Focus on Added Value Leads Eagle to Provide New Film on Windows

Iowa manufacturer teams with Cardinal Glass to provide builders with protective product designed to reduce clean-up times and address a variety of other issues

A construction site can be tough on windows and doors. One persistent problem is paint, plaster, stucco or any number of other materials spattered onto the glass. Removal can be time-consuming and lead to scratched glass, a result that more than likely means a callback for the builder or contractor.

Two companies are now teaming up to address this issue. First, Cardinal Glass Industries began offering a temporary, protective film applied to its insulating glass units, called Preserve, to its window and door manufacturer customers. More recently, Eagle Window & Door began a high-profile roll out of the film as a standard feature on its products, launching it officially at the International Builders’ Show in Las Vegas in January.

 

The product’s roots at Cardinal go back five years, according to Tom Kaiser, vice president of sales and marketing for the Eden Prairie, MN-based glass manufacturer. At that point, it was conducting market research with builders related to glass surface modifications, specifically smooth surface glass and a self-cleaning product. In talking to builders, however, it also chose to get their input on protective films for glass. “And, lo and behold,” says Kaiser, “our surveys found that, of the three offerings, the protective film was by far the most popular.”

 

The glass manufacturer has been developing its product offering since, building its own equipment to apply the film to its IG units, as well as securing the rights related to application of films on glass. One company had been doing it, and found some success in the wood door market, but it never really caught on much further, Kaiser notes. Cardinal sees much more potential for the protective films, however, based on market research and its conversations with window manufacturers and builders.

 

Eagle is equally enthusiastic about the prospects for the product, according to Jeff Murphy, vice president of sales and marketing. The Dubuque, IA, based manufacturer plans to provide the protective film as standard on all its windows and doors, except those featuring decorative glass (those come from a different supplier). Even though it adds costs for Eagle, the company decided it would be better not to provide it as an option because it “delivers another real value to builders, and that’s really our focus,” Murphy states.


Value for Builders

“In the high-end residential and light commercial markets we target, we compete with some of the most widely-recognized brands in the business,” he continues. “We have made a conscious decision to really focus on delivering more value than the competition. We do that in a number of ways. First, we start with a high-quality window. Then, we offer more custom-type options within our standard product line. We offer more exterior finishes as standard, decorative glass, more hardware choices, and now VisionGuard.”

 

Murphy sees VisionGuard as a real value for builders because it not only greatly reduces the chance of problems with scratched glass, but it can save them a significant amount of time. It saves time while other work is done, whether it’s on the interior or exterior. The film allows other parts of the window to be masked and protected easily, he notes. It allows painters to work more quickly on the inside of a home, and protects the exterior of the window as a home is finished, no matter what type of exterior is being applied.

 

At the end of a job when it comes to clean up, builders simply peel the film off the glass and no longer have to spend time cleaning spattered paint or other construction materials.  Window labels, which can cause problems themselves at clean-up time, are also removed right along with the film. The film material, Murphy adds, is environmentally-friendly too, and does not create any disposal problems.

 

Using windows and doors protected by the film will save builders approximately $600 in clean-up costs per home, according to Cardinal’s market research. That figure doesn’t include costs incurred due to callbacks related to scratched or damaged glass, or potential savings offered by the fact that other processes might be speeded up, Kaiser adds. These benefits make the film very different from other window features and options offered by manufacturers. Most upgrades are designed to appeal to the consumer, he explains; “this speaks directly to the builder.”

 

Insurance costs represents one of the builder’s most rapidly rising expenses, Kaiser continues. While builders are viewed, generally, as unwilling to pay for a lot of new features, the film addresses a critical issue for builders in the form of “window insurance.” It helps reduce potential problems builders often face in working with various subcontractors and determining responsibility for different tasks on the jobsite, he explains.

 

Robert Grommesh, Cardinal’s product development engineer, notes that there are numerous films and other materials designed to protect windows during the construction process. Builders’ experiences with these aftermarket products—films applied on the jobsite and sprayed-on coatings—“were not totally positive,” he states. Not only do they require time and labor to apply, they also were susceptible to problems in the removal phase.

 

Cardinal’s Preserve film, Grommesh points out, has been developed specifically for superior outdoor weatherability. Not only has it been tested for resistance to paints and stains, and numerous other construction materials, it has been tested for durability and can be left on the glass for up to one year, and still allow easy removal, he reports. “We’ve put it in test homes throughout the country. It’s been placed on about 1,000 windows in Florida, Arizona, and throughout the Midwest to make sure there weren’t products being used out there that might cause compatibility issues.” 


Market Response to Date

Eagle’s pleased with the initial response to the product, Murphy reports.  It began to roll out the product late last year to gauge reaction from builders and got a lot of positive feedback. It officially launched the product at the International Builders’ Show in Las Vegas and “interest was extremely high.” Murphy notes that demonstrations of the product attracted large crowds throughout the four days of the event.

 

Cardinal’s seen similar builder feedback in a number of test homes projects it’s been involved with. The glass supplier’s window and door manufacturer customers will make a decision to offer the product based on the feedback they get directly from their builder and contractor customers, Kaiser explains. As a result, the glass supplier has provided the film on products for a number of its OEM customers to allow them to gauge the reaction.  “Everything we’ve seen suggests that builders see a tremendous amount of value in it.”

 

While the protective film has appealed to builders, subcontractors, Kaiser admits, have had a mixed reaction. “The painters love it,” as they are typically paid by the job, and this speeds their efforts by reducing the time it takes to mask and protect windows and doors. Stucco contractors, on the other hand, are typically paid on an hourly basis, he continues. They actually see the product as somewhat of a threat, because it potentially cuts into their time on a job.


OEM Interest

While Eagle may be the first with a highly-visible roll-out of the protective film, Kaiser reports that other manufacturers are also offering the film on their windows and doors, and interest is high among numerous other producers. It’s already included in the catalogs of products offered by Cardinal’s other customers, including Jeld-Wen’s wood window operations. Cardinal has also been supplying the film on glass units to Four Seasons Sunrooms for the past two years.

 

That experience, Kaiser adds, has provided feedback on the film from the remodeling and replacement side of the business.  He sees the film product appealing to contractors and homeowners too for many of the same reasons it will appeal to builders. At the OEM and dealer level, he suspects the film will also be appreciated in for a number of other reasons in the home improvement arena. The fact that windows and doors can be masked, and still allow light into a home, will improve the “experience” for homeowners in the middle of a remodeling project, he suggests.  

 

Beyond the appeal the film offers to the window manufacturer customers, he points to a number of reasons it appeals directly to the OEM market.  Glass breakage and scratched glass rank as two of the biggest sources of callbacks for window manufacturers. When problems occur, there’s always the question of “who is responsible?” These issues can be very costly for manufacturers, because generally, they don’t want to argue with their customers, and, in many cases, they make a business decision to replace a unit. The film doesn’t protect against breakage, he notes, but it “takes the scratch issue out of play.” That’s been the experience at Four Seasons, he reports. “Scratches have gone away as an issue.”

 

This is increasingly important, he notes, given the growing importance of window labels required for code approval. They need to stay on longer, until the inspector shows up, and can become difficult to remove, Kaiser notes. Despite all the warnings the industry makes, he adds, razor blades remain the “weapon of choice” when it comes to removal.

 

There are a couple other benefits from an OEM’s perspective, Kaiser adds. First, he notes, IG units are typically shipped to window and door manufacturer customers with paper interleaves. With the film, such paper is eliminated. In addition to reducing handling requirements for window manufacturers, this also eliminates a process that can be prone to worker safety and health problems due to the repetitive motions involved, he points out. A less tangible benefit, he notes, relates to branding. Many builders and contractors like to remove labels as soon as possible, because they believe the longer they stay on the glass, the greater potential for problems when removing them. The easy-off film eliminates problems with labels and therefore labels are likely to stay on longer, providing more exposure for the manufacturer’s brand name.

 

Grommesh points not just to the product’s quality, but the fact that it’s an OEM product that makes it unique. “The way we’re delivering it is what makes it novel,” he emphasizes. For a window manufacturer already buying IG from the company, he states, it requires very little change, he states. “All they have to do is tell us the desired cutback (the width around the IG perimeter where the glass is to be left exposed for application of glazing materials).” The film is compatible with most existing plant equipment and can be handled using tradition suction devices, he continues. Applied grids and grilles are the one area where the window or door manufacturer needs to add a special process to accommodate the film, Grommesh notes.

 

That’s been the experience at Eagle, according to Murphy. From a manufacturing perspective, the only big challenge to incorporating the product into the Eagle line involved windows and doors with applied grilles, he states. “We had to figure out a cost effective way to trim out just the right amount of film.  You need to remove it from the glass where the grids will be placed, but you can’t cut away too much or you’ll eliminate the protection. We’ve made a significant investment in developing a process and working it into our production lines.”

 

Cardinal has invested a significant amount in looking at the issues involved for manufacturers, Kaiser also notes. Applied grilles are the one area where a manufacturer will have to make some changes, but for the most part, he emphasizes, production issues have been addressed “and we’re prepared with solutions.”

 

It’s an investment Murphy says Eagle expects will pay off in new customers. “We see this as a real point of differentiation. This is a distinct extra that builders can’t get elsewhere,” he says. Many different window features may appeal to builders, he continues, but Eagle sees VisionGuard film as a truly unique offering that will not only appeal to builders and gain their interest, it will convince them to make the switch.

 

It’s a product that could revolutionalize the window industry, according to Dave Beeken, Eagle president. “We are proud to lead the charge of adding additional value to our already top quality window and door line. The freedom VisionGuard, and all our other options offer to our dealers, architects, builders and consumers sets Eagle apart from the pack.”