Episode 12 | July 17, 2018
Peter Rehme is the founder, owner, president and CEO of Rehme Steel Windows and Doors. He tells hosts Kyle Frazier and Whitney Torres about discovering a passion for the metal arts; how he transitioned his tradecraft into a successful, handcrafted, 100% American-made manufacturing business; and why his sustainability initiatives such as going net-zero with 100% solar power are important for his bottom line and our Earth.
Passion + Entrepreneurship = Successful Business
Peter Rehme has a long history of creative craftsmanship and entrepreneurship. He discovered his life’s passion in a metal arts class just after high school. “It really lit a fire in me. I fell in love with everything metal.”
After earning his associate degree in technical welding and art metals, Rehme went on to create decorative ironwork such as curtain rods, coffee tables, and decorative driveway gates. His clients were interior designers, architects, and builders for high-end homes in Austin.
At the request of a builder who was an existing customer, he designed his first window and door system and had it built in Monterrey, Mexico. Rehme was excited about the challenge and delivered a successful product to the builder. One project led to another, and eventually his door and window business eclipsed his custom ironwork business.
After a few years he moved production from Monterrey, Mexico to Spicewood, Texas to better control quality, cost, and delivery timelines. Plus, he says, “I’m a metal worker, and I was not producing the steel windows and doors. That didn’t sit right with me.” Today, every piece and part used in his products are made entirely in the United States.
In addition to using 100% American-made parts and 100% American labor, Rehme Steel Windows & Doors is also 100% solar-powered and committed to efforts to improve the bottom line while reducing the company’s environmental impact.
Going Net-Zero with Solar Panels
In October 2017, Peter Rehme selected Freedom Solar to install 240 rooftop commercial solar panels across the four buildings of his manufacturing campus. This 81.6-kilowatt (kW) system of SunPower P-series 340-watt panels was designed to offset more than 100% of the facility’s annual usage. Through June 2018, the system has overproduced and returned energy to the grid every month.
Going net-zero made financial sense for Rehme in part because of the USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program grant and the 30% federal solar investment tax credit (ITC). “Over half the cost of the system was back in my pocket within a year.”
Rehme says that being a good steward of the environment is part of his decision-making process, but each initiative must also make financial sense for the company. “If you look at the proforma on solar, it makes sense long term. There’s an expense up front, but my electric bill last month was negative ten dollars.” Over 25 years he expects to save $335,000.
Metal Recycling Program
Rehme Steel Windows & Doors also has an extensive recycling program for metals used in his manufacturing process. This includes recycling steel, aluminum, and copper alloy. The program generates revenue that helps offset material costs.
Rehme currently uses polyfoam packaging to transport his windows and doors to job sites, which is not recyclable. He is currently implementing an initiative to shift to a cardboard-based packaging system that can be collected at the job site, brought back to the factory for reuse, and eventually recycled. In addition to reducing landfill waste, Rehme gets operational efficiencies because the cardboard system makes it significantly faster for his team to pack. Even though the cardboard itself is more expensive than polyfoam, Rehme will see labor cost savings and lower lifetime material costs due to multiple uses.
Planning for Future Growth
Peter Rehme’s business is growing as demand for steel continues to trend upward. “Steel is a good look – lots of glass, very little divisions, beautiful views looking out over the pool, the skyline, the hill country, what have you. The homeowners are demanding it.”
He is focused on smart expansion into Colorado and Louisiana, while also developing an internship program in partnership with Austin Community College to help build a stronger pipeline for skilled labor. In addition, he continues to look for ways to expand his sustainability efforts, which differentiates his business in the eyes of many customers.
“It’s a great marketing position to communicate to end users that we care. For the most part people are blown away at the fact that we’re net zero, running on solar power.”
You can check out a gallery of product photos and a list of local dealers at rehmesteel.com.
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