Impressions from Fensterbau

Emily Kay Thompson
April 10, 2018
THE TALK... | Markets & Trends

This editor is finally back to a normal schedule after spending some time in Germany. Over cappuccinos, Nuremberg sausages (and, fine, an occasional dunkel), I soaked in the culture of European fenestration and reveled in the overall sense of confidence and optimism for industry.  

Fensterbau, the biennial European tradeshow for fenestration, provides the North American market a look at trends on a global scale. Though there are certain elements that transcend markets, such as the tendency toward bigger openings and wide-open entries, exhibitors I spoke with were quick to note that specific trends don’t necessarily translate. It’s not likely the North American market will see tilt-turns dominate, for example. But materials, components and manufacturing practices are completely applicable.

Of particular note, the stands nestled all the way into Hall 3 of the gigantic maze of the exhibition center displayed evidence of this latter notion. Machinery suppliers splayed their robots and technology across numerous aisles and rows; with automation for nearly every process. Why this struck me is that the status of labor is not the talk of the German towns as it is in the U.S., where skilled labor dominates the conversation in every corner of the industry. I was able to see automation in its original light, designed for efficiency and maintaining high standards of quality. 

I was able to let these observations sink in on my long treks through the halls. Being greeted with a seat and a snack, I also had great conversations about shifting trends in profile laminates and color, listened to big ideas about customer-centric manufacturing and the challenges of just in time manufacturing. I enjoyed the elaborate afterhours celebrations of successful partnerships between suppliers and their customers and met some incredible resources. Thank you to all of my hosts—not only for the entertainment, but for the insightful perspectives you shared in our conversations. 

Overall, I came away with a ton of content ideas you’ll find throughout the year. And, above all else, the experience left me in anticipation of September, when we do this on our own turf—GlassBuild America is just around the corner. I can’t wait to see you all September 12-14 in Las Vegas. 

Note: Our apologies to those who were following our updates on Twitter and Instagram. Though a few posts made it through, battery-reliant handheld technology and foreign wifi ultimately failed our editor during the event. As a consolation, below are photos and highlights from the show. And, despite the glitch, we encourage you to follow us on Twitter and Instagram for industry highlights and live coverage of events.  

Thompson is editor of Window & Door,, and WDweekly. Write her at