Events & Shows
Smiling faces all around at Fenestra Advantage event
By Patrick Flannery
The Fenestra Purchasing Co-op held its annual Advantage/Acceleration conference Feb. 3 to 6 in Toronto, welcoming 40 member window and door manufacturers and 45 suppliers for two days of networking and knowledge-sharing. The group toured the awe-inspiring Sunview manufacturing facility in Woodbridge, held speed-networking sessions, gathered for a keynote speaker and panel and ate and drank possibly more than was good for them.
Sunview graciously opened its doors to the group at its incredible 320,000-square-foot manufacturing plant where it makes 14 models of vinyl patio doors. President Tony Margiotta welcomed the tour. Sunview is truly pushing the envelope of what is possible with the latest automation. Door components are stored on a massive three-storey racking system with bar codes to coordinate incoming supply with upcoming production needs. Robots place lineal in welders. Coolest of all, a Roomba-style robot picks up pallets of finished doors, navigates its way through the shop, avoiding obstacles along the way, and loads the pallet on to Sunview’s shipping dock. The robot seems friendly, but tour attendees were careful not to anger it. The shipping area comprises another huge, three-storey racking system where the pallets of doors are automatically conveyed to holding cells and queued for loading into trucks, with the whole process optimized to make sure the right pallet is ready to go the minute the truck arrives. The tour also got a good look at Sunview’s R&D lab, featuring a 22-by-12-foot test wall and a 3D printer where engineering director Claudio Sacilotto invents ways to improve their product all day.
Fenestra has started including a program called Acceleration Presentations at the Advantage event to offer some additional member benefit. It’s an education program but perhaps is better thought of as knowledge-sharing since a lot of it is about members sharing insights, tips and perspectives. In that vein, they convened a panel consisting of Mike Bruno from Everlast, Patrick Grégoire from Portes et Fenetres Nouvel Horizons, Paul Kreutner from Golden Windows and Carl Ballard from Kohltech Windows and Entrance Systems. The topic was leadership, and the panelists had many insightful points and interesting experiences to relate. The panel was moderated by some guy who could barely keep the names and companies straight, but the excellence of the guests made it good. The other part of the Acceleration program was Stéphane Simard, a very funny and engaging speaker, addressing labour relations in a talk called “How to Lose an Employee in 10 Days.” Some commented that most of the companies in the room already knew how to do that, but it turned out that Simard had a lot of useful insights into where the hiring, development and retention process can go wrong, starting even before the interview.
Advantage/Acceleration also included two speed-networking sessions where each supplier sits at a table and each manufacturing member spends 12 minutes talking to them before moving to the next. Applause for the suppliers who hang in there to deliver their pitch 21 times over a few hours. It’s a grind, but smiling faces all around at the end.
“Already at its third edition in 2020, this event is one of a kind in our industry and it was a real success in the eyes of our attending members and suppliers,” said J.F. Kogovsek, Fenestra general manager. “This event is a tangible benefit offered through our co-op to independent Canadian window and door manufacturers and supplier partners. A big thank you participants and we look forward to hosting everyone again next year in Montreal!”