FGIA Analysis March/April 2023April 12th, 2023 by Nathan Hobbs
Innovation in Focus: Perseverance Helps to Create and Sustain Success
By Rich Rinka
On September 12, 1962, President John F. Kennedy said, “We mean to be a part of it. We mean to lead it.” Less than seven years later, on July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 landed on the moon. In a recent session at the Fenestration and Glazing Industry Alliance’s (FGIA) Annual Conference, titled “Embracing Innovation in the Fenestration Industry,” panelists highlighted their experiences in pioneering ideas for the betterment of our industry.
“We need that same commitment in our innovation missions in our industry,” said FGIA panel moderator Ray Garries, with Global Fenestration Advisors. “We are at a time of new breakthroughs in many systems and materials and our ability to harness this creativity sets our future.”
Inspiration and Determination
Session panelist Scott Corley, director of engineering for ODL, said he finds inspiration in everything from adjacent industries to customer interactions. “You have to sort through a lot of ideas before you can find anything really cool,” he acknowledged.
Corley said innovation is a new way of doing things and one that brings value, which he described in terms of money, time, effort or utility. When it comes to guiding value-driven innovation, he asks three key questions to evaluate ideas: Does anyone care about this? Should we do it? Can we do it?
“Where these all converge—that’s the sweet spot,” Corley said. He gave the example of how damage often occurs when people and their pets don’t realize their door is closed and walk through the screen. ODL believed something should be done about the problem; the company had the capabilities to do something about it; and, after evaluating several ideas, two tightly woven horizontal lines were added to screens. One at the top gives a quick eye-level reminder to people that a door is closed and one at the bottom provides a visual cue for pets. It’s a simple yet effective innovation.
“Innovation doesn’t have to be the big leap, or brand-new idea. It can be something that solves a problem,” he said. “It entices someone to switch from what they are using now.”
Corley also reminds attendees, “If you don’t try, you won’t be successful. Don’t be afraid to fail. It’s not failure if you’re learning something along the way.”
Sustainable, Dynamic Solutions
Failure is often just part of the process. Achieving the ideal color combination for Halio’s electrochromic (EC) glass “was achieved only after 50,000 different chemical composition and process temperature experiments were completed,” said Halio’s Walter Simon, another panelist.
While dynamic EC glass has been available for many years, “More innovation was needed for EC in order to see broader adoption,” Simon said. “Now, EC glass is beautiful and performs at a high level.” Today’s EC glass controls also integrate with smart technologies, such as HVAC, lighting and security systems. Now the Inflation Reduction Act specifically provides for investment tax credits for the use of EC glass.
Sustainable, dynamic daylighting solutions have also moved from exception to expectation. “Complex, optically selective fenestration systems are becoming standard,” said Solatube’s Neall Digert. More than 20 years ago, Solatube introduced its first innovative tubular daylighting device. To push beyond standard, Digert said the company listened to market needs, invested in innovation and has created next-generation optical diffuser technology.
“We took these large macro lenses and micro-replicated them. It allows us to control the pin spread and where light is going,” explained Digert.
Enhancing experiences, improving performance, adding value and solving problems is what this industry and fenestration products do every day. Let’s continue to find new, innovative ideas saying: Yes, we care. Yes, we should. Yes, we can.
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