Atlanta in the Rearview Mirror
Every other year for the past two decades, the glass and fenestration industry has come together in Atlanta in the fall for GlassBuild America (GBA). The 2023 edition of the show marks the end … or at least the suspension … of an era as the show leaves its Georgia base for other locations. There’s no word yet on whether or not it will be back to the Big Peach anytime soon.
The 2023 rendition was particularly sweet for a number of reasons. It was the first time that attendance seemed to rival pre-COVID numbers, and people seemed to revel in just being together. Plus, there was business to be done. Atlanta always attracts more actual machinery on the floor, and this year was no exception. Shoppers came to find new, more efficient equipment that requires fewer and fewer people to run, and they weren’t disappointed. Here are my top 5 takeaways from last week in Atlanta:
- Breaking the Back of the Labor Shortage: In seminars and on the show floor, we were repeatedly reminded of what a backbreaking job glazing can be. “It’s cold, it’s dangerous, and it can cut you up pretty badly,” said one speaker. Is it any wonder people move on to other trades as soon as they can? Some of the new equipment we saw is designed to help preserve, rather than break, backs. Large-sized manipulators and other glass-moving equipment were popular on the floor.
- Screening for Success: Okay, I’ll just say it. Screens are in, and, more importantly, they are popular. Visitors paid increased attention to them on the floor, especially in the Erdman Automation booth. In partnership with FlexScreen, Erdman has created an exclusive, high-efficiency automated line that allows window manufacturers to make FlexScreens on the line. Haffner and other screen-making machinery suppliers were also popular.
- Just Be in Two Places at Once: The show tinkered with its educational offerings this year, and while the attempt was admirable, the result was a bit disjointed. Those attending the Glazing Executives Forum (GEF) missed the Future Trends and Seismic Movement seminars held on the show floor because the GEF was held concurrently. No day-long educational program for window dealers was held.
- Executive Focus: The Glazing Executives Forum session on employee recruitment was excellent. Keith Daubmann of My Shower Door talked about how he finds new employees online and no longer hires conventional shower door installers. “I can teach them how to install,” he said, “I now advertise for influencers who can also install shower doors.” I don’t know which was more thought-provoking, the comment or the realization that he is correct.
- Plenty New Under the Sun: The biggest story revolved around the new solar glazing products and products designed to meet Energy Star 7 requirements. Just days before, Vitro had announced its contract with First Solar to provide the glass front sheets used in First Solar’s panels made in North America. Guardian Glass introduced SunGuard SNX 70+, a silver-coated commercial glass with a VLT of 68% and SHG of .28 when it’s placed on Guardian’s UltraClear™ low-iron glass.
And now, for one of my favorite parts of the year … the awarding of “The Debbies” for GBA. These were my favorites:
Best Booth: Quanex. The gang from Quanex paid homage to Halloween with an amazing booth that felt like you were in Disney World while providing information about their products. The stand led quite a festive air to the event.
Most Missed: The buses. This was the first year GBA did not provide busing in Atlanta, and their presence was missed—especially when coupled with the unseasonably cold temperatures that gripped Atlanta last week.
Best Giveaway: Lisec’s glass key chains made with its Cericom machines were a highly precise souvenir to take home.
Best Dressed: Who dresses better than Superman? He wins. Rumor has it that someone saw John Weise of Barkow Trucks run behind a drape only to see Superman emerge. Yet even though Superman was on the show floor this year, he doesn’t win for…
Most Heroic: That honor goes to Michael Frett of MyGlassTruck in Glassboro, N.J. Michael flew down to set up his booth in advance, then flew home on Tuesday to take his kids trick-or-treating, then flew back. He is a superhero, too—a Super Dad!