The Conversation Happened There

Themes and observations from GlassBuild America: The Glass, Window & Door Expo
Emily Kay Thompson
October 17, 2019
COLUMN : Observation Desk

Having physically recovered from walking the entire 187,000-net-square-foot exhibit floor at GlassBuild America last month, I’m inspired by all the meaningful and insightful conversations I was able to have with many of the exhibitors and attendees. The vibe, in a word, was solid.

Sure, many admitted that the year started out slow; multiple sources who do business outside the U.S. added that the Canadian market was particularly flat. Still, there are pockets of resilience even in the slower markets that were delayed due to the polar vortex earlier in the year. But not in a single of my conversations did I hear the word “recession” unless it was to reject the notion that we are seeing anything close to one. 
 
Resilience wasn’t just connected to specific markets. Suppliers observed that their customers doing the best were those investing in external marketing strategies, and on automation and technology on the internal side of the business. “Customers seeing the most success are those who have invested in automation, who are marketing more and relying on labor less,” Filip Geeraert, Deceuninck CEO, said. 
 
Exhibitors largely reported that manufacturers are not trying to catch up as has been the pace in years past. Instead, they are looking ahead to fulfill Q4 orders. Laurie Cowin, our senior editor, reported similar sentiments from those she spoke with, but also pointed to what we’ve been hearing all year about keeping up with growth. 
 
The industry, Cowin wrote, is focusing on how to meet that exploding demand for products, and many are turning to technology and automation as the labor shortage continues. Several exhibitors including Veka and GED, demonstrated virtual and augmented reality solutions to aid in design selection and customer service, among other functions.
 
The technology on display continues to grow and was especially strong in Atlanta. Beyond the catchy and applicable AR/VR solutions, we see more and more robots on the equipment side every year. To bring it all together, software companies showcased the backend of automation.   
 
Hardware suppliers such as Roto North America and Amesbury Truth also joined the technology trend, showing advancements in so-called “smart” hardware. Additionally in this realm, suppliers are responding to the trend of bigger, heavier glass with hardware to support it.
 
Speaking of glass, there was a ton of it, as the name of the event implies. I spent some time with Quanex talking about the potential of thin glass IGUs. We take a special look at this advancement in this issue on page 20. 
 
To record all of the chatter, ideas and themes that came out of the three-day event would take way more space than I have here—and I haven’t even started to talk about the extremely valuable education that went on at Window & Door Dealer Day before the show even started. Instead, you’ll see the trends and themes surface throughout next year in our editorial coverage. 
 
As the signage in the Industry Pavillion booth noted, the conversation truly does happen at GlassBuild America, and we are so fortunate to be a part of it and to be the official voice of the biggest event in fenestration. 
Thompson is editor in chief of Window + Door, WindowandDoor.com, and WDweekly. Write her at ethompson@glass.org.