Under The Glass: Winning Manitoba
How two Winnipeg newcomers helped shape Manitoba’s facade industry.
August 25, 2022 By Daniel Reale-Chin
AT A GLANCE | AGM Glass Fabricators
- Founded: 2005
- Owners: Anatoli Schneider and Martin Kania
- Number of Staff: 45
- Headquarters: Winnipeg, Man.
- Facility: 46,000 square feet
- Products and services: Commercial sealed-units, residential sealed-units, custom tempered glass, water-jet cutting, glass distribution and more.
In 2005, a retailer and his client seized an opportunity in Winnipeg. Martin Kania started his career selling glass with Guardian Industries in Toronto about 20 years ago. In 2006, he went from Guardian Industries to Triple Seal – now Saand – and made the fateful move to Manitoba, selling glass for the company in Winnipeg.
It was during his time as a salesman for Triple Seal that Kania met Anatoli Schneider. “Anatoli was my customer, he would buy a block of glass every few months,” says Martin Kania, vice-president and co-owner of AGM Glass Fabricators. Schneider started his glass-manufacturing career in Germany before moving to Canada with his family. When he and Kania met, Schneider was producing residential sealed units out of a small shop in Lorette, Man.
Triple Seal eventually left the Manitoba area, but Kania saw a market potential in the province and asked Schneider to partner up. “I approached Schneider and my exact words were, ‘How big do you want to get?’,” says Kania.
Years later, the two have built AGM Glass up from a 2,000-square-foot shop into a 46,000-square-foot manufacturing space, equipped with tempering ovens, a waterjet cutter and all the bells-and-whistles needed to manufacture custom-fabricated, insulating and tempered glass.
Kania calls AGM’s original shop an oversized garage. “The shop was only 2,000 square feet, with about five of us working around one free-fold table and a 60-inch open-top washer; while doing everything else by hand.”
At the time, AGM’s payroll maintained a team of five, including Schneider’s wife, Alla Schneider, who fed the washer at the time. “Two people cut and moved the glass, two people washed and cleaned the glass and one person caulked. All in 2000 square feet. It was tight,” says Kania, with a chuckle.
AGM was producing about 10 to 15 sealed-units a day and Kania and Schneider gained a reputation with their Manitoba clients for being the rush guys, praised for the quality of their glass, brisk turn-around time and hand delivery.
“The other glass manufacturers in the area had 10- to 12-week lead times, so we were picking up the projects for clients that needed glass delivered on-site and within the week,” says Anatoli Schneider, president and co-owner.
As a team, Kania and Schneider have made a 16-year partnership by giving each other the space and resources to use their own strengths. “Schneider’s incredible at the machinery and equipment stuff,” says Kania. At AGM, Schneider focuses on the manufacturing process and equipment maintenance, while Kania uses his knowledge of the market in western Canada to find customers, drive business and make
By 2008, the humble five-person team had outgrown the 2,000-square-foot garage. A team that would hand-make 10 triple-sealed units a day, grew to produce 70 pieces a day, and Kania and Schneider agreed it was time to expand. They found some land, got a loan from the bank, and by July, 2010, AGM had a new 15,000-square-foot building to call home.
“We only had enough money for used machinery at the time,” says Kania. “But, we needed more equipment so we could cut glass automatically.” They bought an XYZ cutting machine and an 84-inch washer, but still applied the spacer and assembled the sealed-units by hand.
Looking back, Kania is still shocked about AGM’s growth in the first few years. “It was extremely busy. I was basically loading the truck, delivering sealed units and then coming back and doing it again. We went from being the rush guys who customers came to in an emergency, to being real fabricators.”
AGM’s second expansion came in 2014 with a 16,000-square-foot addition. Kania and Schneider decided to get into the tempering business and needed the space to fit a tempering oven and all the subsequent machinery. “Customers found out we were getting into the tempering business and we started getting calls from people asking when we’d finally start,” says Kania.
Kania and Schneider launched AGM into commercial insulating glass in 2014. With the expansion, they were able to give the company its first tempering line and the supporting fabrication equipment it needed, including a horizontal polisher, vertical polisher, a new XYZ cutting table and new waterjet cutters. They also expanded their Forel automated line, which allowed them to produce more in less time.
“With that second addition we were able to grow to what we are today,” says Kania. With the freedom of automation and the ability to temper, they were able to expand their offering. “We now manufacture sealed units for the residential and commercial markets, custom-fabricate glass for showers and railings and distribute glass of various substrates.”
AGM’s next and final expansion came in 2018, when Kania and Schneider added 15,000 square feet of manufacturing space to support the strong growth and demand.
Over the years, AGM’s customers have essentially stayed the same. The company prides itself on having all the equipment necessary to serve the Manitoba market and to dip into the northern Ontario and Saskatchewan markets. “We found that we’ve been successful because a lot of our customers look like us – blue-collar workers – based here, in Manitoba,”
AGM’s been able to take on more work, and bigger contracts since installing the tempering oven and Forel line in 2014.
“Our business went from being about 90-percent residential
in the past to now 40-percent residential and 60-percent commercial since we purchased our tempering oven. With our equipment and material, we serve about 95 percent of our market’s needs” says Kania.
With new machinery like the Forel line, the Bavalone line, the Intermac machine, sand blasters, waterjets and polishing lines, AGM is able to cut intricate shapes in custom-fabricated glass, polish glass as thin as three millimetres and serve commercial and residential customers, as well as cut glass for John Deere tractors.
As for sourcing material, Kania leverages legacy relationships from his days at Guardian Industries to source glass. Quanex supplies the spacer and the silicone sealant comes from Dow Corning.
“Our sweet-spot has become the 2,000- to 20,000-square-foot projects like police stations, schools and malls,” says Schneider.
A big project for AGM was renovating the RBC Convention Centre in Winnipeg, which was completed in 2016. The team worked along with the architects from Number 10, LM Architectural Group and Border Glass, the contract glazier for the project.
“Border Glass are one of those clients of ours who we’ve spent years building a relationship with. And over time, they’ve trusted us with more and more of their projects. That’s the story with how we got to where we are now – building trust over time, and relationships,” says Schneider. •
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