This is a welcome letter to everyone new to our industry. With the summer rush upon us, housing construction gaining momentum, schools taking their breaks, and interns starting in our offices and plants, we have about 7,000-8,000 new people joining our normal 250,000.

It’s a great industry we belong to. Even Bill Gates named his core operating system Windows, and our product has been around 5,000 years. We are a key element to every building in the world, and many people invest all their working careers in our industry. We are innovators, and we are excellent business leaders. Most communities count themselves fortunate if they have a door or window manufacturer in their limits. We are local, large manufacturers who invest locally and don’t export jobs.

Your first experience with us may be trying since there is so much to learn. Your orientation will cover safety, policy, products and teamwork. The work is rewarding, and you will soon be able to take pride in the doors and windows you will see with your company logo. It’s a very competitive industry, and you are now on a team playing hard to service the market.

Your company has weathered the worst economic storm in history and survived. Imagine if other industries had suffered a 75 percent decrease in market right after three years of the highest demand in history. I doubt as many would have survived.

Why is this?

• There are well over a thousand window manufacturers in North America. The top five manufacturers only hold a quarter of the total window volume;

• The diversity of the market is high. Many niches are available for manufacturers;

• A large percentage of these manufacturers are family-based and think long term;

• Most manufacturers have developed their just-in-time finished-product systems to the point they store no inventory to burden them with extra cost;

• The one- to two-week delivery time many manufacturers adhere to keeps them quickly informed of any downturn or upturn in the market;

• Suppliers to the manufacturers have also adopted better service levels to reduce work in process inventory, also lowering costs;

• Many innovations have transformed the industry over the last 20 years, and;

• There are strong commitments to support the industry through involvement in the trade associations and trade shows that bring us together. Many companies believe that they owe a debt to the industry that has brought them success.

Imagine another industry where the typical manufacturer builds any size product, thousands of mullion combinations, thousands of thermal glazings, 12-15 types, many colors, laminates, safety glazing and numerous other options. The mathematics on these exponential options are in the tens of millions even for regional fabricators. Imagine they can deliver them in five to eight days to any jobsite. Imagine that they certify most of these products for strength, safety and thermal performance to their customers. It is an amazing and innovative industry.

My words of advice for you:

1. Become a student of the industry. Read all the product literature for your products. Spend time with the AAMA website, WDMA website, NFRC website and DWM website and blogs;

2. Work diligently and safely in whatever your assignment is. Many CEOs in our business started sweeping floors and cleaning glass;

3. Once you are finished with your orientation period, keep notes of your ideas for improvement, review them every month and present the good ones to your supervisor;

4. Take whatever training the company offers. Leadership, installation, safety, Lean, and service are usually taught internally;

5. Decide what interests you and pursue it. Watch for job postings and apply for the ones that will move you toward your goal. And write down those goals;

6. Invest in yourself. Make it your goal to complete the FenestrationMasters and InstallationMasters courses from AAMA, and;

7. Find a mentor to help guide you (just ask — there are many helpful people).

Good luck and keep innovating!

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