Archive for July, 2008

A New Wave of Imports Are Here!

Here they come in all of their hyped up glory! New imports with ads designed to make you think that they are engineered to be the best.

One film maker markets a plasma technology and in their add they show what appears to be a scientist (He has a white trench coat, what else could he be? A doctor doing side work?) running a plasma gun over each individual roll of film. What do they want you to think? That they have this scientist working away in some back room shooting thousands of individual rolls of film with a plasma gun all day? Does he personally shoot your rolls of film before they are sent to you? Ok… next!

Another manufacture’s film works so well that they photochoped a baby fur seal into the back seat of a car! Is this supposed to mean that this window film actually keeps a car cool enough for a fur seal to live in the back seat? I didn’t know window film cools cars, I thought that’s what air conditioners do? Wow 97% IR rejection! I gotta run out and get me some of that stuff… Next!

And we have another ad that encourages us to get on the bandwagon and buy some 70%vlt film that rejects 97% IR. Complete with a color graph! Is that the entire near IR spectrum that is being measured? Next!

This one had me baffled. Spectrally Select nano-technology ceramic 100% metal free & 100% dye free. Heck yeah, I need some of that! So I go go to the website listed in the ad and… there is no website! All I can find is a place holder page!

Buyer beware. There is a whole new wave of films coming ashore promising to do miracles. Just a simple examination of the ads shows us that we should be wary. Or think of it this way. If you have ever had back orders, service issues, returns, and the like with your domestic distributor… stop and think of the headaches that await you as you attempt to do business direct with an oversees company. If the ads don’t scare you the service nightmare surely will.

-vc

BSF Interview -Christophe I hear ya but there is more to add…

Window Film Magazine July/August 2008 what an issue! Two interviews of major industry manufacturers and an article on the Dade County Test, now I’ve got all kinds of things to blog about…

In yet another interview, WFM talks with Christophe Fremont the president of Bekaert Specialty Films (BSF). He believes that the window film industry is at a crossroad. I couldn’t agree with him more. There is an opportunity to do things right which would lead to a prosperous future but my question is “A prosperous future for whom?”

Before I elaborate on why I ask that question let me say that I also agree that the bar of professionalism must be raised industry-wide. Yes, this industry is one of contradictions and suffers from a lethargic mindset of thinking that “this is a ‘specific industry’, we’ve tried it all and we know what won’t work so don’t even try and get us to change…” That thinking has flourished from the top of the production ladder where commodity-based thinking rules all the way down to the dealer who still writes his invoices on carbon paper receipts and leaves his bids on the back of his business card.

The energy crisis has basically given this industry a second chance at changing its ways but we cannot be selective we must be all-inclusive. If we miss the boat, it will sail off for good and no one will be on it. Everyone needs to unify to promote and grow the market on the architectural side. In contradiction to Mr Fremont’s observation, I believe that the industry has been market driven in the past but it was automotive specific. Now we need to readjust, but we also need more than just a mass-awareness campaign to set us on a course to a bright and prosperous future.

Mr. Fremont described dealers as “ambassadors of the industry” when it comes to selling the product and he expressed that there exists a need for a high level of professionalism so that everyone can capitalize on the opportunity that is set before the industry. This is true and the analogy is a good one but I strongly believe that manufactures need to do more than just see that the remedy is to equip the dealer with the right tools and information and let them loose to represent an entire industry an ambassador. If a country sets out to find a good ambassador do they appoint the person who is completely unqualified and incompetent or should they look for the best qualified persons to represent their country? (I know what happens in real life so no one needs to bring to my attention the fact that we should not follow any government’s example of selecting representatives. This is Mr. Fremont’s example, I’m just going with it…)

In my own local market there exists a dealer (ambassador) who is notorious for selling a certain manufacturer’s premium window film for the same price per square foot that we were selling flat glass films for back in the early 1990’s. It becomes very apparent that he has no use for the extensive marketing materials because he gives out scraps of film in various shapes and sizes as his samples. A grease pen is used to identify the film and its performance specs. Perhaps, this is due to this dealer not being able to understand that a business needs to make a healthy enough margin so that it can afford to buy marketing materials and so forth. If he cannot afford to purchase specification cards or other marketing materials, can he afford to implement other tools designed to bring accuracy, impact, and measurement such as Specularis™? Or should I say will he ever implement these tools? No, he will not. Why? He is a window tinter, not a businessperson. Is that his fault? Not necessarily, he was trained to install window film but was he ever trained on how to run a business? These types of dealers have no use for tools because the only way that they know how to sell window film is by offering the lowest price even to the point of hurting their company and markeplace.

I am not trying to pick on any specific dealers who sell a specific brand of window film. This is an industry wide problem and I see an opportunity to bring the issue to the fore here. Mr. Fremont is right, all manufactures should strive to educate and empower dealers with the tools that can make them the best ambassadors that they can possibly be. But they should not ignore the fact that they have chosen to do business with some people that have little or no business skills whatsoever. Would BSF or any other window film manufacture want to hire these kinds of people to run their company? Of course not! So why do they do business with companies who damage the market rather that keep it healthy? If we are going to be market driven, we must have a healthy marketplace to do business in. This involves educating the dealer base to incorporate healthy business practices into their own companies. It also involves only doing business with companies that are law abiding. If a company has disregard for laws and safe practices, will they have any regard for the health of the industry and the direction it travels in? And in answer to my very first question, it most certainly involves creating an industry that does not compete against its customers (the window film dealers) but rather it partners to help its customers achieve success which in turn runs upstream to the supplier. How can anyone expect exponential growth based on the current practice of turning your dealer into an installer? In my opinion, that is a backwards practice and the logic and reasoning behind it is no different than the mindset “this is a ‘specific industry’, we’ve tried it all and we know what won’t work so don’t even try and get us to change…” This is a way of doing business that only brings prosperity to one side of our industry, namely the manufacturing side. True, some manufactures have made changes as of late but more of a course correction is needed.

Until we as an industry collectively turn full-circle and change our ways, we will continue to struggle with inconsistency, inaccuracy, and all of the other corrosive practices that have prevented us as from reaching our full potential. This year a major milestone was reached by two manufactures namely, the achievement of NFRC certification. Yes, as you encouraged… let’s partner as an industry and all take the step for 3rd party performance verification by the NFRC. This will root out the “trick information” produced by some companies and leave us with standard forms of measurement. I would like to see BSF’s films on the NFRC list along with the other companies that have yet to get their products certified.

In my estimation this was a great interview. I really appreciated Mr. Fremont’s response to a competitor when he said “the greatest risk we can take as an industry is to remain where we are.” I believe that is all-inclusive and not just case specific so I challenge you and your counterparts in manufacturing Mr. Fremont to change the landscape completely by not only addressing the issues the you brought up but also the issues brought up here. Yes, “tomorrow starts today” so let’s take it to the next level and not wait for someone else to do it!

-vc

Solamatrix -The Interview

Interesting article Window Film Magazine’s interview of Bill Stewart, former National Sales Manager of Film Technologies International (FTI) and now the National Sales Manager of Solamatrix Inc. What’s the difference? Same building, same office, (same parking spot?), and same equipment… he’s still capt bill over on Tintdude.com and he still sells film branded as Sun-Gard® and Glass-Gard®. Aside from this, everything else seems to be totally different according to the interview.

Shortly after FTI went out of business its assets and intellectual property were bought by a company called Novomatrix. The result is a totally new company called Solamatrix Inc. No, it is not the new FTI. FTI is done, gone, kaput, nada, finito, it is out of existence. The ownership is completely different and according to Bill, so are the dynamics of the company.

Some of the changes that I notice is the access to Solamatrix partners and their resources. The first signs of this is an ad for IQ window film which is a branded IR film manufactured by Southwall Technologies and by the looks of the ad, a film that will probably be converted and distributed by Solamatrix Inc. According to Stewart FTI was never in the financial position to develop such technologically complex films as a result, they could only offer old technology films. Another noteworthy change is they are now in a position to improve the Sun Gard brand which in my opinion was one of the worst looking films out there. In the interview Bill explains why this was so and it seems to make a lot more sense to me than the explanation in the last FTI interview with Don Wheeler the former ceo. Despite all of the excuses, the two known facts are that they have machinery that is capable of making great films and now they have access to people who have a history of making great films. Lastly, was Bill’s view of the whole warranty issue. It is a very touchy subject so I am going to… avoid it. Read the article for yourself and see what Bill has to say about it.

The changes have been massive and undoubtedly have altered people’s livelihoods. Change is a constant and many will say change is good. We will have just to wait and see if Solamatrix can deliver the goods and what kind of change they will bring to our industry… no pressure Bill.

-vc

On-Angle Performance Measurements -My Angle

Well I guess it’s about time for me to address the whole “on-angle” Total Solar Energy Rejection measurement. As many of you are aware it is a measurement that is currently marketed by 3M to show the performance of their Prestige Window Film line. The whole premise is that the window film industry has always tested and derived the Total Solar Energy specification at 90° perpendicular to the glass. 3M reasons that the sun does not reside at 90° throughout the day, especially at the hottest part of the day, thus the need to create a film that in their mind performs better “on-angle.” So the need for an “on-angle” measurement arises and subsequently the specification finds its way into their marketing literature.

Despite the fact that the window film industry has never promoted such a measurement and the NFRC does not post angular performance data on the product certification labels, the general public is left to assume that this is a common measurement that sets one product apart from all others. The assumption gets propagated further when window film dealers add inaccurate statements and insert fiction into what is fact. For instance one dealer writes a rebuttal on their website in response to the statement:

3M’s total solar energy on angle spec is not supported by the National Fenestration Rating Counsel

Dealer’s Response: This is true but this is new technology. No other manufacturer (glass or window film) can rate their product this way. The two hundred layers in the new 3M Prestige window films with nano technology make this new on angle specification possible. All window film manufacturers measure the total solar energy rejected at a 90 degree angle to the glass.

Let us separate fact from fiction here…

Fact: The NFRC does not support the Total Solar Energy Rejection On-Angle specification. All manufactures measure the total solar energy rejected at a 90 degree angle to the glass.

Fiction: The statement that this is new technology and that no other manufacturer (glass or window film) can rate their product this way. Also the statement that it is 3M’s multi-layer nano-technology that make this new angular specification possible.

The reality is that any manufacture can easily report their performance ratings this way, if they wanted too. This specification is not made possible by the unique construction of Prestige Window Film’s multi-layer technology nor is the on-angle measurement a new measurement. Lawrence Berkley Laboratories has had software available for many years that gives angular performance data of window coatings and window films on almost any glass type available. This software and the measurements that result from it are recognized by the Department of Energy (DOE). 3M did not invent this measurement and neither did any other window film manufacturer for that matter. So let’s use this LBNL software and run our own test comparing “on-angle” performance data of a few films. This particular test was run on clear single pane glass .120 inch in thickness with some 70% vlt films that have their specifications listed.

Sun’s Angle

SHGC @ 0°

SHGC @ 30°

SHGC @ 60°

SHGC @ 80°

SHGC @ 90°

Prestige 70

0.503

0.499

0.427

0.188

0.00

Vista VS 70

0.476

0.471

0.404

0.178

0.00

V-Kool 70

0.440

0.435

0.373

0.164

0.00

What I’m seeing here is that there is on-angle data available for all 3 brands not just Prestige. The SHGC or Solar Heat Gain Coefficient is the opposite of the Total Solar Energy Rejection measurement. The lower the number, the better the overall performance. So ignore the fact that Prestige 70 gets outperformed on every measurement by the other two films, but rather, focus on the pattern. As the sun’s angle increases, the performance of each film increases as well. So much so that when the sun is directly above the window all of these films perform extremely well; they reject all of the sun’s energy! By the way… clear glass has a 0.00 SHGC at 90° too. Why? Obviously as the sun orientates to a higher angle above the window less energy transmits through the glass.

So this whole idea of a company’s technology making a new measurement possible or window film being designed to be unsurpassed by any other window films in on-angle performance is unfounded and inaccurate. Let’s give the consumer some dignity as well as some accurate and relevant data that will not fool them into believing that one product is something that it is not. Window Film Manufacturers can do this by adopting standardized performance measurements and using well respected third party agencies like the NFRC to verify these measurements. Window Film Dealers can and should educate themselves so that they do not propagate inaccurate and false information to the consumer for if they continue to do so, it will only serve discredit a product that is so badly needed in a time where energy conservation is vital.

-vc

Tipped Off!

Ha ha! Somebody has been reading my blogs. It seems as though the video in my IR Rejection Part 2 blog has been pulled from Youtube. Now my blog is lacking an example (Darn I really liked that blog) but that’s a good thing. Aside from making me look like a fool I think this shows the power of the internet. Blogging makes a difference! That is one less misleading video out there.

Kudos to the company that deleted their video, I hope you did it for the right reasons rather than to save face. Your new website looks good. Hopefully, it contains plenty of accurate and valuable information for consumers. We surely do not need anymore “slight of bandwidth” demonstrations.

-vc

The peasants are rioting in the streets!

Ok, I’m getting slightly outraged. I have been receiving messages from window film dealers all around the country lately detailing how their suppliers are out selling window film and bringing their dealers the install rather than the entire sale. This is nothing new but it seems to be more common than ever before. What’s up? You manufacturers and distributors know who I’m talking about… should I name names here? It seems as though just about every one of you has set up some kind of direct to commercial sales program and now you have assumed the role of competitor in the minds of your customers.

I can empathize with the competitive situation between manufactures, I have a similar situation on the retail side myself. Where does the line get crossed though? You can only sell around your customers for so long until it reaches a point to where you completely undermine your relationship with your customer as well as undermining the market place. So let me address some of the excuses that I have heard on the supply side of this issue.

One dealer cannot handle an entire national account…

True, but the sale could be negotiated so that the national chain makes the film purchase through a local dealer at each chain store location for an agreed upon rate. Does Taco Bell’s UFPC sell beans and tortillas direct to large buyers or do they make them go to their franchise partners and buy a Buritto Supreme? Can you see people bringing their beans, tortillas, cheese, and so forth into the local Taco Bell requesting them to just cook and prepare it and at a reduced charge? Absurd! To the contrary, Taco Bell’s operating entity makes sure that it’s retail outlets are equipped and capable of handling business otherwise they cannot be an outlet.

There is not enough room in the deal to include a local dealer in the film sale. We can only close the sale if the dealer takes a modest installation rate.

Well, that is your fault! Manufacturers and Distributors have created a commodity environment where prices have been driven down so far that there is no longer any healthy margins to sustain their own dealer base. Oversaturated markets with dealers peddling the same brand films right across the street from one another drives prices down not up. Why do some of you continue to pursue the oversaturation business model? See what you are contributing too?

Dealers are not capable of handling the financial implications of a large project.

True, this industry is full of great window tinters but that does not automatically make them great business persons. Again though, it is in the suppliers power to determine who they will do business with first. I know there are some great companies out there that are very capable of handling the financial logistics of a large project but in your eyes the only ones remotely capable are called distributors. Distribution is not retail nor is retail distribution… quit blurring the line here. How do dealers feel when they have to bid against a company that at the same time tries to supply the same product to them? The peasants are tired of being treated this way. Your actions have spawned a flourishing contract installation movement that creates more transient behavior which undermines your efforts to build solid dealers.

If we don’t sell it, some other manufacturer will…

Ok… then what happens? After your dealer base dries up and blows away are you going to handle the install too? Because if you don’t, some other manufacturer will you know.

Dealers lack the skills necessary to negotiate and close large projects.

Well then train them. They are your customers, you will reap from their rewards.

Where is your loyalty? How come you are using other suppliers instead of us exclusively? We’d let you in on the deal if you were exclusively buying from us…

Where is my loyalty? Uh, let me turn that around… where is your loyalty? If I meet all of my obligations to you (ie. purchase requirements) shouldn’t I be rewarded by being allowed to be a window film dealer rather than an installing entity? Poor accounts are one thing, but when a dealer is carrying their load, they should also get a measure of loyalty in return.

This customer will only deal directly with corporate, they do not do business with retail dealers…

And who set the precedent for this? Will the same customer only deal with corporate on the installation end as well? Can’t you just see it now… Window Film CEO’s, CFO’s, and the like all will their tool belts and OLFA knives ready to go out and install film. After all, this customer will only deal directly with corporate… yeah, ok.

Dealers do not have the time necessary to close large jobs or national accounts…

In most cases that is true. But I have to digress back to the issue of partnering through the whole process. Sure the supplier is in a position in most cases to make 1st contact, propose, bid, and close the deal. So why has the industry stopped short and cut their dealer base off at the knees by refusing to move the film sale through the retail outlet rather than the source? Has your practice strengthened the market or has it eroded it?

And This Wasn’t Enough…

We have been contending with these “Premium Film Programs” that are for the privileged (volume) dealers (Or the only dealer in the middle of nowhere) that will throw down the cash for their own exclusive slice of the pie. I was approached a few years back and offered a Prestigious Program for a mere $15K where I would have a territory all to myself provided that I rid myself of every vestige of competing film brands.

Well that was the deal then but a lot has changed. The exclusive territories are now Depots where companies from thousands of miles away can run virtual outlets and negotiate installations with local dealers (my competition) and even have access to other brands of film if a bid calls for it. Now if I had spent my $15K way back when, how would it be explained to me that now I have to share my slice of the pie with the boys from Georgia? How much did they spend to have a share of my territory? It is things like this that have dealers seeing red… no pun intended. Well, maybe just a little pun intended… -lol

I know this is just scratching the surface of the whole issue and there is a whole other side to this story from a supplier’s standpoint. But here is the reality. I am getting to the point where I will ask every supplier that wants to do business with me if they are out procuring sales from my potential customers. Will I find myself bidding against my supplier? If so, then why should I do business with them? If the supplier explains that their direct to commercial account program is designed to capture business that is normally lost to the dealer anyway, then how is the transaction going to be handled? Will I be a window film dealer or simply an installer?

And while I am asking I may as well inquire whether or not there will be a competing company roving about negotiating deals with my competition, starting new partnerships with my designers, window covering, and glass companies all while selling the same brand of film that you want me to buy from you for after I pay my buy-in. When I ask, will you be truthful with me?


Window Film Dealers should not have to compete against their suppliers!

Perhaps this is what all dealers should do? I know I am not alone, others have spoken out about the reality of doing business with supplying companies. The peasants are outraged and yet despite the mania I have found a few select companies that still treat me as a partner but it is a two way street which requires that I hold to my end of the partnership. Yes, there are expectations that I must meet and that is usually not a problem so long as we work collectively to build our business and marketplaces so that both sides can grow and flourish.

Hold on supply side and don’t get outraged at me yet… I will discuss what I know of your side and the challenges that you face with us dealers in a future blog.

-vc

Is it Accurate?

Accuracy counts… in some things.

-“He missed by a mile!

-“We were close…”

-“Looks good to me…

These expressions are one thing when stated by your sports caster or weatherman but quite another if you heard your accountant or surgeon make such statements. Accuracy is important, even vital in some instances.

The window film industry has suffered from inaccuracy, inflated paybacks, unfounded statistics, and misapplied specifications among many other things. For instance, how many times has someone misapplied single pane 1/8th inch glass specifications saying that a 15%vlt window film will block 80% of the total solar energy when the window that is being considered is dual pane? If you did then you certainly missed this one by a mile for the total solar energy rejected on insulated clear glass is closer to 71% not 80%! “Well, we were close” you may say… Hardly! What if this was a 40,000 sq foot project? The results would be different, one would be accurate and the other would be inaccurate.

This scenario can create a chain reaction of misinformation such as an inflated payback or ROI (return on investment). Statistical data becomes inaccurate when we do not take the time to generate factual data. We then have a problem because once someone discovers that we have taken liberties with specifications it erodes our credibility as a whole. It is much more beneficial to not only bring accurate data to the table so to say, but to also be able to verify that the data is accurate and explain why that is so.

For years now the window film industry has measured most of their published specifications on 1/8″ clear single pane glass. We blogged why this was the common practice and the reasoning and benefit behind it. There was always a need for a standardized specification and standardized testing that could be verified by a neutral 3rd party to be both accurate and at the same time recognized by agencies such as the Department of Energy (DOE). This was a crucial step in leaving old practices behind and moving a head in the promotion of accuracy. It was also vital so that single-region measurements would not be mismarketed to the general public and misinterpreted as total solar performance data.

A landmark occasion has arrived for the window film industry. There is a neutral 3rd party organization to certify window film performance specifications not just on single pane glass but on dual pane glass as well. The National Fenestration Ratings Council (NFRC) is a non-profit organization that administers the only uniform, independent rating and labeling system for the energy performance of windows, doors, skylights, attachment, and applied window film products. Currently, there are two window film manufacturers with certified products listed in the NFRC Applied Films Directory. This accurate data can be used to not only compare the total performance of one film to the next, but it can also be used to calculate the glass’ affect on building performance and the return on investing in window film.

We have come a long way from presenting our customers with a specification card that in most instances does not apply to their glass situation and yields an inaccurate result. NFRC Certified Films are now recognized by the DOE as an energy saving device and in time, will qualify to be rated as Energy Star products. Consumers can rest assured that they are being given the most accurate and relevant data to date so the they can be confident in their buying decision.

-vc