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MI Windows tour impresses state home inspectors

I have been a member of the Arizona Chapter of the American Society of Home Inspectors (azashi) since 1993, and was involved in chapter leadership for 12 years. That included two terms as VP, which in our chapter is in charge of education. That could be a thankless job sometimes. I would spend many hours finding speakers and locations, ordering the food, etc. I would always ask attendees after the class what they thought. Sometimes I would get answers like, “I can’t believe there were no chocolate doughnuts at breakfast,” or “you ran out of coffee creamer at 11:00.”

I have to say that overall my time in leadership was extremely rewarding, despite the inspector that had to drink his coffee black. The friends I made in leadership are some of my closest friends today. We all gave up inspections, money and family time for one goal — to promote excellence in the home inspector profession in Arizona.

Most home inspectors are one-man shops and to some degree entrepreneurs, more so 15 years ago than today. I quickly learned (as VP and as a presenter) that presenting to a group of home inspectors is a lot different than most other groups. Inspectors are not afraid to ask questions. They are not afraid to argue with the presenter. They are not afraid to throw things at the presenter. I always warned presenters of this, and made sure there were no heavy objects on the tables.

I told you all that so I could tell you this: About five years ago MI Windows provided a tour of its Prescott Valley plant to a group of home inspectors. It was a continuing education class for azashi members, but all home inspectors were invited. We had a large turnout from all over the state. I personally found the tour fascinating.

But what was astonishing was the class was well-behaved. They all seemed as interested as me. MI gave us a Powerpoint presentation before the tour, and a question-and-answer period after the tour. No arguing, no projectiles (at least at the presenters). And after the class when I asked members what they thought, all I got was positive feedback. Many said they would take this class again.

So last week, MI opened its doors to us again. Seeing the window making process from start to finish was just as fascinating as it was the first time. They also make patio (sliding) doors. The plant is huge — 205,000 square feet under roof on 23 acres. MI has 320 team members on two shifts. They ship over 10,000 windows each week to the southwest, one-fourth of the U.S. Virtually all windows are vinyl now, and most have argon gas between the panes.

I wasn’t sure what to expect the first time, maybe some huge hopper where they dump in vinyl and glass and then George Jetson would push his button and finished windows come out the other end.

There is some state-of-the-art automation, but with windows a lot of the manufacturing still has to be done by people. At the first tour most welds were ground by hand, this time there was an automated weld grinder, but every frame is still checked by people. MI’s quest for quality and safety through every step of the manufacturing is impressive. And their pride of their plant and windows was evident.

And we learned new words, like “swiggle,” which is not something you stir your drinks with.

I told Michael Reinert, the general manager, that I was going to write a column about MI and asked if he had anything to add. His answer:

“We are proud to be members of AAMA (American Architectural Manufacturers Association). Our Chief Operating Officer, Mike DeSoto, is currently the chairman of the Board of AAMA.

“We believe strongly in education. Some of that education is through AAMA with the Fenestration Masters and Associates programs. Additionally, we train all team members on Lean methodology.

“We are strong believers in supporting our community and though the MI Foundation support the Four Diamonds Fund, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Homes for our Troops.”

Speaking for azashi and all the attendees, I would like to thank MI Windows for providing this tour. And I would like to tell Prescott Valley it is lucky to have this company in town.