As we welcome 2022, we would like to reflect on the events and changes that occurred throughout 2021. With COVID-19 showing no sign of slowing down, we have faced many challenges. Regardless, we have persevered and showed resilience. Here are some company updates and events that have happened at Viwinco in 2021.
Industry Challenges and Viwinco Updates
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the global supply chain has experienced unprecedented disruptions, introducing complex challenges to business worldwide. Viwinco, like many others, has experienced difficulty obtaining and shipping material. Some of our suppliers have lost significant percentages of their workforce and are struggling to fill their open positions. Suppliers have issued price increases – in some cases multiple price increase- to cover new costs of business, to be able to offer higher wages to attract employees, and in some cases recoup dwindling margins. Viwinco continues to work closely with our suppliers as we navigate the disruptions in the supply chain, and hope to mitigate the impacts of these issues for customers. Significant increase in demand paired with inconsistency from our suppliers in their ability to provide us with materials has been an ongoing challenge all year. In some cases, demand has outpaced our capacity resulting in extended lead times. Given the circumstances, we have done well with navigating these issues, however, it seems these issues will remain in 2022 and we will continue to monitor the situation very closely.
Viwinco Project and Product Updates
New Glass Facility and Plant Equipment
Over the past few years, we have been conceptualizing and planning a state-of-the-art glass facility to supply glass to our manufacturing operation. At the start of 2021, we officially broke ground on the 70,000 square-foot building across the street from our main facility. This new facility will house the industry’s most advanced glass processing equipment including cutting, tempering, laminating, and insulated glass machinery. The equipment will run off highly intelligent software, which can be directly integrated with Viwinco’s manufacturing software that was developed in-house. The new facility is projected to be completed and operational by the end of Q1.
In addition to the construction of the glass facility, we have also added a new profile laminator in our R&D Facility. In-house profile lamination is another step in us controlling the source. Internalizing processes that are typically outsourced, has allowed us to better control quality, production, and lead times. We worked closely with our laminate supplier, Renolit, and our management teams to ensure the new machinery is running efficiently. Profile laminating in-house has allowed us to be flexible with materials through the ongoing supply chain issues. In situations where we could not acquire bronze profiles for instance, we could make our own bronze laminate in-house using white profiles. This also allows us to be quick to adapt to emerging color trends if needed.
At the beginning of 2021, we made the decision to design a new Viwinco logo. This new logo design became the kickoff for a company-wide rebranding initiative. The new logo was designed to give a more modern feel and is symbolic of Viwinco’s transition to the next generation of leadership. To coincide with our logo-reveal in early June, all promotional items, including t-shirts, sweatshirts, catalogs and more were redesigned to display the new logo. Some of the larger items that were part of our rebranding included all of our truck’s trailers and exterior building signs. This new logo highlights a pivotal time in our company’s history.
Another big aspect of our rebranding initiative includes an entirely new website. The new website has been a very tedious but rewarding project that will be completed in Q1. It has a modern look, utilizes modern web technologies and includes features to better educate our customers.
Viwinco has undergone several interior renovations in 2021. We are excited to have completed these renovations last year. The outdated flooring was replaced in several areas of the main building. Walking into the building, you are now welcomed with faux, wood grain floors, a new reception desk and a bold blue accent wall featuring our new logo. The customer service department was given new and improved work spaces while several cubicles were added in the upper suite in preparation for new employees joining the team. One of the biggest updates is to our company lunchroom. We added more lockers, updated the bathrooms, will be replacing tables, and are looking for better and healthier vending options. Renovations will continue in the new year.
Patio Door and Casement Product Updates
Based on customer feedback, we have made the decision to transition back to the Moose Screen as the standard screen on our patio doors. We have also redesigned the patio door handles. These handles contain a proprietary locking system and a modern look. It also uses the same punch settings and can easily replace old handles on existing patio doors. This handle will be used on both our patio doors and 650 multitrack patio door. Additionally, we have also redesigned the casement/awning hardware and handles. The new handles provide a smoother operation and have a sleeker look. The products mentioned above are set to launch at the end of January, beginning of February.
Training and Onboarding at Viwinco
Lean Enterprise Institute Training
We have held several workshops, led by Lean coaches Bryant and Karen from the Lean Enterprise Institute. These workshops focused on educating our employees on Lean Principles, and ways to eliminate waste and improve productivity in our manufacturing processes. Adapting Lean manufacturing principles can result in significant benefits at our company such as improving our efficiency, streamlining our processes and improve our ability to meet the needs of our customers. In these workshops, we identified an area in our process which we felt we could improve upon. We then implemented the 5S methodology (sort, set in order, shine, standardize and sustain) to the workstations and conducted 3C (concern, cause and countermeasure) time studies to map out the process and identify the bottleneck. Our employees had the opportunity to analyze the flow of materials and improve the current process. We are scheduled to conduct another workshop towards the end of January where we will revisit our changes and analyze our progress. We look forward to continuing our adaptation of the Lean manufacturing concepts and introducing more of our employees to the benefits of Lean manufacturing in 2022.
Minimum Wage Increase
Our employees are essential to the success of our business. They are our most valuable resource and we appreciate the hard work, dedication and pride they show at Viwinco each day. We also understand that this has been a difficult year navigating a pandemic, while producing record-high volume and we wanted to reward them.
Earlier this year, we made the decision to increase minimum wage rate for 1st shift employees to 17-dollars an hour and the rate for 2nd shift to 19.55 an hour. We are committed to our employees and to making Viwinco a place people want to work, and we are excited to have made this change.
We also introduced changes to our onboarding process. We have shifted the onboarding process from physical paperwork to allowing new employees to complete everything online. There is also a 2-day on-site new hire training schedule. On day one, new workers receive fundamental plant training, HR and safety training, and a lean manufacturing overview. On the final day, new workers receive: an introduction of our product, learn how to safely move materials through the plant and training on tool usage. This training is then expanded to job-specific training where new hires will be taught how to succeed in their new roles. Over the course of both days, new employees also complete their OSHA 10-hour general industry training and receive official certification cards from the U.S. Department of Labor.
OSHA 10-Hr. Outreach Program
As a part of our revamped onboarding process, we now conduct the OSHA 10-Hr. Outreach Training Program for General Industry with our new hires. The OSHA 10-Hr course for General Industry applies to business sectors that include manufacturing, service and maintenance. This program trains new employees on the recognition, avoidance, abatement and prevention of safety hazards in the workplace. The training was introduced and implemented by our on-staff OSHA outreach trainer and new ESH Coordinator, Sharon Flory. While the program is not mandatory in Pennsylvania, the program ensures that our employees are OSHA certified and more aware of health and safety hazards in the workplace. Upon completion of the onboarding process, our employees are given official OSHA certification cards from the U.S. Department of Labor. Viwinco covers the cost of cards, so no charge to employees. Typically, employers do not require that their employees are OSHA certified, but this new training program has helped with retention rates and has drastically reduced the occurrence of injuries and incidents.
Berks Career & Technology Center Construction Site
Earlier in the year we donated an S-Series new construction house package to the Berks Career & Technology Center, to be used in a custom student-built house. BCTC is a school of choice, designed for students who are seeking to enhance their education with technical experience that is connected to a business or industry. The students are in grades 10, 11, and 12 and reside in any of the 16 participating school districts in Berks County. The program has two campuses, East and West, located in Oley and Leesport, who sport thirty-four career programs ranging from Art & Design to Masonry. The current housing project is the 22nd student-build in the program’s history and includes students from the construction program working in subsets of masonry, HVAC, horticulture, plumbing & heating, carpentry, electrical and building construction. This home is a 2,000 square-foot build that features Viwinco S-Series New Construction windows. The housing projects allow students to apply their skills and knowledge they gained in the classroom to an actual construction project, ensuring the students have hands-on experience needed to be successful in their desired field. All BCTC-built homes are sold at private auctions that benefit the students by offsetting the cost of updated equipment and technology. The house will be completed within the next year.
Kona Ice Truck and Bagged Lunches
Other employee-oriented events are the Kona Ice Truck and the bagged lunches from local Troop 543G and Nuses Deli. The Kona Ice Truck was a relaxing way to cool down on a hot Summer day. The bagged lunches were provided and purchased from the new, all-female BSA Troop 543G. The proceeds from the bagged lunches went towards the purchase of the troop’s camping gear and future camping expenses.
U.S. Representative Chrissy Houlahan
Toward the end of November, we welcomed U.S. Representative, Chrissy Houlahan for a personalized tour of our manufacturing facility. President, David Barnes, and General Manager, Michael Duncan Jr., gave a behind-the-scenes walkthrough of our manufacturing processes.
What’s So Cool About Manufacturing?
Every year, “What’s So Cool About Manufacturing” holds a video contest that is designed to introduce students to exciting career opportunities in the manufacturing field. The students produce short, informative videos with the goal of answering ‘What’s So Cool About Manufacturing?’. Judges then present awards to the different schools for a variety of categories in each region throughout Pennsylvania. In December, we welcomed the 7th grade students of the Wyomissing Area Junior-Senior High School and their teacher, Mr. Bratton. The class was given a tour of our facilities and spent time interviewing various employees. The class gathered an extensive amount of content which they will use to create a comprehensive video of their time at Viwinco.
Another annual event is the turkey giveaway. Every year we distribute turkeys to our employees as a way to show our appreciation for their hard work. After every employee received their turkey, the leftovers were then donated to the fresh food bank, Helping Harvest, who help feed over 100,000 people annually.
Viwinco’s Annual Christmas Party
There are several company events that employees are always excited for. One of the main company events is the annual Viwinco Christmas party. As a company we really enjoy being able to get all our employees together and have fun. Due to COVID-19 related shutdowns we were unable to have the party in 2020. Needless to say, everyone was very excited for it this year. There was an amazing turnout of employees. We like to keep the event local to make it easy for Viwinco employees to travel to so we have been hosting the event at the DoubleTree Hotel in Reading, PA for the past few years. During the party, everyone enjoys a nice dinner, cocktails and some dancing. A photo booth is available and all Viwinco employees get to partake in the holiday raffle for a chance to win some great prizes. We are overjoyed to celebrate their successes which made it another great year.
This year we mourned the passing of long-time Viwinco employee, Lou DeLuca. Lou’s tenure with the company began back in 1983 – in the early days of Viwinco – where he worked in the manufacturing plant assembling windows. He quickly moved throughout many positions in the plant, before finding a long-term position in outside sales. Most recently, Lou managed our northern region, overseeing a team of 7 sales reps. Lou’s knowledge, sales experience and mentorship were not only an asset to the sales team, but to all those who worked with him. Lou will be sorely missed. We also want to remember Michael McMiller (Line 2) and Amilcar Rosales (Patio Doors) who passed in 2021 as well.
Despite the challenges of the past year, there are a lot of exciting positive things happening. As we continue into 2022, we will begin to see some of the benefits of the projects we started in the previous year. We hope everyone had a happy and healthy new year and we look forward to the many exciting things we have planned for 2022!