WDMA Looks at Industry Challenges at Fall Meeting

At the Window and Door Manufacturers Association's (WDMA) 2006 Fall Conference, currently underway in Las Vegas, members are talking about what is important in their industry today, and they are taking a serious look at the future as well.

"We are completely unencumbered, financially strong with great supporting members."

We'll be celebrating our 80th anniversary next year … We have a great future. It's truly a time to shine," said Jim Hacket, chairperson of the WDMA board of directors.

Joel Hoiland, the association's president said, "Direction, alignment and mobilization are strategies we'll pursue [in the next year]. We put a planning committee together to come up with a plan and will announce it to the board of directors in early February. Three months is fast. We're going to move quickly. I'm excited to move fast. Smart-fast, not crazy-fast."

The conference began with a panel discussion of industry leaders who talked about industry trends and issues. The panel included Dave Beeken of Eagle Window & Door Inc., Barry Homrighaus of Jeld-Wen Inc., Tom Kaiser of Cardinal Glass Industries and Harry Reichwald of Eggers Industries.

The panelists shared their thoughts and observations about globalization, among other things.

"I just got back from Düsseldorf, Germany, [for glasstec] and the Chinese companies were present. They were a dominant group. It's a looming shadow and it will have an impact on our business," said Kaiser.

"Everything is more complicated than it used to be-recruiting employees, media-there is more to deal with than ever before," said Homrighaus.

Expanding on the issue of recruiting employees, Homrighaus said that Jeld-Wen likes to promote from within. "We also have internships and aggressive college recruiting."

Kaiser said he is trying to hire junior military officers, and currently has 17 such employees.

As far as the economy is concerned, the panelists had a lot to say about that as well.

"Consolidation is here to stay, which will create opportunities and challenges," said Beeken.

Homrighaus said Jeld-Wen has done a lot of consolidating. "We've seen that even our customers are consolidating even faster than we are."

On the topic of globalization, Beeken said, "As countries become more like customers, their expectations and wage rates will go up as well."

The panelists also shared their views on outsourcing.

"The message I give to our suppliers is that reducing cost is important, but value is most important. Focus on doing the things you do that truly add value," said Beeken.

"It's important for us to choose our partners carefully," added Reichwald.

Following the panel discussion keynote speaker, James Burke, a journalist and historian, gave a speech titled "Innovation and Change."

Burke talked about the concept of knowledge mapping, an idea to show the relationships of one [idea, object, person, etc.] to another. He encouraged thinking cross-discipline, and said that there is a mass potential of people's brains. "There will be rapid changes when people bring their brains in from the cold."

The afternoon's schedule also included speakers addressing relevant topics. A presentation called "Changing Demographics" was presented by Marti Barletta, chief executive officer of the TrendSight Group. She spoke on the importance of marketing and selling to women, and how this needs to be different from men.

"Women welcome the opportunity to get more done along the way," she said. "And, men prioritize more."

The second part of the demographics presentation was given by Warren Nesbitt, group publisher of Hanley Wood LLC. Nesbitt talked about how the housing market is driven by the baby boomers. He presented research that was gathered on baby boomers with a combined monthly income of $100,000.

"Designing for flexibility is key," he said, adding that these people want defined spaces, but they are not brand conscience. They want "easy and low maintenance," he said. "The kitchen and master suites are where they won't compromise. They also want your expertise and custom ideas" he added.

Members also received interesting insight on what homes might look like in the year 2020, as a panel of architects and builders shared their knowledge and predications. James Riviello of the Martin Architectural Group P.C., Jeff Lake of Bassenian/ Lagoni Architects, Jack Miller of Drees Homes, Tim Hernandez of New Urban Communities and Alan Simonini of Simonini Builders, each gave predictions. Some of the ideas for houses in 2020 included more vertical residences, lots of color, green developments, more ocean-front communities, more multi-purpose rooms, technologically advanced homes and 'town-square' developments where everything is in walking distance.

The overall feeling from members regarding the day's presentations and panels was positive.

"The panel [on industry trends and issues] was very well-received. It's interactive. It's probably something we'll try to do in some amount of frequency in the future," said John McFee, director of certification programs for WDMA.


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