Manufacturing Energy-Efficient, Pour-In-Place Windows
Quebec-based Formtech Windows is the leading Canadian manufacturer of pour-in-place foundation windows. Formtech’s line of highly-efficient window products is used by contractors from coast to coast, and the company is known for its quality, energy-saving products.
The window market is quite competitive, but Formtech has built and maintained a reputation for reaching and exceeding the highest standards. The company is committed to providing products with energy efficiency, sustainability, and quality performance at a fair price.
Formtech specializes in a particular type of window technology made for concrete foundations. The innovative design eases installation and increases the lifespan of the window. It began in 1988, when Formtech was operating as a small, family-owned company, offering a line of tools and accessories to customers in the local concrete market. Company Founder, Mr. Jean-Guy Bergeron, had built a network of contracting customers and developed knowledge of the challenges they were facing daily in the field. He identified a need to reduce the time spent installing windows, and soon had an idea for how to solve that problem.
Typically, windows are installed in multiple steps. First, the concrete wall would be poured around a wooden frame, called a buck, which leaves a space for the window. Once the wall was set, the window could be installed into that space, but this additional step took time.
Formtech pioneered a technology that enables contractors to install windows much faster, reducing the overall time cost of a construction project and delivering a better product. Its windows are installed into the wall frame before pouring the concrete. Then, once the wall is poured and set, the window is already in place and perfectly sealed.
Formtech’s original model, named the Horizon, was a one-piece window unit that was manufactured using a plastic injection moulding process. At the time, no existing window could be installed prior to pouring a concrete wall, making the company, and the Horizon, a pioneer in the pour-in-place window concept.
The Horizon was strong, but there was room for improvement. The product’s primary weak point was condensation. When the warm air inside a structure meets the cold air outside, any humidity in that air will form moisture on the window. As the company continued to modify the design of its window, it realized that adding air chambers to the frame could eliminate the condensation issue.
In the early 2000s, Formtech acquired a plastic extrusion machine and began manufacturing the polyvinyl chloride (PVC) framing structure for its windows in-house. This enabled it to advance the product rapidly, and by 2007, it released its Isoform line of windows featuring five air chambers integrated within the frame. Accredited by the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) and Energy Star, the Isoform model reduces the heat that can transfer through the frame, solving the condensation problem once and for all.
Formtech cares deeply about the performance of its products and their impact on the productivity of its contracting customers. With sustained investment, it has extended its product catalogue to include both casement windows and awning windows. The windows are also available in colours. An optional insulating component around the frame can upgrade the energy performance to meet Novoclimat certification and generate considerable savings in heating expenses over the life of the product.
Located in Saint-Rosaire, Quebec, Formtech employs roughly forty people from factory workers to sales and administration staff and truck drivers. “We’re a family company, so we treat our employees like they are our family. We try to take care of everyone the best we can when they need help with anything, personal or professional problems. We try to make them happy and we do the best we can do to keep them with us,” said Marketing Technician, Nicolas Crochetière.
Along with many others in the construction and manufacturing industry, Formtech was forced to shut down for a short time as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This has, unfortunately, taken its toll on the business, and when production resumed, work had accumulated, and only one-quarter of the team returned to work straight away. As its other employees return to their positions, the company is now rebuilding and is looking for new skilled staff members who will fit into the family-oriented culture.
Demonstrating ongoing improvement in both the quality of its products and streamlining the process of window installation for its many contracting customers, Formtech is currently bringing a new window product into the marketplace. The Techno Clip system is a two-step process where a specially designed universal PVC buck is poured in place in the concrete wall, and the window is later clipped into the buck. The clip-in process can be completed within a few seconds, and the resulting installation is extremely energy efficient with very low heat transfer.
Another way that Formtech has improved its products is through its triple-glazed option. These windows have three layers of glass with argon gas between them. The extra pane of glass allows less heat to escape from the home, providing more insulation than double glazed window units. “We’re the only one who is offering that with the pour-in-place system,” said Sales Manager, Simon Houle.
The Canadian climate varies from province to province, and the standards for window installations vary with it, so the company must have a comprehensive understanding of the unique needs and regulations of each location.
Although the future of the market and the manufacturing industry are somewhat unknown, Formtech has numerous goals to carry its vision forward. It plans to upgrade much of its production to prepare for a dwindling labour pool in manufacturing and wants to automate production to have a greater output with fewer employees “I think this is a big challenge nowadays, so we’re focusing on it right now for the future years,” said Crochetière. Through automation, Formtech will be able to streamline its manufacturing process, while increasing both its quality and productivity.
In the short term, the company is aiming to grow by collecting and analyzing data to better comprehend the trends and needs of its market and then applying that information toward improving sales. It also plans to establish a transactional website and simplify its entire operation from sales to delivery.
Even as it is dedicating so much of its time toward COVID-19 recovery efforts, Formtech has not lost sight of long-term goals. The company hopes to expand into the U.S. with its much larger market and high demand for the types of products it manufactures.
Formtech Windows began with a handful of employees in Quebec but has grown to become the foremost manufacturer of pour-in-place windows. “Right now, there’s no doubt about it. We know that we are the leader in pour-in-place window manufacturing, and it’s good to be the leader, but it’s tough to stay there, so the big challenge is to stay on top,” said Houle. With all of its preparation for the future combined with the innovation and skills of its team, Formtech will surely claim this spot for years to come.