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Brand Talk: Succeeding with windows

Staying close to our customers: By Ply Gem

Art Steinhafel is president of Ply Gem Windows, a unit of Ply Gem Building Products (NYSE: PGEM). Prior to this role, he served as senior vice president of sales at Ply Gem Windows and held several senior management positions with a variety of other organizations. Ply Gem is a leading manufacturer of building products headquartered in Cary, N.C. It produces a comprehensive product line of windows and patio doors, siding and accessories, designer accents, trim and mouldings, fencing and railing, stone veneer, roofing, and gutterware for the new construction and home remodeling and replacement markets in the U.S. and Canada. Its brands are sold through short-line and two-step distributors, home improvement and pro dealers, and big box retailers.

Q: Ply Gem Windows offers an array of window and door products for residential and light commercial builders and remodelers. How has your portfolio evolved over the last five years?
A: At Ply Gem, we are focused on staying close to our customers and ahead of market trends. We are constantly evolving our product and service portfolio to meet their needs with our three distinct window and patio door brands: Ply Gem Windows, Simonton Windows and Doors, and Great Lakes Window.

As a prime example, Ply Gem’s 1500 Vinyl Collection was engineered based on feedback from our builder customers. This line consists of multiple vinyl window frame profiles to accommodate a variety of design and installation needs, from fin to flange installation or brickmould to flat casing exterior design. It’s completely customizable and includes optional features like co-extruded dark exterior colors on our brickmould frame, new STC glass packages and is available as an ASTM Impact rated window. With a variety of glazing options, our builders can offer code level energy performance to some of the best thermal/solar control values available in a new construction window offering.

Q: You’ve worked in the window industry for many years, and Ply Gem specifically, since 2010. What has been your greatest key learning?
A: Windows are a unique and complicated business. Homeowner demand for improved functionality, energy efficiency, comfort and design are at an all-time high. Similarly, our distribution partners and customers seek service efficiencies, high performance products and sales support for the best value. For me, the biggest key learning continues to be how we balance homeowner, customer and market demands simultaneously. We never stop learning as an organization and consistently aim to innovate with our products and solutions while providing the best in-class customer service and support.

Q: Over the past several years, there has been a steady introduction of new technologies in window and door products. How is this impacting the market? Do we need to sell differently today?
A: It is true that we are seeing an influx of new technologies and products that make a home smarter, as demonstrated with our automated, thermally insulated 4880 aluminum series multi slide patio door. In terms of selling, education is more important than ever. To address the evolving needs of our industry and customers, we will continue to capitalize on digital tools to create seamless information flow to help our drive our customer success.

Q: What’s the biggest trend that you’re seeing right now?
A: Beyond automation, we are seeing bolder colors on window exteriors: deep bronzes, black, greys and earth tone shades, which can be found throughout Ply Gem’s entire product portfolio. In fact, we are seeing an increase in demand for our MIRA clad wood collection of windows and patio doors, which are available in over 40 different colors, for use in both high end residential and light commercial applications.

Q: In your experience, what do lumber yards need to do stay relevant and deliver value?
A: Lumber yards need to continue to adapt to the changing market. There is a need for expanded services from the builder community as labor continues to tighten in our industry. The more services a lumber yard can provide for the builder and contractor the more value they are going to create in the supply chain. To accomplish this lumber yards need trusted business partners that deliver value through high-quality products, services, systems and training. Ply Gem continues to invest in its products, services and manufacturing processes to assist the lumber yards in delivering value.

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