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Listening to the Architect
By: Henry Taylor
Living with the New Speed of Business6:38AM on Wed 14 Apr 2010
About a month ago I attended a panel discussion, “Trends in Leadership”. The panel consisted of a group of executives from Atlanta-based companies who were answering a list of questions submitted by the audience. When asked about new trials faced by leaders today, the panelists agreed that the increasing speed at which we do business is a challenge - also my biggest daily challenge.
There is no doubt that the speed of business is considerably faster than it was a few years ago and will continue to increase in the coming years. I remember when the fax machine entered our offices and we were able to send letters instantly. And with the advent of cell phones, we are able to stop and contact associates any time. It’s amazing how often during the day, or when helping the kids with homework at night, I have a question that can get answered by a simple Google search. The availability of so much information on the Internet has raised our expectations that questions should be answered immediately.
The tools that we use today have done a remarkable job of speeding things up for the architectural community. Building Information Modeling (BIM), for example, is accelerating the speed of architectural drawing by allowing designers to immediately gather and utilize data to instantly answer questions ranging from thermal performance and weight of a system, to labor and product installation.
Kawneer’s product models help you design more efficiently, providing dynamic views that help bring your vision to life. Visit the kawneer.com website and choose from our growing library of BIM models. Click here
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Tools that accelerate the speed at which we do business are fantastic conveniences; however, they often raise the expectation that instant answers are the norm across the board. Even today, some questions still need to be worked out step-by-step and answered by a human. I would say about 60 percent of the questions that Kawneer’s Architectural Services Team (AST) receives doesn’t have an instant answer. These questions require gathering more information; seeking additional drawings; asking design intent goals; performance considerations and structural surround conditions. All of this is information that needs to be overlaid to calculate the correct system suggestions; details; anchors; end reactions; performance levels and specifications. This is a process that involves calculations and evaluation. Needless to say, since each project is unique and requires so many details, these questions do not fall into the instant answer category.
Because the speed of business is increasing, we are all making adjustments to meet the demand of this new pace. New processes and methods need to be created, tested and executed. As the manager of Kawneer’s AST, I recognize that I manage a group that still functions within a high-touch environment. While I am amazed and excited that technology has allowed us to keep pace with the accelerating speed of business in many functions, I can’t deny that some steps still require a human to gather, sort and calculate the data to come up with accurate details and a final recommendation. A critical recommendation that will have huge downstream impact must be correct when given the first time. These detailed evaluations take time.
I often wish my function could join the age of instant answers. If the time comes for us to be replaced by a program, we will keep up with the speed of business but the industry will lose a high-touch relationship with a knowledgeable person to question, sort and shift to the correct data needed to produce an accurate recommendation. Until then, we will double down the effort and do our best to keep up with the accelerating speed of business today. I look at our process daily and try to find ways to speed up our deliverables. It’s both my goal, and Kawneer’s, to deliver architects and customers with quick, accurate answers and personalized service.
As always, if you have any ideas or something specific you would like us to examine, please do not hesitate to contact me or any member of Kawneer’s AST.
Click on the link to view contact information regarding the Kawneer Architectural Services Team.
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“Thinking Outside The Extrusion”12:11PM on Tue 30 Mar 2010
As Manager of Kawneer’s Architectural Services Team, (AST) I have the opportunity to talk with architects and designers all over the globe on a daily basis. At times, this can be challenging, enjoyable, frustrating and informative (which one of these tops my list can vary from day to day). One thing is for certain – when working with a creative customer there is never a dull moment!
Today, I would like to talk about a challenge that I have run into often. Designers like to think big. They like to push the envelope, stretch the imagination and stretch our capabilities. At times I have had to negotiate their dreams and visions into something we could accomplish. Although confident we could provide a solution, it was sometimes frustrating for me to have to suggest scaling back on the designer’s dream. After all, what is the point of dreaming big if people tell you “fantastic dream but you might want to change it here, here and here?” I believe that Kawneer is a “solutions” company – a “We Can Do It” company. So when designers came to me with a challenge I did what we do best; looked for a solution.
The demand for bigger elevations; bigger glass; bigger daylight; and the demand for bigger blending of the exterior with the interior has been a constant. Meeting this demand has been a challenge. Historically, Kawneer is known for providing the market with the most comprehensive line of architectural aluminum building products and solutions. Don’t get me wrong; I love aluminum! It is a fantastic material with so many great characteristics. It can be extruded into wonderful shapes, it’s easy to fabricate, easy to finish and it lasts for years. In fact, Alcoa estimates that over 70% of all the aluminum that we have produced is still in the market. But there comes a time to think outside the given and to look at a material that allows us to provide a solution for monumental elevations beyond the capability of aluminum. That was when I met Forster Profile Systems, based out of Switzerland.
Forster is a leading European manufacturer of steel and stainless steel profile framing systems. They produce steel and stainless steel storefronts, curtain walls and doors to meet the demand for fire-rated frames. Fire-rated frames is a space that Kawneer has not been able to enter with aluminum but Forster steel frames now gives us the best-in-class for this growing market. Steel frames can have up to 3X the structural capability of aluminum. The capability of steel allows us to pick up where aluminum leaves off. By aligning steel framing systems with our aluminum we now have all the arrows in our quiver that we need. We can now let the dreamer dream big dreams and hit the target.