Fenestration Focus January/February 2020

July 21st, 2021 by Nathan Hobbs

A New Decade: Are You Prepared to Make it a Successful One?

By Larry Johnson

The ways in which fenestration professionals do business have certainly changed over the past 10 years, and no doubt the same will occur in the 10 years ahead. In order to best serve your customers and maximize success, here are a few things that door and window companies should think about as we press into the new year.

California’s Title 24 went into effect on Jan. 1, including a bold update that requires newly constructed residences to utilize new energy-conserving technologies, while also encouraging the use of things like major improvements to thermal envelopes, walls and windows.

It will be a few months before we can make any meaningful statements on how the new code has impacted the fenestration market in California, but one thing is certain: This isn’t the end of the road.

Our neighbors up north are also pursuing an aggressive performance policy. As of Jan. 1, Canadian Energy Star zone criteria are now the same for the entire country, meaning that all certified windows must deliver thermal performance that stands up to the coldest parts. That’s a major shift, given that the country’s highest-density urban centers—where there is the most demand for new doors and windows— were previously classified under Zone 1 or Zone 2. Door and window companies will need to take advantage of higher-performance technology to meet consumer demand in these markets.

Finally, back in the U.S., the past few years under President Trump’s administration have seen weakening of federal energy policy. A Democrat winning back the White House would almost certainly see a retightening of energy policy.

Smartly Investing in Your Business

Experts anticipate that we’ll see the economy grow at a slower pace sometime in the next few years before returning to higher growth rates. Michael Collins wrote in a recent issue that labor shortages and housing affordability, along with trade tensions and more people staying put in their current homes, might slow growth—but certainly won’t bring it to a halt.

Reports like this shouldn’t cause anyone to panic, but it’s a worthy enough topic of conversation to consider how well your business is set up to navigate any potential economic headwinds. Some questions to ask yourself include:

Where’s my focus? There are times when it’s advisable to take some bigger business risks—jumping into a new market, for instance—and times for consolidating your strengths. A slower-growth year might be time for the latter.
Where am I conserving costs? It can be tempting to cut price corners—but it’s always worth questioning if short-term savings are worth potential longer-term impacts. No one wants unit failures and increased warranty claims.
Do I trust my vendors to meet my evolving needs? Working with partners and suppliers that are consistently responsive to your needs in any type of economic climate is important. Fluidity on today’s plant floor depends on all stakeholders communicating openly and honestly, and working with suppliers and vendors who share that mindset can make a big difference.

Even if being slightly more conservative this year is merited, that doesn’t mean it’s time to stop making smart investments in your success. If you’ve looked around your factory floor recently and thought, “Boy, all of my equipment sure feels old…,” your instincts are probably correct. Aging equipment can be a major drag on productivity, quality and even safety.

Today’s high-speed full automation can help you improve quality and product consistency and can enable you to achieve higher production volumes.

Smart investments like these can be instrumental to success and can help us push product performance to new heights, while maximizing value for our businesses. Here’s to a good year, a good decade and a bright future for our industry.

Larry Johnson is vice president of sales, North American fenestration, for Quanex Building Products.

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