Dave Randich doesn't deny that it's been a tough few years for the industry and for fiberglass entry and patio door manufacturer Therma-Tru Doors Corp. in Maumee, Ohio. Therma-Tru has consolidated its manufacturing in North America from five plants to two during the past three years.
Our high-water mark would have been the first part of 2006; our low point, in early 2010, said Randich, who became CEO of Therma-Tru three years ago after 24 years at Armstrong World Industries Inc. He said that after a nice increase in 2010, we are seeing a recovery in 2011 even though the new home market isn't expected to improve until the second half of the year.
But more importantly, We strengthened our product line [during the recession] and are in a strong financial position to grow both internally and through acquisition, Randich said.
We had to get ourselves organized and strong for this market, he said in an interview at the International Builders Show, held Jan. 12-15 in Orlando. We returned to IBS this year for the first time in three years to show what we've been working on. With our product introductions, we are now able to put together entryways for builders and consumers that no one else can do.
That product line includes:
* Vented Sidelites entry doors with built-in, full-length side vents. The company claims the product is the only fiberglass door with vented sidelights that also have decorative-glass options. Vented sidelights traditionally have been used largely for patio doors.
* Classic-Craft Canvas Collection fiberglass doors Therma-Tru's first smooth, paintable fiberglass door in the premium market.
* Numerous other entryway solutions with decorative-glass options that include interior and exterior trims from Fypon Ltd.
Randich credits the company's focus on innovation for its expanded product line in 2011. Therma-Tru continued spending on research and development during the downturn, operational improvements and a restructuring in manufacturing, and the acquisition of molded urethane millwork and cellular PVC trim manufacturer Fypon.
We went into this recession and said we were not going to compromise on spending for innovation and feet on the street, Randich said. During this time, we continued to invest in research and development and learned how to participate better in the repair and remodeling segments of the construction market.
He said Therma-Tru also has renewed its focus on operational quality, particularly at its door-making plant in Butler, Ind., which employs roughly 600. That focus will help it once the economy rebounds, Randich said. The glass lights for the doors and the sidelights are made at the firm's plant in Matamoros, Mexico, which employs 270.
We consolidated our manufacturing footprint as well, Randich said, closing plants in Houston in 2008, and Fredericksburg, Va., and Roland, Okla., in 2009.
We put in modern quality-management processes across the company, similar to what you see in the auto industry, and broke our processes down into subprocesses to improve their efficiency, Randich said. We were able to reduce our defect rates from customers by 60 percent.
Therma-Tru made a number of energy-efficiency improvements, including adding high-lumen light fixtures, and it invested in training shop-floor employees.
Near the end of the first quarter, Therma-Tru will open a 150,000-square-foot distribution center in Howe, Ind., 30 miles from its distribution site in Angola, Ind., and 70 miles from its Fypon distribution, service and fabrication site in Archbold, Ohio. Both of the latter facilities will be closing.
Everyone at both facilities has been offered jobs at the new facility, which also will have the ability to fabricate some of Fypon's trim products and marry them with Therma-Tru products, Randich said.
Fypon products are manufactured in Yantai, China. Fypon had been part of sister company Simonton Building Products Inc. until the decision was made in September 2009 to integrate that business with Therma-Tru.
Fortune Brands Inc. recently said it plans to spin off its home and security business unit which includes Therma-Tru, Simonton and four other companies into a separate company in the second half of 2011.
Fypon was a supplier that came to Fortune with its purchase of Simonton, and I was asked to evaluate what its value was to Fortune Brands, said Randich, who suggested that Fypon be paired with Therma-Tru.
We have a strong and broad product offering, but they are very strong in the trade with dealers, and their door surrounds allow us to put aesthetic tops on our doors in a package and systems approach, said Randich. We have always looked past the door to the entire entryway, but now with the integration of Fypon millwork products, we can offer an entire solution to entice the consumer to buy a new entryway.
To succeed in this business, you have to focus on innovation and you have to make it easier for people to buy from you, Randich said. The other part is that you have to get people to spend on new products and new homes, and to do that you have to have new products that look good, improve the curb appeal and provide cost savings for builders and energy savings for consumers.
* For example, the total cost to use its Fypon molded urethane door surrounds despite their higher price is 19 percent less than wood because of lower labor costs to install, according to a study conducted by Minneapolis research firm Market Resource Associates Inc.
* The firm's new Vented Sidelites doors allow consumers to let fresh air and light into their homes without sacrificing energy efficiency, and eliminate the need for storm doors, which often detract from exterior door designs.
The door, a single-unit piece of construction, comes either as a one-hinged door with two-hinged sidelights, or a two-hinged French door with two-hinged sidelights. In addition, the company claims the polyurethane cores in its doors have four times more insulation value than wood doors.
Traditionally, new construction has been Therma-Tru's core business. But current sales are balanced between that and remodeling. That is how I'd like it to be going forward, Randich added.
The new-construction side of the market has declined by two-thirds and the repair and remodel market by one-third, since the economic downturn, he said. We have learned how to work with remodelers. ... Repair and remodeling represents a growth opportunity for us. We have to have the ability to understand what contractors want and what consumers want, and we want to give everyone an opportunity to put a magazine-cover [look] on the front of their home.