From its name, some might think All Weather Windows Ltd.’s business is entirely based on its windows and doors, but relationships are actually what keep it strong, Vice President of Manufacturing Scott Walker says. “It’s really been customer-based relationships that keep us growing,” he says. “We do our best to be very loyal to them.”
The Edmonton-based company is one of Canada’s largest manufacturers of energy efficient windows and doors. Founders Harry Buhler, Gord Wiebe and Henry Banman started the company in 1978 with the idea of building a firm with a customer-first philosophy.
Today, Walker says, All Weather Windows employs a staff of approximately 1,000 and serves a client base that includes homeowners, dealers, builders and renovators. “We are in the direct supply and install business in the Alberta market, we sell directly to large builder contractors in major centers and we sell through a vast network of dealers in rural areas and small towns right across Canada,” he says.
One of the company’s most popular items is its Apex series of windows, which melds European technology with North American design, Walker says. “The strength and durability of that window … is something we’re proud of,” he says.
“Most PVC windows are manufactured and welded together on a four-head welder,” he says. “We’re one of the only manufacturers of a North American-style window using a six-head welder.” This provides added structural integrity and water tightness to a window combination as compared to the mechanically joined units or box to box combinations of All Weather’s competitors.
Aiming For Success
Walker joined All Weather Windows in 2007. “My background has always been in manufacturing,” he says, noting that he previously held the same role at one of the company’s suppliers, Masonite International.
He joined All Weather Windows after becoming interested in what it could achieve with its vision and growth. “[It struck me] as a company that I would like to be part of,” he recalls.
He adds that he is pleased with its entire staff. “We’ve got a company of achievers,” he says, noting that all workers at All Weather Windows aim for success.
But he gives the most praise to its owners. “The owners have a vision and they’re helping us drive towards that vision by investing in people,” he states. “They’re the ones we should be [really] proud of.”
For instance, All Weather Windows has developed corporate and manufacturing training programs to ensure that employees receive the proper development opportunities to effectively perform their jobs. In fact, last year, the organization put all of its leaders – from supervisor right through the CEO – through five days of communication and coaching training.
Coping with Competition
All Weather Windows is now experiencing a very competitive market. “The piece of the pie is smaller [than ever before], and many manufacturers are competing for that small piece with the weak Canadian dollar incenting American companies to target Canadian markets like they never have before,” Walker says.
“Everybody is looking for where they can get some orders,” he continues, but notes that the consumer benefits from this competition. With all these companies out to impress, such aspects as product and service quality improve.
To compete, All Weather Windows has implemented lean manufacturing processes to bring added value to the customers. “[We want to] see what we can do to get our product faster to the customer, with more on-time deliveries,” he says.
The best improvements it has seen to date is one piece flow and reduction of finished goods. The firm does not build stock anymore and the result is that all its shipping lanes are emptied daily as product goes out right away to the customer at their requested dates. Despite the tough competition, Walker predicts continued growth for All Weather Windows, as it grows further into the commercial market. But, he asserts that its growth will be performed carefully to ensure it maintains its level of quality.
“We’re going to be looking to make sure we provide the customer with what we hear they need,” he says. “I see many opportunities to provide total customer solutions to a broad mix of customers in many regions across Canada and this should further propel All Weather’s growth.”