Growth and Leadership: Inline Fiberglass Embraces Change

Inline Fiberglass

Much has happened recently at Inline Fiberglass: The introduction of entrance doors to complement its High Performance Energy Efficient window line; a new showroom; and a Passive House window product which received passive house certification in November.

Despite the unique challenges the past year has presented, this Toronto-based company has managed to forge ahead in part due to its commitment to embracing change and the dedication of its reliable staff.

Founded more than 35 years ago by Stanley Rokicki, Inline Fiberglass considers itself a family business that produces a wide range of fully integrated, high-performance doors and windows with continual innovation and industry leadership at its forefront.

“We’ve never offered entrance doors before, and the introduction of that has really helped our single-source customers coming into complete sales,” says COO Bernard Rokicki. “On its own, entrance doors for us has been our biggest area of growth.”

This all-fiberglass rail-and-stile design enables the production of four-feet by ten-feet-high doors not available anywhere else, he says. This has understandably garnered a lot of interest, not just from builders and homeowners, but from other door manufacturers.

“We’re in talks with several companies about working together and being able to provide this in a more open fashion,” Rokicki says. “This has really exploded for us and we’re continuing to add on more options and more products within the entrance door division.”

Inline also recently received passive house certification for a new window line, allowing the company to investigate some new niche markets. Starting the process a couple of years ago, Inline believed they could certify their existing product themselves, but ended up building a new product from scratch.

Although there’s a main factory in Toronto, a new showroom is also in the works to supplement an existing door factory that is already expanding with more equipment and more employees.

“It’s really taken off for us,” Rokicki says. “Overall as a company, we’re adding new products, new personnel, continuing improvements, and adding all kinds of new software as well. We’re very bullish for 2021.”

Never one to rest on past success, Rokicki sees a lot of room for growth for the upcoming years. “We’re going for it,” he says. “Inline’s new showroom is a design centre, but also an education centre. When a customer comes in, we talk about the product, the types of glass they need for their home, and as far as the installation goes, it’s beneficial to be able to show real life examples of how windows could go in the house and finding the best possible solution for the person’s project.”

With the showroom 99 percent complete, Inline is also looking this year to open its first off-site show room that’s not a factory direct, located somewhere in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). At the moment the company is still looking at suitable locations.

“If that works, we’re going to continue doing that and opening up other showrooms in other cities as well.”

To tie in with all of this, Inline has also upgraded its quoting procedures. Until recently, the team had to quote all of their projects manually. Now they’ve developed new software that allows them to quote in-house and also give other dealers and customers the option to use it in the future. This, says Rokicki, will make Inline more efficient and more accurate.

“It’s long overdue,” he says, “but time is the most valuable resource and there’s never enough time to get everything done. We’re vertically integrated, so we’re not just a window and door company. We’re a solutions company. We supply other parts for the building industry, and components to other window companies. We’re very diversified.”

By providing solutions, he adds, the company helps people achieve what they’re trying to achieve. And while Inline definitely has a lot on its plate, the ongoing pandemic has created both challenges and opportunities.

“It’s not unique to us but, but being a manufacturer, you have to put safety first,” Rokicki says. “At the same time you’re a business and trying to be efficient and deliver on time. We’ve definitely had challenges with the supply chain, personnel, planning, and getting orders out. Things seem to take a little bit longer to do, but we’re adjusting to the new norm.”

How they did things in the past is not how they do it now, he says, as trying to get answers takes a little bit longer, and calling a meeting and grabbing ten people together in a room isn’t viable. Using technology a lot more in trying to get things done is a new normal in both communication and selling strategies, as health restrictions keep clients from visiting showrooms in person.

“Buying a window isn’t like you’re buying light bulbs or something like that,” Rokicki says. “Customers usually want to come in and see it touch it and understand. Zoom is useful, but a little bit more challenging to do a hundred percent and it takes a little bit longer. Like everyone else, it’s not unique to us. We’re just trying to be more creative in using technology a little bit better.”

Inline has also identified which employees can work from home, and has encouraged that practice whenever possible.

“It works great for us, but with that being said, in the manufacturing field it’s tricky because you have to be able to relay the message all the way down and unfortunately people have to be here for that. But we’re doing everything we possibly can to keep everyone safe.”

Despite the obstacles, Inline continues to move steadily ahead, leading from the front, says Rokicki. He adds that the passive house is the most challenging product the company has ever developed in terms of strict criteria, in terms of both industry demands and the company’s own standards.

“We had to add in our own criteria of what we wanted from this passive house window,” he says. “It would have to be energy efficient and easy to fabricate. I could build a passive house window that’s too expensive and no one would buy, so we wanted it to be low cost. That for us was a big factor, because a lot of people are bringing in similar products, and there are other products out there.”

Fiberglass presents its own challenges with unique characteristics that Inline had to try to overcome.

“I think we did it. It took a long time, but kudos to the team that was involved. Peel Passive House Consulting were instrumental in helping us achieve it. They were wonderful in helping us get there. We’re definitely very happy and excited about this.”

Right now the company is finalizing all the tooling, and already has clients eager to place orders. “We never stand still,” Rokicki says. “We’ve always been an innovator here. We’re already thinking about the next passive house product that we want to bring in-house which is a passive house door to complement the windows, along with other products as well.”

Rokicki credits the company’s incredible relationship with its employees as being instrumental in its ongoing success, keeping it running smoothly and effectively during the pandemic while still producing high-quality, innovative results.

“I couldn’t ask anything more from our people and from our employees here,” he says. “They stepped up and went beyond what I could imagine.”

Everyone, he says, was more than willing to help out in order to get work done and keep the customers happy. “If we were behind on something, no one ever said no when we asked for help to get us out of a jam.

“I’ll say it – my guys are better than everybody else,” he adds. “They stepped up in such a way, I couldn’t ask for anything more. Inline is a family business. We have that family attitude even though we’re not a small family business. We have 200 employees, and the morale in the back is wonderful. If you ask for help you’ll never hear no. This time of year I was just so happy that we kept to our word and we worked through every challenge pretty well.”

Rokicki refers to the front office workers as lifers, with key roles being filled by those who have been employed for more than 20 years.

“It’s a testament. I believe we treat them well, and in return they treat us even better. There’s not many days I don’t enjoy coming to work,” he says. “We don’t micromanage here. We give people the freedom to come up with their own ideas. It’s a good push and pull here. You’re only as good as your people. That’s why we are always in the front.”

Along with launching its first offsite showroom this year, the next year or couple of years hold even more expansions for Inline, including some south of the border.

“We’re looking to accomplish that as soon as possible,” says Rokicki. “But again, it’s a family-run business, so we sat down with the board of directors and said what do we want to do? For us it’s all about growth, and what we see and what we have.

“We expect to be double the size within five years. That’s where we want to be, that’s our goal, and there’s no reason why we can’t get there.”

More Than Just a Trend

The construction industry is typically slow to evolve. Despite the existence of countless new innovations and technologies, and safer, better ways to do things, it is an industry where tried and true construction methods and long-accepted materials are seldom replaced by a new product or approach.

April 17, 2021, 8:29 PM EDT