January 2013 – KFOXTV Borderland Experts: Windows
February 2011 – Alside Produces Windows and Patio Doors in Yuma
While some manufacturing companies closed their doors due to the bad economy, Yuma’s Alside manufacturing plant adjusted to the market and survived.
The 222,554-square-foot plant first opened its doors at 7550 E. 30th St. in the Yuma Commerce Center in late 2005. Initially it manufactured mostly residential windows and sliding patio doors for new homes. But as the new home construction industry took a nosedive, the manufacturer analyzed the market and realized that while people were not building or buying new homes, they were certainly staying longer and remodeling their existing homes. So the manufacturer shifted its focus from new to replacement windows and patio doors – and the orders have been flying out the door.
The company still produces windows and doors for new homes, but most orders are now for replacement jobs. “New home sales have gone down and people are staying in their homes, so they’re sprucing them up,” said Dan Tortolano, Yuma plant manager.
Government credits of up to $1,500 for installing energy-efficient windows have also motivated some homeowners to replace their windows. All of Alside products have an Energy Star rating that meets the criteria, according to production manager Manuel Romero. Alside produces six different lines of double-paned windows and patio doors of varying styles – such as picture windows and sliders – and quality, from standard to upper end. Alside also distributes its products all the way east to El Paso, Texas, north to Nevada, Utah and Colorado and west to San Francisco, and everywhere in between. All orders, many of them custom orders, are shipped through the plant’s 22 docks. “For sure, we keep UPS and FedEx busy,” Romero said, noting that the plant has room for another 40,000 square feet for possible expansion. “We have to have a plant that can handle all orders,” he said. Tortolano noted that company officials are working hard “to make sure we run efficiently. By doing so, we are able to keep the factory opened and keep people employed.”
Alside currently employs 145 people, but additional temporary workers are hired during the summer. Tortolano pointed out that some employees take on agricultural jobs during the winter and return to the factory during the summer, when the agriculture industry slows down. “It works well for us,” Tortolano said, adding that employees are cross-trained and move around the factory.
A tour of the factory shows how the windows and doors come together, piece by piece, using the latest technology. All orders are forwarded from the parent company, Associated Materials Inc. The Yuma plant receives individual glass panes of different textures, and workers turn them into double-paned windows. It starts with a four-cycle wash. Then a computer program selects glass panes and cuts them into required sizes, which end up looking like the pieces of a jigsaw. “It takes operator error out of it,” explained Mike Casas, insulated glass supervisor. All employees wear thick Kevlar gear and safety glasses to protect them from broken glass and cuts. “That’s really important in this factory,” Casas noted. Pressed in an oven with an interior temperature of 750 degrees, air bubbles are forced out, creating an airtight seal. “By our standards, this unit has to be moisture-proof, air-proof and dust- and debris-proof,” Casas said. “Glass is 80 percent of a window, what the customer will see. That’s why it’s so important we build a good-quality unit,” Romero noted. Glass is inspected constantly. If any defect is detected, such as a minute scratch, “it’s better to throw it out here than at the final assembly line when we’ve already invested so much labor,” Romero said, adding that rejected and broken glass is recycled. The turnaround time from when the company receives an order and it’s shipped out is usually seven days. Alside produces about a quarter-million windows a year, and they are sold under various labels, such as Alpine Windows. “We want to grow. Even in this economy we’ve expanded in the number of units we produce every year, about 3 to 5 percent every year,” Tortolano said. The plant is airy and open with lots of light. “We don’t want to be like those factories you see on TV, very drab and very dark. We want people to like coming to work. Morale is an important part,” Tortolano said. To keep up morale, the company offers bonus programs and incentives. “If we hit good-quality, on-time delivery and safety goals, then there’s a good bonus check for employees at the end of the year,” Tortolano said.
The company even awards prizes for perfect attendance, such as big flat-screen televisions and PlayStations. “We’re all very passionate about what we do here,” Tortolano said.
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