Seaway Manufacturing: Small but Strong

Smaller window and door makers have fewer resources to invest in improvements, overcome downturns or counter aggressive competition. This makes Seaway Manufacturing, a modest-sized window, door and sunroom company based in equally modest Erie, Pennsylvania, notable.

Founded in 1959, Seaway specializes in premium vinyl replacement windows, patio doors and sunrooms, which it sells through specialty home improvement dealers in more than 20 states, primarily in the  Northeast. While its first products were aluminum storm doors and windows, today the company offers four vinyl window, two patio door and two sunroom lines.

Great employees are just one reason Seaway is strong

The company has done more than just survive for six decades. It has re-invested in itself and grown, including the past ten years and the worst of the housing recession. Jana Goodrich, who has been president since 2009, says Seaway’s “strength is in our people. We’re blessed with a large number of very loyal employees and customers, some of whom have been with us for much or all of our 57 years.”

“As we grow and change, FeneVision can grow and change with us because it is so scalable.”

Jana Goodrich, Seaway Manufacturing

As important as employee retention and outstanding customer service are, the former Xerox salesperson, IBM systems engineer and professor of management and marketing says Seaway actively seeks improvement in every area.

“Because we’re small, we’ve always had the attitude that we have to be better. We aggressively investigate and pursue every beneficial methodology, customer service offering and technology as part of our commitment to continuous quality enhancement efforts in all areas of our company.”

Stable ownership is a major factor

The company has remained in the Goodrich family, which has always focused on good business relationships and doing what is right. Seaway is currently in its third generation of family ownership.

“We invest in products and quality but also in many other areas beyond the products, including skill development at every level,” she says. “Our senior management team has significant education and experience in industries in addition to fenestration, which benefits us across many areas.” The company particularly invests and takes pride in customer support and product breadth. Caring for customers and their customers. “We take very, very, good care of our dealer customers as well as their customers, the homeowners,” she says. “Our dealers get help and support from us they just don’t get from other manufacturers. That includes a huge arsenal of sales and marketing support to which they normally do not have access.”

“Because we’re small, we’ve always had the attitude that we have to be better.”

In addition, Seaway offers one of the most comprehensive warranties in the industry for two reasons: because it believes deeply in the quality of its products and it is the right thing to do.

“We feel fortunate,” she says, “but we’ve never taken anything for granted. We focus on being really, really, good at what we do rather than being big. We like to say we’re small and mighty.” Seaway supports dealers with an extensive product offering. In addition to the eight lines now available, plans are in the works for a ninth.

Being competitive means more options, which means more complexity

Jana’s son Patrick, currently vice president of operations and in line to succeed his mother, says Seaway “offers a large variety of products and options for a smaller window and door company. Our demands on and need for results from our ERP system are pretty significant.”

Which explains why the company has been through three different systems in less than 20 years.

“In this industry, every time you offer one more option, you increase your complexity

“Each system brought its own challenges and limitations,” Patrick says. ‘As our needs grew and changed, we couldn’t live within those limitations, so we went looking for a better, more advanced system.” Which led them, in 2010, to FeneVision ERP from FeneTech. “In this industry, every time you offer one more option and that option can be combined with more options, you increase your complexity exponentially,” Pat says. “With FeneVision, it’s much easier and efficient to add and grow.” While Pat’s degree is in mechanical engineering, he has experience inside and outside the fenestration industry, including extensive experience in glass processing, new product design and systems development, retail sales and in-home installation.

“FeneVision is robust and flexible, and we can customize it locally without involving a system administrator from FeneTech,” Pat explains. “We’re already creating the platforms for our new products and lines this year in our system.”

Jana Goodrich says FeneVision supports Seaway’s efforts in all areas and the staff also likes how the system completely integrates all operations. “FeneVision is a 360-degree system that can support all the processes in our facility,” she says. “Under the FeneVision umbrella, our users are able to easily tackle the day to day tasks of order entry, inventory, shipping, invoicing and shop floor communications as well as period tasks such as year-end physical inventories.”

The system has enabled the company to further step up customer support. Dealers can create their own estimates and check on order status online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Comparable or better than big companies

“This is another way we are competitive with larger companies,” Jana explains. “We have comparable or better systems, which is important for our dealers.”

Since implementing FeneVision, Seaway has automated and streamlined many of it processes, shortened lead times, reduced opportunities for operator error and improved quality. And they aren’t done, Jana says.

“As we grow and change, FeneVision can grow and change with us because it is so scalable. It’s a program that looks to have a very long life for us.” Yet Goodrich is adamant that relationships and premium quality products are the first priority and the key to the company’s future. “We focus on doing what is right, which is often not the least expensive option,” she says. “We have a very family and relationship-focused culture. If you’re a customer, you discover that our people work with and for you.”

Not everyone can be a Seaway dealer

“Not everybody can be a Seaway dealer,” both Goodrichs say. “We do business best with people who share the same mindset, beliefs and ethics.”

This applies to vendors as well, Jana says. “We like to work closely with our major vendors and look at the quality of the company before we get involved. People and reputation are key to selection.”

Seaway staff determined during pre-purchase evaluation that FeneTech’s focus on family, product value and customer service, as well as its commitment to continuous improvement, match well with Seaway’s focus and traditions.

FeneTech is customer focused like us

“FeneTech’s people are very customer focused like us,” Jana says. “Just as we’ve continued to invest in our products and services, they’re also always improving theirs.”

Jana specifically cites the FeneVision continuing education program and annual User Conference, which she says helps Seaway improve system knowledge, suggest ideas for future enhancements, and benefit from understanding how others are using the system.

“We always try to develop state of the art products and services that allow us to be on the leading edge,” Jana Goodrich says. “FeneTech and FeneVision bring us a huge benefit that cannot be underestimated.”