Transwall Office Interiors is described by owner and chairman Jay Aikens a manufacturer specializing in architectural metal and glass wall systems and movable partition systems. The company furnishes, delivers, and installs its products through a turnkey business model and has been doing so since the company was incorporated in 1963 by Aikens’ father (the company’s present ownership began in 2005).
Glass is a particular material that Transwall deals in extensively and both Aikens and Executive Vice President, Marc Valois, stand by its continued effectiveness in a workplace setting. Glass is a material that is easy to clean and plays a factor in keeping spaces safe and bright, with Valois adding that glass is the only practical way to get light to the center of a space from exterior windows.
Traditionally, glass is considered a “sweet spot” in the interiors industry for both exterior cladding of a building and because it brings energy into a space, all important factors in any office design. Valois, who has been with Transwall since 2005, says that the volume of work and merchandise has grown substantially along with the company’s client list in the time that he has served there and it is always focused on the future.
Growth to watch
Since Construction in Focus’ previous feature on the company in fall 2019, Transwall’s sales have continued to grow by double digits annually, with Aikens reporting that its sales for 2019/2020 are up 35 percent on 2018.
Indeed, despite the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, the company will end 2020 with substantial growth. This appears to be due to several factors – the expansion of its sales force to a more national level; new initiatives like adding a public relations manager; the appointment of a full-time sales manager in Atlanta, Georgia; and a new vice president and general manager in the person of Joe Berman.
Berman’s role is to run the operational side of the business as both part of a succession plan for longer-tenured employees and to help the business into new markets, which Aikens views as “a tremendous advantage for the marketplace and toward future growth.”
A critical year
Valois sees this year as being critical to what Transwall is as a business: In the early days of the pandemic, Transwall only shut down for roughly a day-and-a-half due to COVID procedures but was able to successfully petition for an exemption, allowing it to both establish work-from-home procedures for its administrative staff and for manufacturing workers to continue making product for clients.
Valois admits that a few of its projects had to be put on hold but the company forged ahead and secured several large jobs in the last six months to add to its sales growth; additionally, Transwall’s sales team have worked to keep growth going and to keep up its contact with the marketplace, adding noticeably to overall momentum leading into 2021.
This past year has seen new product offerings and improvements from Transwall, like a new screening product, “LUCID,” which has been introduced to help with blocking COVID-19 in the workplace without losing transparency.
There has been further focus on fine-tuning its “ONE LP” interior glass wall product line with both 5/8” and (potentially) 3/4” glass and enhancing its overall aesthetic. The company has also introduced its “BRIDGE” panel system of double-glazed glass that will further improve acoustic performance, an aspect of the business that has become a major market concern.
Aikens also says that there has been a major internal company initiative to introduce a new ERP (enterprise resource planning) software program, one that will make the business much more efficient and allow it to allocate materials and plan better for raw materials purchases.
The events of 2020 have had a significant impact on how people work and Transwall acknowledges that there is a lot of uncertainty in the marketplace, with companies unsure whether office buildings and settings will be reconfigured on a more permanent basis because of the current pandemic procedures (e.g. staggered employee schedules, and work-from-home measures).
Aikens foresees that there could be something of a shakedown in commercial real-estate markets with high-rise buildings being foregone in favor of suburban offices, so Transwall is keeping its eye on all current and incipient trends and is preparing to adapt as things change.
Shining from home
Amid all the trials and setbacks of 2020, the relationship between members of the Transwall workforce has remained strong. Aikens reports that the company’s employees have been appreciative of the safety measures taken by the company to keep them safe and working, and that the business has not had the problems that other ailing industries have had to weather.
Valois adds that implementing work-from-home procedures has revealed new qualities among the workforce as many employees rise to the occasion and even improve on their usual high-quality work.
Aikens foresees that the company will have to look outside its usual channels and expand its opportunities geographically and even across different industries to keep the workflow going and to keep employees fully engaged but it’s a challenge that the company is more than willing to take on.
Naturally, the COVID-19 pandemic has been at the forefront of the company’s mind as it strives to keep its employees and installers safe on the job. Transwall saw an initial closing of sites in the beginning weeks of the pandemic but, once the work restrictions around the country were lifted, it worked fast to deliver its materials on the jobs that remained.
Travel restrictions have also been a consistent challenge. Transwall has had to lean on resources and independent installation companies at local levels to assist in this predicament.
There have been further challenges on the material side as well, such as some material providers having to shut down and various companies having to deal with coronavirus outbreaks in their facilities, affecting suppliers’ lead times significantly.
Transwall has had to work very closely with its vendors and stay in touch with multiple different suppliers for its raw materials and glass, as well as keeping on top of COVID-19 regulations in its own materials by introducing aspects like automatic and touchless hardware, antimicrobial finishes, and easy-to-clean materials.
Thankfully, these measures and responses have allowed Transwall to maintain its lead times and only added to the company’s continued growth and reputation as a responsible business in a time when customers are looking to play it safe.
Transwall has a further overhaul of its Westchester, Pennsylvania facility planned and is also in final discussions for a complete product overhaul as 2021 grows closer. The company plans to continue establishing itself in new markets with full-time employees so that its clientele can have a Transwall worker present on every job (an aspect of the company that is frequently lauded).
The company will also continue the expansion of its CEU (continuing education unit) courses to A&D (architecture and design) firms nationwide. Although normally done in person, the courses are now offered virtually up to three times a year and have expanded into different geographic regions, reaching more people than before.
PR Manager Britney Simone acknowledges that current circumstances have led to a physical separation between Transwall and its clientele but the company always emphasizes that, “it’s the people behind the walls that make Transwall special.”
So it is of great importance that Transwall continues to create growth opportunities and puts itself in front – and in front of mind – of the next generation of designers so that the name Transwall is synonymous with what is contemporary in the marketplace.