A lot has happened in the 60 years since Joe LaForce started this company. LaForce Inc. has gone through changes in name, product and service offerings, technology, and so much more. While LaForce has evolved, so has our industry and, of course, the world in which we live. Through our four part blog series, we’ll take a deeper look at how our company, our industry, and culture have changed over the past 60 years. In this third part of our series on LaForce’s history, we’ll look at how our industry has changed.
In the early 1950s, our industry was really known as strictly the hardware industry. Perhaps a rare business owner had the vision to offer wood doors, metal doors and frames and hardware, but hardware suppliers supplied hardware. That was pretty much it. In fact, most hardware suppliers at that time were actually hardware stores like Tru Value and others.
So, what brought about the change? The same thing that continues to drive many of the changes in the industry today – life safety codes. Codes were not nearly as restrictive in the 1950s like they are today. For instance, codes did not strictly require stairwells to have fire preventive doors, frames and hardware.
It was around the late 1950s and the 1960s that life safety codes were really developed. It was also at this time that steel door and frame manufacturers began to surface. Prior to this, wood doors were primarily used. Steel products were known for long manufacturing lead times because most of the manufacturers made custom doors and frames. There really were no standards. As architects began to see that steel doors were a superior product for life safety issues and that they were more durable, steel doors started to catch on in commercial construction.
At first, hardware manufacturers refused to cooperate with the fledgling door and hardware distributors. However, that changed as the industry became more technical. The coordination of hardware, wood doors, metal doors and metal frames required a lot of expertise on the distributor end. When coupled with a hard bid environment – much like we see today – many of the early hardware store owners stepped away from the commercial hardware business.
In the 1970s, the door and hardware industry became known as the Door and Hardware Institute (DHI). It was, and is, a distributor organization very much supported by door, frame and hardware manufacturers. In the last 40 years, the industry as a whole has become more and more cooperative in creating a “complete door opening”.
Over the past 15 years, the concept of the complete door opening has evolved to include the electronic access control that is becoming so integral in commercial buildings. Will this continue into the future? LaForce believes it will and intends to be on the leading edge.