Special-Lite Investing in the Future: Management Development Program Graduates

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About Special-Lite’s Management Development Program

When Special-Lite put this management training program together, the objective was to give interested and motivated employees the opportunity to develop and improve their personal and management skills.  While having trained employees would benefit Special-Lite in filling future leadership positions as we grow, it was also just as important to the executive team that the program helps the participants grow as individuals. They can use what they learned in the program– both inside and outside Special-Lite.  Another objective was to foster communication between individuals in different departments by working together collaboratively. The participants committed a significant amount of their time in the classroom learning and growing. In addition, they spent significant time outside of the classroom reading, doing homework and working on a large group project.  These projects, chosen by each group, focused on a specific process within Special-Lite and took the last 16 months to complete. This effort culminated in a presentation by each of the three groups to their managers, the executive leadership team, and the other groups on June 12.  Kevin Hanley, COO of Special-Lite, commented on the graduating class, “Each group did an outstanding job in their presentation.  It was incredible to witness the growth in skills and confidence demonstrated by all the participants in this program.  It was truly powerful and inspiring! Thank you to all the participants for the willingness to take this journey and go outside your comfort zone. Congratulations for an outstanding job!”

Special-Lite’s Commitment to Employee Growth

Special-Lite continually strives to be an employee-centered manufacturer. In addition to the Management Development program, Special-Lite hosts other development classes, such as Customer Service. Special-lite also offers tuition reimbursement for employees pursuing training or a degree at a higher learning institution.

Article on Fiberglass Pultrusion Wins 2017 DHI Robert G. Ryan Award

Pultrusion Technology Delivers Performance Enhancement won Second Place in Technical Articles

Special-Lite’s VP of Sales and Marketing, Roger Stempky won the 2nd place award in the Technical Article category of DHI’s 2017 Ryan Awards, for his article “Pultrusion Technology Delivers Performance Enhancement.” This article appeared in the November 2016 issue of Doors + Hardware Magazine. You can read about all the 2017 DHI Achievement Award Winners in the June issue!

About the Award

DHI presents this award to the best volunteer authors of any article in Doors + Hardware Magazine written from January 1 through December 31 each year. Articles cover either technical or business-related topics. Congratulations to Roger! We are very proud to win this award, especially given the number of excellent articles that appeared in Doors + Hardware Magazine in 2016!  

Read the Article:

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Special-Lite Makes Significant Expansion of Florida and High-Velocity Hurricane Zone Approved Storm Products

DECATUR, MI– Special-Lite, Inc. announced today that they have completed testing and received approvals for an extensive group of commercial doors and building entry products for the most stringent Florida storm standards. Special-Lite’s products have been tested to the most stringent high-velocity hurricane standards (HVHZ) by the Florida Building Code and have been deemed to conform to the requirements of these wind zone requirements within the state of Florida. Special-Lite has maintained a limited product offering for the Florida and coastal storm markets since 2001. Their commitment to testing and research, directed at improving the safety of buildings and occupants within the coastal markets, increased in 2009. This demonstrated commitment was a result of an introduction between Henry L. Upjohn II, CEO of Special-Lite and the UF Wind Engineering program at the University of Florida, which provides full-scale research and is known for replicating the realistic effects of storms on complete building systems. The importance of this level of support was discussed by Mr. Upjohn, “Certainly, our goal is to sell what we feel are the best-engineered door solutions anywhere. Developing our understanding of these high-wind storms and the damage that occurs allows us to grow and improve our products. It advances our belief that there is more that manufacturers of architectural products can do to keep people safe in schools, hospitals and any other types of buildings.” Upjohn went on to say, “Working on such an important project with the University of Florida was important in helping to advance the science and was certainly a project our engineers and I found exciting and interesting.” Special-Lite has a long history of providing highly engineered aluminum and fiberglass doors for the high-cycle and high abuse markets. The company’s history spans over 40 years, with approximately 35 years of serving the educational and institutional markets. Since 1981, with their pioneering effort in the use of Fiberglass Reinforced Polyester (FRP) products, Special-Lite has become an educational and institutional market leader in building entry products. Kevin Hanley, President, and COO of Special-Lite commented, “The whole investment in safety, research and development, testing, product development and ultimately product approvals, allows us to show our continued commitment to being a market leader in the educational and institutional sectors. These sectors continue to be a core market for Special-Lite. Our commitment to providing products that can improve safety is one that we take very seriously.” While Special-Lite remains committed to its educational and institutional sectors, Roger Stempky, Vice President of Sales and Marketing acknowledged the opportunity to enhance growth in other markets with a bevy of new product approvals. “The successful completion of this testing will allow us to continue to grow the vast and increasingly populated coastal markets. Of course, California, Texas, and Florida– which are the three largest states by population– all have regions that have can be subject to these dangerous storms. It is projected by the year 2020 we will have over 134 million residents concentrated along the coastal regions of the United States alone.” Stempky went on to say, “We are excited to have a broad offering of products with Florida’s nationally recognized approvals including our stile and rail, all fiberglass, and well-known FRP Hybrid doors. This offering will allow us to better serve the hospitality, restaurant, retail and multi-family housing markets along with many others.” Special-Lite’s approvals can be found on both the Florida Building Code and Miami-Dade building approval sites, or more information is readily available by contacting the company directly. About Special-Lite, Inc. Special-Lite manufacturers engineered, made to order architectural products, including commercial entrance systems, interior aluminum framing with swing or sliding aluminum framed doors, and FRP restroom partitions. Complete entrance system products are fiberglass or aluminum flush doors with many door face texture options including wood grain, aluminum monumental (stile & rail) doors, fiberglass and aluminum framing. Special-Lite’s products are used in new construction and renovation projects for educational, commercial, institutional, industrial and municipal applications. Founded in 1971, the company pioneered the use of fiberglass reinforced polyester (FRP) material for door skins. Today, Special-Lite is the largest volume producer of commercial FRP doors in the United States. pdf-hurricane-release

Special-Lite to Exhibit in Nashville for BOMA 2017

Join us in Nashville for BOMA 2017

We are excited to be exhibiting at the 2017 BOMA International Annual Expo in Nashville, TN on June 24 – 27. Widely recognized as commercial real estate’s premier annual trade event, the conference provides commercial property professionals with unparalleled learning and networking opportunities across three days on some of the most important issues the industry faces today. This year, we’ll be at Music City Center in lively downtown Nashville, TN! Special-Lite Regional Sales Manager, Brian VonDette, and Phelan & Associates Sales Representative, Jerry Phelan, will be representing Special-Lite at the Expo. We are at booth # 1036.  Brian and Jerry look forward to answering any questions and telling you more about Special-Lite’s entrance and interior solutions! We are proud to be exhibiting at an event that has gained its reputation for being at the forefront of market trends. We are sure that you will have much to learn from this conference. Hope to see you there! Register today.

Special-Lite Names Ken Bowditch as Vice President of Engineering

“…I am confident in Ken’s ability to lead us forward and drive these current and future initiatives.” –Henry L. Upjohn II, CEO

  DECATUR, MI, May 8, 2017– Special-Lite, Inc. announced today that Ken Bowditch will assume the position of Vice President of Engineering. Special-Lite’s Board of Directors approved this promotion on April 20th, 2017.

Accomplishments at Special-Lite

Bowditch joined Special-Lite in 2007 as a Research and Development Engineer and was promoted to Director of Research and Development. His accomplishments at Special-Lite include extensive research and testing for hurricane products, including doors for high-velocity hurricane zones. In 2014, Bowditch and Henry L. Upjohn II, CEO of Special-Lite, designed an air cannon for hurricane door testing. They designed the cannon to deliver large missile impact testing to doors used in high wind areas. The team can use the cannon for both hurricane and tornado testing. Bowditch also led the Research and Development Team to develop and test the first ever pultruded fiberglass ballistic door. Since 2009, Bowditch simultaneously serves as a Department Associate for the University of Florida, Engineering School of Sustainable Infrastructure & Environment. Special-Lite and the University of Florida partnered to design and build a pressure simulator. The pressure simulator enables engineers to research the impact that hurricanes have on architecture in high wind areas of the country. Bowditch, as a member of a team with the University of Florida Research Foundation, received a patent earlier this year for the Dynamic Wind Velocity and Pressure Simulator. Henry L. Upjohn II, CEO of Special-Lite, Inc., commented on Bowditch’s promotion, “This is an exciting time at Special-Lite, our continued growth in our core educational market remains strong and is driven by the market’s demand for scalable safety, security and environmentally responsible products. We continue to invest significantly in maintaining our market leadership position with our focus on these priorities. In addition, we continue to broaden our product offering, especially in the interior products segment. This all places significant demands on our Engineering team, and I am confident in Ken’s ability to lead us forward and drive these current and future initiatives.”

Prior Experience

Prior to joining Special-Lite’s team, Bowditch, a graduate of Lawton High School, worked for Stearns-Stafford, Inc. as a machinist for 19 years. He then joined Stryker in 1995 where he began his career as a machinist and was promoted to Manager of the Experimental Shop. Bowditch’s career also includes 19 years of voluntary service to the Lawton Fire Department.

About Special-Lite, Inc.

Special-Lite manufacturers engineered, made to order architectural products, including commercial entrance systems, interior aluminum framing with swing or sliding aluminum framed doors, and FRP restroom partitions. Complete entrance system products are fiberglass or aluminum flush doors with many door face texture options including wood grain, aluminum monumental (stile & rail) doors, fiberglass and aluminum framing. Special-Lite’s products are used in new construction and renovation projects for educational, commercial, institutional, industrial and municipal applications. Founded in 1971, the company pioneered the use of fiberglass reinforced polyester (FRP) material for door skins. Today, Special-Lite is the largest volume producer of commercial FRP doors in the United States. View PDF Sign Up for News Releases

Special-Lite Expands Thermally Broken Aluminum Framing Product Line

More Design Options for Energy Efficient Entrances

DECATUR, MI, April 6, 2017— Special-Lite has engineered additional sill sizes for their Thermally Broken Aluminum Framing to provide a more robust offering to the product line. Both the SL-450TB (2″ x 4-1/2″) and SL-600TB (2″ x 6″) thermally broken framing provide excellent performance that matches or exceeds the thermal performance of glass. With the addition of new sill sizes (listed below), the added variations provide customers with a better energy efficient entrance solution. New thermally broken sill sizes:
  • 2″ x 4-1/2″
  • 2″ x 6″
  • 4″ x 4-1/2″
  • 4″ x 6″
  • 6″ x 4-1/2″
  • 6″ x 6″
 

Unique Finish Options for Your Thermally Efficient Entrance

With Thermally Broken Framing, you can even choose to have the interior side of framing a different finish than the exterior! This design option is possible because we apply the finish on the aluminum first. After finishing, the thermal strut completes the construction of the framing. Class 1 anodized finishes for the thermally broken framing include clear, dark bronze, black, champagne, light bronze and medium bronze. Special-Lite can also paint thermally broken framing with any of their established Kynar 500® paint colors. If you would like the look of wood without the maintenance, select the ‘Wood Expressions’ decorative finish as an option.

About Special-Lite, Inc.

Special-Lite manufacturers engineered, made to order architectural products, including commercial entrance systems, interior aluminum (Type II) framing with swing or sliding aluminum framed doors, and FRP restroom partitions. Complete entrance system products are fiberglass or aluminum flush doors with many door face texture options including wood grain, aluminum monumental (stile & rail) doors, fiberglass, and aluminum framing. Special-Lite’s products are used in new construction and renovation projects for educational, commercial, institutional, industrial and municipal applications. Founded in 1971, the company pioneered the use of fiberglass reinforced polyester (FRP) material for door skins. Today, Special-Lite is the largest volume producer of commercial FRP doors in the United States.   View PDF Sign Up for News Releases  
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A Win for School Security: Ballistic Door Wins New Product Award

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About the Award

College Planning & Management announced the winners of their 2016 New Product of the Year Awards in Mid-December. They state,
“The New Product Award program honors the outstanding product development achievements of manufacturers and suppliers whose products or services are considered to be particularly noteworthy in their ability to enhance the learning environment. An independent panel of judges from the industry selected 15 Platinum and 26 Gold winners in the second year of this contest. Twenty-nine additional products were awarded an Honorable Mention.”
We are excited to announce that Special-Lite’s AF-100BRwon the Platinum New Product award in the category of Doors for educational door and frame safety. We are so passionate about school safety and school security, and we continue to develop new products to meet these needs. You can read more about the award and other winning products here.
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About our Ballistic Door & Frame

The AF-100BR3 Door is the first ballistic door manufactured using fiberglass pultrusion technology. This process produces a smooth-faced, corrosion and bullet resistant fiberglass door. This door is incredibly strong and is also fully sealed for easy cleaning. Special-Lite developed this bullet resistant door to support the need for increased security at educational, government and military facilities. You can read the details on our ballistic products here.

Special-Lite Introduces the BasiX™ Door

DECATUR, MI – A limited distribution sandstone-textured FRP (Fiberglass Reinforced Polyester) door that is designed as an “In Stock,” durable replacement door. The BasiX  door includes many of the features of a Special-Lite SL-20 sandstone-textured FRP flush door, but with no lead-time, and at a competitive price point. Doors are available in 4 standard sizes to fit existing standard steel or hollow metal door sized openings. Other features include doors being non-handed with aluminum square edge stiles, a 5# urethane foamed-in-place core, and are reinforced at the top of the door to accommodate standard door closers. Our innovative Lock Pocket (patent pending) is adaptable to cylindrical and mortised locks, as well as rim exit devices. The door’s flush bottom allows for a field applied surface sweep. The benefits of a BasiX Door are a quality, corrosive resistant, commercial grade fiberglass (FRP) door that is designed to fit into just about any existing frame. Doors are primed and ready to paint any color you choose. Our Limited Distribution Partners have this door in stock and available for you. To find a Special-Lite BasiX Door near you – call Special-Lite at 800.821.6531. About Special-Lite, Inc. Special-Lite manufacturers engineered architectural products, which includes commercial entrance systems, interior aluminum (Type II) framing with swing or sliding aluminum framed doors, and FRP restroom partitions. Our complete entrance system products are fiberglass or aluminum flush doors with many door face texture options including wood grain, aluminum monumental (stile & rail) doors, fiberglass and aluminum framing. Our engineered, made to order architectural products are used in new construction and renovation projects for educational, commercial, institutional, industrial and municipal applications. The company was founded in 1971 and pioneered the use of fiberglass reinforced polyester (FRP) material for door skins in the early 1980’s, and today is the largest volume producer of commercial FRP doors in the United States. View PDF

Special-Lite Agrees to Purchase Omega Door Frame Products Business

DECATUR, MI – Special-Lite, Inc. announced today that it has entered into a definitive agreement to purchase the Omega Door Frame Products business (Omega) from Architectural Builders Hardware, Inc. (ABH), of Itasca, Illinois. Omega is a manufacturer of aluminum interior glass framing used in interior office construction. Henry L. Upjohn II, CEO of Special-Lite, shared his enthusiasm for the acquisition. “We are excited to acquire a company that has built an outstanding reputation for quality products and customer service which are consistent with Special-Lite’s values. It’s a privilege to be able to build on what they started.” Terms of the sale and size of the acquired business were not released. However, Kevin Hanley, President and COO stated, “I believe the market has recognized the Omega product as one of the best interior type II framing products in the industry.” Hanley went on to state, “This is an important acquisition for us as we focus on our growth strategy. Working with aluminum represents one of our core competencies and we are confident that we will continue to build on the strong foundation that ABH has established in this market”. Special-Lite’s expansion into the commercial interiors business started several years ago with the introduction of aluminum framing for vestibules and heavier duty aluminum interior office glazing applications. This business was expanded into restroom partitioning in 2012 and then again in 2013 with the purchase of Universal Pultrusions of Marshall, Arkansas. The Universal Pultrusion products include all fiberglass interior and exterior doors and framing for clean rooms, food production, healthcare, R&D and high corrosive environments. Roger Stempky, Vice President of Sales and Marketing noted, “This is an exciting addition for Special-Lite with the expansion of our product offering for the interior of commercial buildings”. Stempky went on to share, “this is the continuation of an expansive effort we are making in becoming a leader in the interior glass fronts and demountable wall business. We are excited about the market opportunities for this product in the marketplace.” The sale is scheduled for completion and a seamless transition by the middle of September. Kirti Shah, CEO of ABH commented “We appreciate the support over the years from our valued customers for the Omega line. Our decision to sell the Omega business will allow us to focus on our core hardware business, which has experienced significant growth. In finding a buyer for Omega, it was important that we find a company that shared the values and commitment to quality, engineering, manufacturing and a firm commitment to customer service. We are confident that Special-Lite’s values are the same as ours. As we complete this transaction we are working diligently to ensure a seamless transition for our dealers and end-users”.   About Special-Lite, Inc. Special-Lite manufacturers engineered architectural products, which includes commercial entrance systems, interior aluminum (Type II) framing with swing or sliding aluminum framed doors, and FRP restroom partitions. Our complete entrance system products are fiberglass or aluminum flush doors with many door face texture options including wood grain, aluminum monumental (stile & rail) doors, fiberglass, and aluminum framing. Our engineered, made to order architectural products are used in new construction and renovation projects for educational, commercial, institutional, industrial and municipal applications. The company was founded in 1971 and pioneered the use of fiberglass reinforced polyester (FRP) material for door skins in the early 1980’s, and today is the largest volume producer of commercial FRP doors in the United States.  View PDF

Special-Lite Engineers and Delivers a One-of-a-kind Storm Simulator

The University of Florida is Set to “Judge” Building Architectural Products and Entry Systems

Approximately $10 billion in damage occurs in the U.S. annually due to natural events, the majority from Category 3, 4 and 5 hurricanes. In 1992, Hurricane Andrew caused more than $25B in just Dade County Florida. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina caused more than $100B in total economic loss. In 2009, Henry Upjohn, CEO of Special-Lite, Inc., a leading manufacturer of heavy duty entrance door systems, was approached by a business acquaintance that works with the insurance industry, and routinely tours post-storm environments. This professional explained that he regularly finds instances where roll-up and sectional garage doors, built to known standards and storm ratings, were consistently failing at levels below their rating. There was a need to develop better diagnostic tools to understand how building components and claddings respond to extreme wind effects. During that initial meeting, it was suggested that Upjohn should meet Forrest Masters, Ph.D., P.E., Associate Professor of Civil & Coastal Engineering at the University of Florida (UF). The UF wind engineering program is one of the largest of its kind in the US. The group is well known for full-scale research, i.e. performing experiments in hurricanes or replicating their effects at a sufficient scale and realism to evaluate the performance of complete building systems. Special-Lite’s engineering team understood that property damage appeared to be most significant when building entries and windows have become compromised, often resulting in catastrophic failure. The opportunity to partner with Upjohn’s company was an ideal match as Special-Lite has built its reputation on developing engineered door entry and architectural solutions that withstand the most challenging, abusive and corrosive environments. Upjohn and Masters met soon after, and decided to build a testing apparatus capable of simulating wind and wind pressure associated with some of the most severe weather known on the planet. Conventional solutions were not up to the task, so they formed a diverse team encompassing civil, mechanical, manufacturing and industrial engineering to create a one-ofa-kind machine capable of simulating the damaging effects of hurricanes and other extreme wind events. Conceptually, the system can be thought of as a means to replicate naturally-occurring wind and pressure caused by turbulence in the approach flow and the flow distortion around a building. For example, if a pressure sensor recorded highfidelity data on the wall of a commercial building in Homestead, Florida during Hurricane Andrew, the simulator can “replay” this pressure sequence in its entirety. Ideally, the measured and artificially-applied load would be virtually indistinguishable. To meet the challenge, Upjohn developed the original simulator concept design drawings, as well as personally supervised the simulator construction and assembly at the Powell Laboratory on the University of Florida’s campus. He, and various members of his engineering and electrical fabrication team from the Special-Lite facility in Decatur, Michigan took many trips to Gainesville, Florida over the course of 18 months during the simulator construction.

Simulations Get Real

The new simulator (patent pending), officially referred to as the Dynamic Wind Velocity and Pressure Simulator (DWVPS) or affectionately called “The Judge”, is a unique machine that Henry Upjohn, CEO, Special-Lite, Inc. (left) with Forrest Masters, PhD., P.E. creates dynamic simulated Saffir-Simpson Scale Category 5 pressure events that produce rapidly fluctuating positive and negative pressures on a test specimen to determine at what level failure, if any, occurs. The simulator’s primary function is to evaluate the performance of large component and cladding systems with the goal of designing better, more robust products that will endure all classes of hurricane and tornado events. Some of the examples of use in the construction industry include testing for both sectional and roll-up garage doors, entry doors, windows, curtain walls, siding, shingles and soffits. Other exterior components affected by extreme wind loads caused by hurricane and tornado events can also be tested. The system operates in two modes. The apparatus has a simulation range capability of 460 psf at 70,000 cfm leakage in the pressure chamber and 230+ mph in the high-speed test section. “We can replicate wind effects on buildings expected to occur during an entire hurricane passage,” Masters said. “A strong Category 5 hurricane is not a problem. We haven’t run a simulation yet, but I’m confident we can also simulate loads on a low-rise building in an EF4 tornado.” The DWVPS also features a velocity simulation area which subjects smaller specimen samples (typically shingles and siding) to high speed wind flow with rapid fluctuations. Funding for the simulator was provided primarily by Special-Lite, with support from the Florida Catastrophic Storm Risk Management Center at FSU, the Florida Building Commission, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Florida. “The new simulator complements multiple modeling and testing apparatuses, ranging from universal testing machines, to the boundary layer wind tunnel. Its specific purpose is to apply out-of-plane loading to large-scale building components and cladding to understand how they behave under dynamic wind loading. The findings (data) are used to verify computational modeling and rational engineering analysis,” Masters said. Test data is captured on the DWVPS with load cells, strain gauges, photogrammetry and HD video. Deliverable data includes forces (reactions), strains, 3D displacement, and video of the entire test to identify time and degree of damage. View PDF