By: Catherine Kavanaugh
February 6, 2014
LAS VEGAS — Koma Building Products is on a fast track to bring Kõmmerling windows and doors to the United States.
Sliding vinyl patio doors as wide as 40 feet are turning heads at the International Builders Show but sales director Robert Thiroff is looking for more than orders. He wants to line up manufacturers for an ambitious business plan revealed Wednesday by the Profine Group, which is the German-based parent company of the two businesses.
The dramatic doors at IBS were made in Vancouver, Canada, and the push is on to find U.S. facilities to serve the high-end U.S.market with not only bigger views but energy efficiency and sound insulation.
"The product is here. You can touch it and feel it but we have a reputation as well. We want the right kind of companies producing this and selling it," Thiroff said. "It's like a vetting process."
To start the process, Profine is investing whatever it takes to expand capacity at the Koma USA headquarters in Huntsville, Ala., which it bought 18 months ago to offer domestically manufactured products. The factory has space for new extrusion lines that will be brought from Germany.
At this point, Thiroff said he could only guess that the investment will be between $5 million and $10 million.
Profine also bought a couple of former plastics businesses across the street in Huntsville if need be.
In the meantime, Thiroff is seeking other manufacturers with the workforce and facilities in place to get on board.
"This is a specialty product. They need to be trained in producing and installing it," Thiroff said. "It's not a product you can send to the market with a spread effect. You need controls. We will certify the manufacturer and installer to create a family of a support network. The rubber stamp of Made in America is important to us."
Profine Group owner Peter Mrosik said he sees good signs that the U.S. market is turning around from the Great Recession, particularly in the advertising sheet side of his businesses.
"In the sheet business we're one of the companies right now with double-digit growth, and that forced me to think we really should intensify our efforts to invest in the window sector here," Mrosik said.
Not too long afterward, he was meeting in India with Patrick Slarko, president of the global sheet division, when the effort began.
"It took us six months to basically make the decision that, yes we want to try our chance," Slarko said. "We have the right product. It might be the right timing."
The product, which Mrosik calls a technical wonder, is a pair of lead-free lift and slide doors that offers thermal performance, can act as a sound barrier, and is easy opening — a 600-pound door can be opened with the push of a finger.
"As we redevelop city center environments, sound will probably be as big a driver as energy efficiency," Thiroff said, pointing to dense urban areas near large airports like Atlanta.
However, most customers will want to enjoy spectacular vistas, he added.
"You have the right view in the U.S. whether that be sea or mountains or lakes. If you have the right apartment or home, this is the product you want. It's great for disabled access as well and in terms of energy efficiency. This is right out there at the forefront."
Thiroff is already expecting lead-laden copycats of the PremiDoor 70 and PremiDoor 88 coming out of emerging countries.
"They might have similar design to us but the formulation of the product can discolor over time. They cheapen it," he said. "So we developed with our technical and chemical people in Germany a way to test for this. We have a special pen that you can apply to a white profile and it will turn pink if there's lead in it. Other lead-free competitors have asked us for the pen so I intend to bring that to the U.S. as well."
His to-do list is long but Thiroff describes it as an exciting time.
"We're putting technical literature together right now. We're doing product testing. I'm going to hire sales people. We're going to bring a new CEO in to manage the operation. We're bringing new extruders in from Germany — machines we have in the group and we'll invest in new machines as well. We're going to motor," Thiroff said