Fenestration Focus January/February 2022

February 16th, 2022 by Nathan Hobbs

A Not-So-New Year: 2022 Is Another Occasion for Rolling Up Your Sleeves

By Brian Ludwig

A new year means a clean slate and a chance to start things anew. For the modern fenestration professional, that all might sound a little unlikely in 2022, as the challenges we dealt with throughout 2021 remain. Demand is high; supply chain challenges haven’t disappeared; and new energy regulations may upend how we build modern windows. What does it all mean? It means we’ll have to continue fighting to do right by our customers and meet some converging new trends. Here’s what to be on the lookout for.

Automation for Any-Sized Business

The impact high-speed, automated equipment has had on our industry is undeniable. Huge lines have been fixtures at global trade shows for a decade. But it’s not uncommon for smaller- to mid-sized window fabricators to believe that automation is only for the big guys—that their production volumes don’t justify investments in lines that can outstrip demands. It’s important to remember, however, that an automated line can generate numerous additional, tangible benefits beyond increased production. For example, it can help you better predict how many units you can produce during a shift. It can also help you better predict how much waste you might generate. These benefits help give you a better picture of how much raw material you’re likely to use in a given day. Quality consistency can also be improved dramatically via automatic precision.

An Increasing Focus on Logistics

If you’re reading this, I don’t need to tell you much about the supply crisis. And there aren’t currently many signs indicating that it will ease any time soon. Optimizing inventory and deeply understanding your production capabilities are no longer nice-to-haves— they’re essential. You’re probably more critical of your manufacturing processes and less tolerant of waste than you were before the supply crisis hit. Additionally, you probably have a clearer idea of exactly how much raw material you use daily, and how that translates to production figures.

Your ability to continuously identify new ways to improve efficiency on your plant floor is a good way to stay ahead of the competition no matter the market conditions, but it is especially relevant today.

An Uphill Climb to Energy Star 7.0

At the time of writing, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) latest version of the Energy Star performance standard, Version 7.0, is expected to see finalization in the coming weeks. Performance criteria for the Northern Zone, which includes much of the U.S., would require a 0.22 U-factor or better and a solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) of 0.17 or higher. While it’s possible to hit those numbers with some configurations of double-pane IG, my colleague Doug Hauck suggests the more likely scenarios include standard triple-pane with Argon gas, thin-glass triples with Krypton gas, or hybrid vacuum insulating glass (VIG). Some of these technologies come at a cost premium that is unrealistic for many manufacturers at this moment. As a result, manufacturers wishing to keep their Energy Star certification will likely need to rethink their window designs with technology that translates to palatable costs for the end consumer.

It won’t necessarily be easy—especially not amid the challenges already mentioned. But developing door and window systems that meet the new criteria with cost-effective components stands to become a significant competitive advantage into the future.

Brian Ludwig is Northeast territory sales manager for Quanex Building Products.
brian.ludwig@quanex.com

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