Contract Glaziers Speak Out: Longer Lead Times

While a strong economy and high demand for architectural/commercial products has been a boom to the industry, it has brought with it an unpleasant byproduct - longer lead times. Fabricators are stretched to capacity in many areas of the country and are scrambling to keep up while glazing contractors must plan well into the future to accommodate for lead-time increases.

"The economy is strong, demand is high and lead times are getting longer," says Rick Towner, project manager at Silicon Valley Glass, a mid-size glazing contractor serving the San Francisco Bay area. "Our customers want their orders sooner than they are getting them and so do we. All we can do at this point is stay on our manufacturers to make sure they don't forget us. There is only so much that can be done when production is backlogged. It's definitely an issue that presents additional challenges for us."

Chris Frye, customer service manager for independent glass fabricator JE Berkowitz, says it is their goal to try to stay within a three- to four-week lead-time. "However, the increase in demand from our customers along with large, monumental projects that are currently underway, have stretched out our insulating glass (IG) capacity," explains Frye, who is based at the Westville, N.J., corporate office.

"At this time, we are out about five to six weeks for the standard products and about six to eight weeks out with the high performing low-E or reflective glass, despite the fact that we have added additional capacity in anticipation of the peak season demands, including moving to 10-hour IG shifts and weekends," continues Frye. "Although we are competitive, the lead times are longer than we (and our customers) would like but they are realistic and less than our leading competitors. We have been able to maintain market-leading service in other areas including monolithic tempered glass by running our three ovens around the clock, six days a week in order to provide a 24-hour to a four-day turnaround depending upon the thickness of the glass."

Craig Lusthoff, sales representative for Glass Professionals, an independent glass distributor based in Des Moines, Iowa, agrees. "Lead times have increased in our area as well," says Lusthoff. "What normally would be a five-day turnaround time for standard products now takes between ten and 15 days. This is due to a very strong commercial market and an increase in large, time sensitive (i.e., secondary and post-secondary educational facilities) projects in our area. We are beyond capacity and are doing what we can to increase production and improve our efficiency to try to shorten these lead times."

"It all depends on what material you are looking at," points out Ronald Kudla, president of Innovative Glazing Systems Inc., a mid-size glazing company that furnishes and installs custom and standard glass walls in the greater Lansdale, Pa., area.

"We're past the point of standard," says Kudla, who works closely with architects and contractors to incorporate glass into functional and innovative building designs. "We are definitely seeing longer lead times especially in getting glass with soft coats. I don't know where that's coming from; if we're still feeling the fall out from the closing of Interpane [in 2004] or if the industry is just that backlogged because of a strong market. We are experiencing lead times for certain types of glass extending out beyond 30 weeks."

"We're starting to see a longer lead time with aluminum as well," adds Kudla. "They [aluminum fabricators] have their presses going 24/7. When you wait more than eight weeks for your order it makes it very difficult work within the contractor's schedule."

"In southern Florida everything tends to move at a slower pace," says New York native Michael Goldstein, president of Miami Glass & Mirror Co., a glazing contractor. "That goes for just about everything. In New York, when you are given a date when something is to be done, it's done. It's just a rule of thumb around here that no matter what timeframe anyone gives you need to double it. For example, if a manufacturer tells you it will take ten days for your order to arrive, we plan on between 15 and 20 days. During the hurricane season, lead times get even longer. After the rush, it averages out again."

"Everyone gets materials from someplace else who gets their materials from someone else and so on," continues Goldstein. "We know our orders will take longer, it's just how it is and we work around it."

Terry Guentner, contract manager for La Crosse Glass Co., located in La Crosse, Wis., just a few blocks from the banks of the Mississippi, is one of the few who says lead times on glass and metal product orders in his area are not getting longer. "We order quite a bit of glass and metal from a number of different suppliers and are pleased with the turn-around times," Guentner explains. "In fact, on some products, such as annealed insulating units, the lead times have shortened. Turn around on this product can be as short as four days."

Watch for "Contract Glaziers Speak Out" every Tuesday on USGNN.

Got an idea for a topic? Email us at with "Contract Glaziers Speak Out" in the subject line.

No reproduction, in print, electronic or any form without the expressed written permission of
Key Communications Inc. 540-720-5584.