to be like the annual state fair or when the farmers would come together once a year to see the biggest and best. And that would be it and they would go back to their crops.”