July 11, 2007 | Vol 2, Num 27
W&D Weekly, Delivering the Fenestration Industry to Your Desktop
The Latest...
Jeld-Wen Grows in Pennsylvania
Fenetech Users Look at Emerging Technologies
New Labor Agreement Signed at BiltBest
Groupe Bocenor Changes Names, Expands Products
The Outside View...
The Talk...
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Fenetech Users Look at Emerging Technologies
Aurora, Ohio—Improving the flow of business was the theme at Fenetech Corp.’s annual users conference held the last week of June. Ron Crowl, president of the software company, told attendees that current development efforts are going beyond their businesses and “improving flow for manufacturers’ customers.”

More than 60 executives representing more than 30 window, sunroom and glass fabrication companies attended the three-day event, which included in-depth discussions of numerous modules in Fenetech’s FeneVision package, collecting customer feedback for improvements. The conference also featured several emerging technology sessions looking at new software and systems that can provide manufacturers with new efficiencies and capabilities.

Photo of Fenetech conference

The Fenetech conference served as a forum for manufacturers using the software to review features of various modules within the system and provide feedback.


VISUAL SELLING AND RFID
One technology that attracted interest from manufacturers was visual selling software. Combining digital pictures of a home with manufacturer product images, this software enables salespeople to show the homeowner what their house will look like with various improvements, including new windows, doors or a sunroom or patio enclosure, explained Marco Hunstad of RenoWorks. Many remodeling contractors and home improvement dealers are already taking advantage of this tool, he noted, as he demonstrated the capabilities of these packages. He explained also how manufacturers can get their product images into the system for their dealers to use.

The cost of radio frequency identification (RFID) is dropping, and low-cost RFID tags, as well as scanning systems, are bringing this technology within reach of window and door manufacturers, said Shauna Lamp from MPI Label Systems. She offered an overview of the various types of RFID tags and systems available, noting that some larger window and door manufacturers are already using them. One practice under consideration, she noted, is putting an RFID tag within a vinyl frame before weldeing it, which would not only allow tracking a product through shipping and delivery, but enable service people to immediately identify a window in the field.

Based on the costs she outlined, a number of manufacturer attendees suggested they could easily justify the use of this technology in their shipping departments as it could provide greater efficiency and accuracy than bar code scanning systems.

Photo of Fenetech conference

A provider of RFID tags and systems reviewed the technology and discussed potential applications in the window and door plant at the Fenetech conference.


Other sessions covered truck route optimization systems and new developments in tablet PCs. Joe Hudson of Edge Seal Technologies, an IG fabricator based in Walton Hills, Ohio, provided attendees with an overview of emerging glass technologies. Triple-silver-layer low-E glasses—now promoted by PPG and Cardinal—offer better shading coefficient and significantly reduce UV transmission, he said, but offer similar U-values to double-stack low-E glasses. He discussed also Guardian’s glass designed specifically to reduce UV penetration in the home. Hudson covered the history of self-cleaning glasses as well. These products were “over-hyped” initially, he stated, but are now beginning to make some progress in the market as “low-maintenance” glasses at lower-costs.

Focusing on the residential market, his company sees growing demand for IG units with mini-blinds, as well as growing demand for SDLs, Hudson said. Demand is increasing for color in vinyl also, he noted, adding to the complexity of two-tone muntins.

ORDER ENTRY
Within Fenetech, one of the emerging technologies is a new Web-based system designed to allow manufacturers to accept orders from dealers and salespeople online. The sessions included discussion about the pros and cons of such systems versus remote order entry, systems where data is entered into a laptop and uploaded later to a manufacturer’s main system.

The availability of the Web-based system reflects “the outward focus enabling you to work better with your customers” that Fenetech has emphasized in recent years, Crowl told attendees at the conclusion of the event. He reported also that the company has signed agreements with both RenoWorks and CubeRoute, a truck route optimization software company, to develop interfaces for those products with FeneVision. Noting that the company puts about 10,000 man-hours into software development on an annual basis, Crowl concluded by thanking customers for their input throughout the event and promising continued enhancements to the company’s software.

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