Agnora: “No other glass manufacturers can do what we do”
By: Fadeke Adegbuyi
Agnora is a modern state-of-the art architectural glass company that was formulated in 2011 and based in Collingwood, Ontario. The firm specializes in extra-large, high-precision glass fabrication. When Barber Glass was forced into bankruptcy in 2010 after 126 years in operation, due to the combination of a $30 million dollar investment and the US banking crisis, Agnora was formed through the purchase of the entirety of Barber Glass’s assets at an auction on May 6, 2011. “It was last minute and unplanned,” says Richard Wilson, the owner and president of Agnora.
Owning a construction company that constructs high-end custom homes, Wilson was all too aware of the challenges of acquiring large high quality glass pieces. With low availability in North America, his construction firm typically ordered pieces from Europe. Having dealt with contractors who communicated issues poorly and often-delivered glass late, he channeled his experiences into Agnora.
The firm’s objective is based around delivering quality glass pieces on time and guaranteeing their customers are satisfied. “I’m not in the glass industry, I’m in the customer service industry,” says Wilson. The firm’s goals are customer service based and they seek to ensure that their clients are always happy and that they exceed delivery and quality expectations. “Coming from construction to glass, we set out to exceed their expectations and it’s worked extremely well,” he adds.
“We’re a 280 000 square foot facility, but we’re not a factory – we’re a custom fabricating shop,” says Wilson. To ensure quality of glass, Agnora uses leading-edge technology and the largest, top performing equipment in North America that allows them to fabricate inventive commercial and residential glass. Additionally, they wash their glass after cutting and check for imperfections with a digital scanner before glass is fabricated. “Our process takes a bit longer initially and is more diligent, but it ensures a higher quality and saves time in the end,” he adds.
“We are very proud of our status as the only North American fabricator certified by Saint-Gobain Glass to fabricate their high performance LowE ‘soft coated’ glass, which means we can make insulated glass units up to 126” x 236” – versus the 96” x 144” maximum conventional size that is readily available in North America,” says Kevin Nash, Agnora’s Marketing and Sales Director. “This is obviously a huge differentiating factor for Architectural Glass in North America.”
Being in a niche field comes with a set of challenges, such as hiring skilled workers. “It is difficult, we’re an anomaly, we’re the only facility in North America that fabricates glass to this size,” says Wilson. “Finding someone who’s done this is basically impossible, we bring in people to train who fit, we’re a fabricator, we’re not a factory.”
Agnora has recognized a difference between the Canadian and American Glass Market. While Canadian markets such as Toronto are price driven, American markets often understand the value of the quality, timing, and supply that Agnora can provide. “70% of our business is in the US, our ability to meet timelines and deliver quality products allows us a lot of business in New York every week,” says Wilson. Agnora’s roster of clients is far-reaching and impressive, including Ritz-Carlton, Louis Vuitton, Apple, and Audi. One of their most notable projects is their glasswork on The Bow, a landmark 58-story tower, situated in downtown Calgary, Alberta that used over 900,000 square feet of glass. “For a year, they needed weekly orders going out and we turned everything around in a week for them, which is unprecedented in the glass industry,” says Wilson.
Currently thriving, the majority of the firm’s business is attributed to word of mouth, referrals, and repeat business. Agnora ensures customer satisfaction and the delivery of excellent glass products. They are always seeking to acquire new innovative technology that will allow them to make more technical and more precise pieces. “We currently have the largest single-edger in the world and we’re always looking at getting better polishes from it,” says Wilson. They also attribute their success to their partnerships. Transportation companies are especially key as they deliver Agnora’s work to site on time and undamaged. “One of our companies manufactured a truck exclusively for us to carry 300 inch glass because there was nothing in North America available for this,” says Wilson.
Their success can also be attributed to the company’s mindset towards their work and instead of being driven by profit, the firm is driven by their offerings – time management and quality management. “It’s not just about making money, it’s about doing something that you enjoy. Making 10 000 units of the same size every day is not something I find enjoyable, we enjoy challenges and that’s what we’re set up to do,” says Wilson.