Welcome to Glass and Window blog. This blog has had weekly entries since April 2010, making it one of the largest, longest, and most verbose blogs ever, with specialist focus on the glass and window industries.

The Glass Racking Company, a specialist supplier of glass and window factory handling and transportation solutions, with customers across the globe. Over time we have enjoyed working with clients to create solutions for them which save time, reduce rework and hence costs, and address health and safety requirements.

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Last week I saw more evidence of our products being copied. The companies doing the copying aren't new entrants to the market with new fresh ideas, but dead-beats who blindly copy our products. 

In business you always have 2 options. You either copy what someone else does, or you develop your own offering. To develop your own offering requires an understanding of your customers, their needs, their wants, the issues they face, their business plans. If you choose to be an innovator then you commit time and money to this path. If done well, you develop a good business model as your solutions help your customers to move ahead. It's often called a partnership.

The other option is to copy. To take someone else's thinking and make the products for a lower cost than the innovative company does. You can do this without actually understanding what you're making, what it's for, and how it helps. Of course your costs are lower and of course you can sell these copies for a lower price.

Over time copying just cripples the industry. The innovative companies get involved in price wars and the budget for innovation disappears. Innovation stops. 

Ironically the companies buying the copies are often the very same companies who need innovation to create a point of difference in their market.

Vans and newsletters

Thanks to all the readers that wrote to me last week and confirmed that I'm not old, that 49 years classifies me as middle aged, and how I'm in extremely good shape for my age. I appreciate your support and words of encouragement as I count down the months, weeks and days to my half century.

This week I'm writing a newsletter about the suitability of vans for transporting glass. The newsletter will most likely be read by more glass and window industry participants than this blog, so it's important to get it right. The challenge is that the news is not good – the design of each new release of vans makes them less and less suitable as glass carriers. There are solutions but they require change and they're not all easy.

It will be interesting to see how the industry reacts. I expect some will think we are trying to upsell them into more expensive trucks. Some will think we are overstating the changes and that there is no real issues. Some may think we're skirting our responsibilities and warranties (which we're not). Hopefully, many will call or email to say "Thanks for the heads up. I understand what you're on about. The issues are relevant for my business. I'd like to sit down with you and plan our way forward".  

Old friends

My wife and I travelled to a friends 50th birthday party in the weekend. The party was a relatively formal affair with a sit down dinner and lots of speeches. Of the 23 guests, one (or both) of each couple all met 33 years ago, plus one neighbour. The tightness of this group of friends and the history we have made it an amazing dinner, and very funny speeches. Although we don't all get together that frequently we all know each other very well. Quite special friendships. 

The relevance to the glass and window industry? The Glass Racking Company has been supplying the needs of the glass and window industries for around 25 years. As staff move within companies and between companies we sometimes lose contact with them for a period, but more often than not they pop-up at some time in the future and we again work with them. The bonds formed working on projects together are very similar to personal friendships as there is a level of understanding and trust which underlies the dealings.  

As I re-read this blog it strikes me how it reads like the blog of an old man. I'm 49, I'm not old! 

Van structures

In recent years we've seen a whole new range of vans with Euro style roof systems enter the market. These vans are typically more stylish (rounded in shape) and have no gutters. Instead they often have channels on the roof and factory supplied roofbar fixing points (like a rivnut set into the roof to allow a roofbar fixing to be threaded into it). Unfortunately these fixings are on the horizontal part of the roof (not at the top of the side panel) and hence have little strength. Many of the suppliers of these vans realise this, and provide a maximum loading figure for the roofbar fixing points which render them useless for mounting external glass frails.

One option we've explored is to strengthen the structure of the van by installing posts in the van to prop up the roofbar fixing points. Another is to create heavy duty underbody brackets for the van frail to sit on – the disadvantage being that in an accident the collision impact is transferred to the core of the van, to an area which is difficult and expensive to repair. 

Fortunately years of installing van frails has shown us that damage to vans only occurs in collisions. 

The challenge for us is in what we take responsibility for. Are we as van frail suppliers to the industry responsible for the structural integrity of the vans? Are we responsible for the damage to a van in a collision?      

I'm currently dragging information out of the van suppliers about the structural strength of their vans. Many have this information hidden away in their files, never read by van salespeople, and most often never read by the product managers or their technical staff until I push the issue.

Watch this space.  


Request from a reader

I received this response from an avid reader of Barx Blog. We communicate regularly and I thought this email suggesting a topic for a future blog should be printed in its entirety. Enjoy.

Hi Ian, how about doing a blog on why companies spend millions on computer programs that often only benefit them (management) and are reluctant to invest in simple products like the ones you and l have discussed often. Better simple things that improve productivity, safety, and build a better and more positive work force. They seem to think tapping into the knowledge of your floor staff makes them look less of a boss. Your staff are an untapped library. Also they will  feel appreciated and are more likely to be more productive . There is an old saying "Train your puppy well and treat it well, and it will grow to trust you and look to please you with great joy. Mistreat it and it will grow to hate you and eventually attack you".  We humans aren't that much different. Respect goes a long way in the work place as in life in general. 

The lines are crossing

The lines are crossing.

Imagine a line on a graph representing the average weight of glass items on a construction site over time. Go back 10 years, and go forward ten years. Imagine the line going from small and manageable to large and difficult.

Now imagine a line on a graph representing the cost of robotic glass lifting equipment. Go back 10 years, and go forward 10 years. Imagine the line going from very expensive (low production volumes = high cost) to affordable (high production volumes = low cost).

I believe the lines have crossed. The more work we do with installation teams understanding the challenges on site the more we see that Robots can address these issues. The more work we do with suppliers of this equipment the more we see how affordable and cost justifiable they are.

A client said recently that they want to get into this technology now so that they can take advantage of opportunities that they know are coming, rather than wait. Technology which is about break even now will become very profitable over its useful life.

Barx Book

This morning I counted the total number of words submitted by me on this blog. It totals 78,026 words. An average novel is 65,000 words, so I figure I should change "Barx Blog" to "Barx Book".

It's an interesting exercise writing a blog item on the glass and window each week. For the most part the blogs just roll off the mind onto the paper. I'm fortunate to have opinions, and fortunate to have a role at work where I'm given access to the inner workings of many glass and window companies. Mix the two and throw in a handful of problem solving skills and you have the basis for each weeks blogs.

If there's anything you'd like me to investigate or give an opinion on please don't hesitate the email me on the link below. I'll do what I can, and have enjoyed some of the investigative work and blogging I've done for readers in the past.

The practicalities of the characteristics of glass 10

This is the tenth blog is a series on the practicalities of the characteristics of glass. This was inspired by fellow glass industry blogger Deb Levy of US Glass Magazine fame.

This characteristic is that glass is possibly the only part of a building which people expect to last forever without any attention or maintenance. Walls and doors get repainted, carpets get cleaned and replaced, but the humble glass is at best cleaned every now and then with little consideration to a replacement plan. 

The exception is perhaps multiple glazing where the shortcomings of single glaze have been highlighted in recent years spawning a new industry of retrofit double glaziers. Additionally those doing house or building renovations will typically add more windows or replace small windows with larger ones, such is the trend for more natural light and more glass in modern buildings. These changes create new benefits for the building, and are not done because the old windows have worn out. 

Ah yes, glass, the most long-term robust component of most buildings!

Hey Toyota .....

Hey Toyota, where's your customer service?

Last week I tried to call Toyota national head office to speak with the product manager for their vans. I have some questions for Toyota and need some technical information on load ratings and capabilities of their vans. This information will help me to help them sell more vans.

My first challenge was finding a number to call Toyota on. The Toyota website doesn't have a "Contact Us" section. I searched the directory listings and got hold of a Toyota dealer who put me onto another dealer, who eventually gave me a phone number to call. Not surprisingly when I called this number I went into a call centre queue. My call was answered by an agent who was not permitted to put me through to the product manager. She said the best way for me to make progress was to send her an email request that she would pass on to the product manager so that he/she could respond. This I did straight away and I'm now waiting.

I thought Toyota was a customer focussed organisation? 

I'd like to think that ALL suppliers in the glass and window industry make their technical specialists and sales and marketing people more accessible than that! 

Surely the Toyota sales and marketing team must know that many of their vans are purchased to put our racks on. The fact that they don't proactively call on us and force feed us product information is bad enough. To not have an online or phone based service to help us when we need product information is even worse!

Take 5 minutes to search your company on the web. Search using key words which describe the products and the services your company provide. How easy is it to make contact with you? Call your company and see who answers the call. Send an email and see who responds. Do some regular checks to make sure you don't become a Toyota!

(Addendum : I went back to the Toyota website and they do have a contact phone number on a banner at the bottom of each page. On my first visit I just didn't scroll down far enough, past all the video links for their TV commercials and promotions, to get to it.)

The practicalities of the characteristics of glass 9

This is the ninth blog is a series on the practicalities of the characteristics of glass.

This characteristic is that glass is possibly the way coolest construction material there is. We are fortunate to work in the industry which supplies the most interesting, diverse and practical component of any house or commercial building.

Around the planet architects have realised this so the amount of glass in each new home or building is increasing each year, and as a result, the quality and enjoyment which comes from living in or working in these buildings also goes up.

Many years ago a friend of mine had a wife who was depressed and suffered from anxiety. This had been an issue for most of her life. On retirement they built a new home with massive windows to let in natural light. She became much happier and many of the issues which had plagued her were reduced. I believe the windows in her home were a major contributor to this. She was living in a home she was proud of and enjoyed.   

Be proud of the industry we're a part of. Glass and windows are neat!