CertainTeed Enhances Window Business with Decorative Glass

After witnessing success at Marshall Vinyl Windows first-hand, the company has rolled out Accentrim nationwide

When CertainTeed Corp.’s Windows Group acquired Marshall Vinyl Windows in 2002, it got more than a new window manufacturing operation in southern California. It got first-hand experience in the production and marketing of a new option in decorative glass. CertainTeed liked what it saw and is now rolling out Prism Grid at all of its window manufacturing operations.

Prism Grid incorporates Accentrim optical film from 3M Corp. to offer the look of beveled glass. CertainTeed officially launched the option nationwide at the International Builders’ Show earlier this year.

Stan Gursky, who serves as product planning and development manager for CertainTeed’s Windows Group, first got involved with the decorative glass product even before CertainTeed acquired Marshall Vinyl Windows. The company was previously a licensed fabricator of CertainTeed products, and Gursky had visited the plant many times, observing Marshall’s roll-out of Accentrim. He, like other CertainTeed officials, quickly became “very excited” about the potential.

Marshall had found widespread acceptance of the decorative glass option in the southern California market, says Marie McDonagh-Forde, marketing communications manager for CertainTeed’s Windows Group. “The success of Prism Grid in the CertainTeed Corona market made the decision to roll it out to all of the other CertainTeed plants and markets nationwide an easy task.”

“It’s a beautiful product,” says Gursky. “The aesthetics are very good, and it helps deliver that something extra that appeals to the higher end of the market.” Additionally, he notes, with the many competitors in the vinyl window market, CertainTeed sees a real benefit in having a product that distinguishes its line. “Having something a little different means it’s a nice draw for dealers,” he adds. CertainTeed’s dealers were also “very excited” about the prospect of offering Prism Grid, Gursky reports.

Prism Grid provides “a classy, distinctive accent without being obtrusive, a truly unique feature in window design,” says Mike Long of Crossroads Glass & Door Inc., San Luis Obispo, CA. As a CertainTeed dealer, Long says he appreciates the fact that the decorative option allows him to differentiate his window offering from competitors. In addition to a unique look, the CertainTeed and 3M names evoke quality in the minds of customers, which provides him another distinct advantage, he points out.

When Long first started showing the Prism Grid product to customers, most could not believe it was a film technology within the insulating glass units of the window. “They were amazed. The added feature of not having to clean bevels or grooves was just a great bonus,” says Long. More importantly, he continues, customers like the flexibility of the design: the ability to “mix and match CertainTeed window shapes, add diamond patterns to them, put little jewel patterns on patio doors, enhance slider windows or add sidelites containing custom patterns next to entry doors.” The addition of Prism Grid patterns to CertainTeed patio doors is also a favorite among his customers, Long notes.

“We certainly don’t see Prism Grid used in every home where CertainTeed windows are sold, or in every window in a home when customers opt for it,” Gursky explains. Typically, the decorative glass might be used in a den or near an entry door in an accent or showcase window. When it is sold to a homeowner, Gursky says it’s typically a “roomful” of windows that incorporate the feature. While Prism Grid has enjoyed its greatest success in remodeling applications, it also has good potential for new construction business. He sees builders beginning to incorporate Prism Grid in windows in the front of a home, where it’s highly visible and can add to the curb appeal.

Crossroads sells Prism Grid to homeowners looking to remodel their homes, but Long also reports a big new construction business, and his firm is finding success with the decorative option there as well. He is currently installing windows in Morro Bay in California in a condominium setting. “The front view of the condos sparkle,” he notes, with trapezoid-shaped windows with Prism Grid creating “magnificent curb appeal and great beauty.” The new decorative option, Long says, is just another way CertainTeed helps him position his business to move into higher-end projects and finer home installation.

 

Product Positioning

“Every time we show it, we sell it.” That’s what just about every window company now offering the Accentrim option on their products reports, says Peter Baka, product manager for Glass Equipment Development. What’s been unique at CertainTeed is the aggressive marketing effort the company has put behind the product “right from the start,” he suggests. One of the few manufacturers that have developed its own private label for the option, CertainTeed has created brochures and really made Prism Grid visible at the consumer level. “What’s making them successful is that they are positioning it as a premium grid, not a low-cost option,” he also notes. 

Greg Shipp, technical services manager for 3M’s Industrial Adhesives and Tapes Division, offers a similar perspective on CertainTeed’s success. “If you put it on the shelf and let people find it, you’ll be successful. We’ve seen that if you get it out in front of customers, you’ll be more successful.” CertainTeed’s positioning, he notes, reflects the manufacturer’s belief that Accentrim offers both a real growth opportunity and a profit opportunity. Beyond developing a brand name for its Accentrim product, CertainTeed is pursuing new opportunities with the product line, he continues. He points to its range of patterns that goes beyond traditional V-groove designs, for example. Its “jewel pattern” can’t be produced with V-grooves and provides a subtle, sophisticated accent.

 

Adding it to the Production Line

There were really very few challenges when adding production capabilities for Accentrim, according to CertainTeed’s Gursky. As far as launching the product, he notes, it was simply a matter of getting samples out into the market in front of customers. “We had to get it set up and moving pretty quickly because the demand was there. GED did a great job with us. We already use a lot of GED equipment, so we were able to tie it in with our existing systems fairly quickly,” he reports.

From a production standpoint, Accentrim offers a number of advantages to CertainTeed, he suggests. “We’re able to control our own destiny.” Unlike other decorative glass options that have to be outsourced, it adds virtually no lead time to the company’s window manufacturing operations.

“It’s very cost effective and offers lower lead times,” agrees Shipp, and that’s been the case for most window manufacturers adding the option, he reports. Another advantage manufacturers have seen, he notes, is that the product eliminates the need for the heavier glass often required for beveled glass. Finally, he emphasizes, “Manufacturers can do a lot more with it. Because it’s an optical film applied to the glass, it can be used to create patterns that you can’t do with glass.”

Baka reports that generally, window companies have found the decorative glass option to be a relatively simple addition to the production process. The biggest question, he notes, is where to position the work cell, which consists of a glass washer and either one or both of two machines available to apply the Accentrim material to the glass. One unit offered by GED is an XY application table, geared more toward custom designs and specialty units. The other is a CNC table geared toward higher-volume application of more standard patterns. “We think having all three units is the optimal solution,” Baka states. “That’s something manufacturers generally grow into.” Customers typically start out with one of the application units and a washer, and then add the second type of machine as they see demand grow three to six months later, he explains.

Currently, Baka reports, about 20 companies are making windows with the Accentrim option. He expects an additional 10 companies to begin production by the end of the year. “It offers a lot of advantages over other decorative glass products,” he states. “It speeds things up and adds very little to lead times.” One observation he offers regarding success with Accentrim is that it helps to have a “champion” for the product within a company. The option has been very successful in cases where one person takes on the responsibility of setting up the operation and making sure it gets marketed properly.

Has it had an impact on sales of other decorative enhancements at various window manufacturing operations? “It’s really a complement to other options, like traditional grilles,” says Baka. Some companies have seen Accentrim sales have a small impact on demand for grids, but, he adds, it usually provides better margins. 

“We don’t really know what impact it’s had on sales of grids and other options,” says Shipp. Even if it does lower sales for other products, he also suggests, manufacturers are finding it to be more profitable.

Gursky notes that enthusiasm remains high within CertainTeed. Not only was Prism Grid a major focus of its marketing and promotional efforts at this year’s International Builders’ Show, he points out that it is also being highlighted as CertainTeed marks its 100th anniversary this year. It is in the spotlight as one of the latest in the building product company’s long history of innovative products.