On the Road with USGlass

Gorillas with a Twist

So I took a week off to spend playing tourist with my 13-year-old Godson, Kevin. When we weren’t at a ball game, we were riding a roller coaster at the amusement park or racing miniature speed boats in the Potomac. But it was the 20 minutes I spent in the Great Ape House at DC’s  National Zoo that reminded me of the glass industry. Yes, I know, I’ve got some ‘splainin to do …

Maybe it all had something to do with the fact that I had started reading our upcoming August special feature “The Most Influential People in the Glass Industry”  that got me thinking about the industry in the Ape House. Here’s why.

Those great apes are pretty savvy. The gorillas and orangutans, in particular, look very human and show human-like emotion on their faces. (And somewhere along the way some humans taught one enterprising orangutan a very well known finger gesture but, believe me, it was not one you would use at the family hour.) After about ten minutes of peering into their eyes (and thanks to a seven-layer glass-clad polycarbonate you can get within an inch of them) and trying to figure out what they were thinking, you start to wonder, who is really in charge here? Who has the better handle on reality? In one minute, you can go from feeling like the zookeeper to a zoo resident.

That’s how the glass industry is now. The old rules and old channels to market are slowly, subtly being started to erode … ever so slowly, ever so quietly. We hear rumblings of primaries that have been begun selling directly to owners, some quietly, Others publicly announce that this is the strategy they embrace, and I admire their honesty in saying so. We see contract glaziers begrudgingly taking “labor-only” work because, as one said to me, “the economy is so bad I didn’t have a choice.”

Our USGNN.com™ daily newsletter links today to a story about Permasteelisa. In it, Alain Verstappen, the company’s Middle East general manager, says that it is the “only company in the façade industry which spends such time, money and effort on design and engineering.” I personally don’t believe this to be the case, but the article also clearly points out, as we at USGlass magazine have been doing for awhile now, where the line in the sand is going to be for the contract glazier of the future. Unless a company is able to offer design-build and value engineering services, it will not be viewed as a viable partner by owners and architects in the future.

So who is in charge? It’s just like staring into the eyes of the great apes. Ponder the situation for a while and you really won’t be sure.

By the way, I asked my nephew, Kevin, to name the top five things he did during his visit. Here goes, in his words:

1.        Seeing the pandas at the National Zoo. Awesome;

I enticed my nephew to D.C. by telling him he’d meet a president … and he did. Here’s Kevin and Teddy R at the Nationals game.

2.        Riding three roller coasters in one day at Kings Dominion amusement park. (I doubled the number of roller coasters I had been on in my life in one day.);

3.        Racing the miniature remote-controlled speed boat up close  to a great heron who looked at it, but didn’t fly away;

4.        Playing disc golf with Aunt Patti and Uncle Vinnie. It’s way harder than it looks; and

5.        Helping Grandma change her name on Facebook. Now I have her password and maybe tomorrow I’ll change her name again … to Seymour Butts or Dee Liver or something like that. Just kidding, Grandma.

Indeed, well, Aunt Deb is going to get some much-needed rest now and try to recover. Have a good week.