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OUTSIDE IN: Sydney window manufacturer looking at future exposure in Middle East

Michelle Milburn is chief operating officer of Advanced Glazings Ltd. in Sydney, N.S. She says her company, which manufactures and markets sustainable and commercially viable window technologies, is expected to do well in 2019. She said the only downside would be a possible slowing of the construction industry.
Michelle Milburn is chief operating officer of Advanced Glazings Ltd. in Sydney, N.S. She says her company, which manufactures and markets sustainable and commercially viable window technologies, is expected to do well in 2019. She said the only downside would be a possible slowing of the construction industry. - Chris Shannon

Outside In is a five-part series that delves into the global issues affecting business in 2019.
 
In Part 1 we look at the big picture on trade and introduce you to three Atlantic Canadian companies winning at the export game.

SYDNEY, N.S. — To say Advanced Glazings Ltd. of Sydney enjoyed a good year in 2018 might be an understatement.

The company developed a technology years ago that creates a soft, natural light in window panels, one that lowers the load on interior cooling and heating systems and results in operational savings.

The windows are made in a facility located on Sydney harbour.

The company’s manufacturing area is on the main floor while its modest office space can be found up a stairwell, next to a cluster of computers and work stations that comprise its research and development division.

Doug Milburn founded the company along with his wife, Michelle Milburn, in 1995.

Together, they had an idea to develop, manufacture and market, sustainable and commercially viable technologies related to sunlight.

They lead a company of approximately 30 employees who design and build windows for companies and construction projects around the world.

Last summer Advanced Glazings celebrated the completion of its largest project to date – fulfilling an order that involved shipping 20 cargo containers for a total of 1,126 glazing units to the College of Business on the newest campus of Sabah Al-Salem Kuwait University City.

The project began in 2016 with the installation of the Aerogel-18 panels that provide four times the insulation of commercial standard “high performance” glass units.

The area covered by the windows is approximately the surface of the Empire State Building if the New York landmark was turned on its side.

Advanced Glazings Ltd. forklift operator John White prepares the final shipment of the Solera brand of windows to Kuwait University at the company’s manufacturing plant in Sydney, N.S., last summer. The 18-month project involved moving 1,126 glazing units in 20 freight shipping containers to the Middle Eastern country. - Chris Shannon
Advanced Glazings Ltd. forklift operator John White prepares the final shipment of the Solera brand of windows to Kuwait University at the company’s manufacturing plant in Sydney, N.S., last summer. The 18-month project involved moving 1,126 glazing units in 20 freight shipping containers to the Middle Eastern country. - Chris Shannon

Advanced Glazings would routinely post social media updates of its final Kuwait shipment by using GPS mapping of the ship’s location.

“Every project that you get where you don’t currently have something, is like a marquee project for you,” said Michelle Milburn, chief operating officer.

“You want it to be because then it’s a reference point for future work in that country. Kuwait certainly was that for us and that college is huge.”

There will be no resting this year either. Its first foray into the Middle East appears to be just the beginning as Advanced Glazings has committed to working on a project in Dubai that will dwarf the size of the 40,000-square-foot glass roof at Kuwait University.

It’s a project that is still under wraps, but it’s an exciting prospect for the company over the next 12 to 18 months, Milburn said.

“It’s still in the planning stages and they’re still working on drawings. I think it’s scheduled for next year.”

There was also the recent launch of its new Solera Wall product — a frameless window system that costs much less to produce, from both a financial and the environmental perspective.

Meanwhile, the company is busy working on smaller projects – mostly in the United States, Norway and the United Kingdom.

Exporting to its largest market in the U.S. is similar to shipping across Canada, however it’s a more complicated route when exporting to Europe and Asia.

Credit checks are essential, particularly when not receiving a lump sum payment upfront.

Letters of credit is the normal practice of business when exporting outside North America, Milburn said.

It’s an intricate process that involves working closely with Export Development Canada and your lending institution, she added.

A letter of credit is also known as a documentary credit or bankers commercial credit. It’s a payment mechanism used in international trade that stipulates a financial guarantee from a creditworthy bank to an exporter of goods.

“For us, when we shipped our first large jobs — the Kuwait one for example — that was all letters of credit, multiple letters of credit, multiple levels of insurance and the responsibility for shipping.

“There was a lot of things that we needed to figure out for that particular job, which sets us up nicely for any other jobs in the region.”

chris.shannon@cbpost.com

Twitter: @cbpost_chris


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