Volume 34, Number 12, December 1999

Where Do We Go From Here?

predicting the trends of 2000 and beyond

Many prominent authorities in the glass industry have declared recent years as “the best of times” for those in the business. Others have echoed this sentiment describing the current state as, “as good as it gets.”
So, can things get any better for the glass industry or is it time for a downturn? Will consumer preferences cause purchasers to turn to substitute products? Will companies meet the production and distribution challenges of producing it quickest and delivering it fastest? What effect will rising distribution costs have on individual companies? Will glass businesses tap into the untapped markets that have unrealized potential?
These and other crucial questions are answered in the next ten pages by top authorities in the glass business. So, whether its machinery, glass manufacturing, shower and bath enclosures, mirrors, security glazing or windows that you’re interested in, the following pages may have some of the answers you’ve been looking for.


Shorter and Faster the new trend in coated glass

by Russell Ebeid

One of the most dramatic challenges facing companies today is the ever-increasing speed of change. This challenge has manifested itself in many different ways including shorter life cycles for existing products, new products being introduced to the marketplace at a faster pace and shorter lead times from order to delivery. In the glass business, a notable example of this trend is automotive glass for OEMs where glass suppliers must match the shorter life cycles of vehicle platforms and deliver glass products on a just-in-time basis sequenced to the production build schedule. Until recently, these trends had not effected glass or the commercial construction business in a significant way. That is about to change: New strategies are being employed by the major glass companies serving this market. Although the path chosen may be different, the goal is the same: reduce the delivery lead times for high-performance coated glass products for commercial customers.
The advent of high-performance coated glass products has brought with it many benefits to the commercial construction industry. These glass products have performed so well in keeping buildings cool in hot weather (and warmer in cold weather) that building owners have been able to reduce investment in air conditioning equipment reaping immediate capital cost reductions and lowering annual operating costs. Architects embraced the look, flexibility and cost savings of glass thus permitting them to greatly expand its use in the design of new buildings as well as in the retrofit of existing structures.
The challenge to our industry, however, has been in getting the coated glass delivered to the job site precisely when it is needed. Due to the complex technology of coatings and coating equipment and the nature of a business where each architect may want a different visual look, balancing longer production runs on a coating with market requirements for complex coated glass products has led to long lead times in completing orders. This problem has been exacerbated by the inability of conventional coatings to withstand heat treatment. The process is complicated further due to the custom nature of the commercial construction business where building openings may be field measured. This leaves little time between order and required delivery. Additionally, when glass lites or insulating glass units are damaged in shipment or broken on the job site, there can be another lengthy wait for replacement glass. Thus, lead times on projects can range from ten to 16 weeks or longer. This is not acceptable, particularly in a business environment where the trend toward speed is critical and valued by the customer.
We believe a solution lies in the solar control glass products such as those introduced by our company (see page 102). These products should substantially reduce lead times on projects because it can be inventoried as a stock sheet product then fabricated as required for the customer. This can be done on a direct basis from the factory for major projects or through independent fabricators. The latter group should enjoy this approach because they already specialize in quick turnaround to serve a local market.
Clearly, the year 2000 will bring a continued emphasis on speed and will focus on improvement in this area, especially for the commercial market.    

Russell Ebeid is president of Guardian Industries Glass Group, based in Auburn Hills, MI.

“Best of Times”

Market Demand for Glass Expected to Continue

by D.Roger Kennedy

Glass demand in the past eight years has grown dramatically with the exception of a minor drop in 1995. While it is difficult to imagine that our economy can continue at this pace, we expect overall market demand for 2000 to increase one percent to an industry record of 5.9 million tons. On balance, the automotive, commercial architectural and specialty markets are all expected to increase with a mild decline in the residential market.
While glass demand has been breaking records, the supply of glass has been increasing at an even faster rate with five new tanks (one from AFG and two each from Guardian and Cardinal) built since 1996. Fortunately for glass companies, the continuing gross domestic product expansion, low inflation, real family income growth and strong consumer confidence should balance supply and demand in 2000. If the residential market drops less than 4.5 percent, as projected, glass could be tight.
Housing starts may be down for the year, however the window and door market will not match this decline for several reasons. First, housing starts will slow first in the starter category that has fewer windows per home than their larger counterparts. Secondly, remodeling, driven by the robust sales of existing housing, is projected to increase 3.7 percent, and there are more windows sold in remodeling/renovation than to the new construction market. This would indicate that while competition is always strong in the window market, the lower price-point products would face a glut of competition. But, windows with clearly defined value should prosper.
For the new decade, housing is expected to increase to 17 million units, up from the estimated 16 million for the ’90s. This is driven, in part, by the size of the echo-boomer generation that will exceed their parent’s baby-boomer generation by almost 15 percent. However, echo boomers exhibit a lower percentage of family formations and home purchases.
When evaluating the tank production of each of the primary manufacturers, the capacity of dedicated automotive lines is exceeded by the record high production of automotive products, particularly mini-vans and sport utility vehicles, which all feature extensive use of glass. This means primary glass manufacturers with large automotive commitments must divert glass from other markets to meet their contractual agreements with the automakers.
The automotive market is projected to continue at its record pace while manufacturers continue to drive quality and benefits up and costs down. Glass issues for the new decade include weight, solar control, sound reduction, electronics and safety/security. The trends toward thinner glass and darker tints are also expected to continue.
We no longer view glass as a practical commodity, but as a high-tech appliance. This presents exciting opportunities and our challenge will be to determine which technologies will be the most valued by our customers.    

D. Roger Kennedy is president and chief executive officer of AFG Industries Inc., based in Kingsport, TN.


Modern Flare - Bolder and Brighter Syle

by Peter Bonzani

When I look to the first year of the new century, I see a variety of changes in the commercial window market. Structurally speaking, there are no great trends occurring in aluminum windows. The systems that will be used in 2000 have all passed stringent testing guidelines for water infiltration and loading. There is a long lead time involved in designing a window system, having dies made and then extruding the window profiles for testing, so the trends for the next few years are dictated by the structural designs of today.
I see the trends for the future predominantly involved with the aesthetics of the entire building. Architects are using colors that were never considered just a few years ago. Burgundy, blue and green shades are becoming bolder and brighter, and even colors like lavender are being requested. As color trends change, the companies that can handle window fabrication in small runs of custom-matching colors will experience the greatest growth.
Architectural trends toward innovative use of natural granite, marble, and even brick, focus greater attention on windows and forces them to work as an integral part of the design. In the past, operable windows were expected to blend in with the curtainwall and storefront. Today, and into the next century, windows will serve as an important design element. For example, you can expect to see windows grouped in unique configurations, greater use of grids and vertical or horizontal members. These lines and grids can allow the eye to flow across a pleasing siteline and draw the eye toward the building’s entrance, or stop the eye with a bold stroke.
We see a lot of growth in the revitalization of old brick mill buildings in the Northeast. Because these are often located along beautiful old rivers and canals, they are ideal for new use as apartments, condominiums and office complexes. Renovation persists as a focus in our markets, so traditional window grids
will see continued growth. Designs that mull operable windows in conventional groups with fixed half circle tops will endure into the next century, as well.
Perhaps the greatest trends in windows for 2000 and beyond deal more with the glazing material than the frame. Energy-efficient glass, low-E coatings and UV protected glazing, laminates and polycarbonates will experience growth, as will tinted glass.     

Peter Bonzani has served as president of Rebco Inc., a New Jersey based manufacturer of commercial aluminum door, entrance, window and storefront systems, for the past ten years.


Testing the Water - Soft Colors and Innovative Patterns Prevail

by Hank Casden and John Veras

With the United States looking at Europe to determine the latest trends in glass manufacturing, it appears the design community is moving toward innovative curved and bent glass applications. Already popular in Europe, curved and bent glass is making strong headway in the building and remodeling markets here in the United States as well.
In the residential market, the bathroom is the second most remodeled room in the home. Homeowners are looking for modern, appealing, custom, affordable products to make the bathroom more luxurious regardless of the size of the room. Research shows that homeowners today would rather “improve than move.” They are rooted to their communities and are comfortable in their surroundings. Empty nesters are looking to enjoy their homes and customize it to fit their new lifestyle without children.
Research also shows new housing starts were up again in ’98 and new homes boast larger and more luxurious square footage. Consumers today are more involved in product choices than ever before, and, in many cases, women are fueling the decision-making process. These dual decisions are generally prompted by product literature requested by women.
Colors seem to be peaking considerable interest with consumers. The soft colors, copper, bronze and gray, seem to be the favorites, while brighter colors are not faring as well.
Another trend gaining popularity in the United States, is the availability of a variety of glass patterns, many of which are imported from Europe.   

Hank Casden, president, and John Veras, vice president, started Duschqueen Inc. in 1985. The company is based in Wyckoff, NJ.


A Safe Haven - Proactive Protection Gains Momentum

by Andrew Shapero

With violent criminal activity affecting nearly every nation in the world, there is a growing market for products that can offer safety and security under extreme circumstances. Threats from armed criminals and terrorists, long predicted to diminish, now seem more likely to increase in the foreseeable future. Acts of terrorism against civilian targets in the largest cities of the world’s superpowers, New York and Moscow, seemed unthinkable as little as ten years ago. Not only are criminals becoming bolder in their selection of targets, the sophistication of their weaponry and ability to defeat current methods of protection are also increasing. And although recent changes in world politics have led to coordinated efforts by multinational intelligence agencies to prevent organized terrorist attacks, we are now confronted with a marked increase in acts of senseless random violence (Atlanta, Columbine, Los Angeles, Honolulu and Seattle, to name a few).
It would be difficult to find anyone who has lived in the United States for the last quarter of a century who has not noticed an increase in the use of bullet-resistant windows. Once limited to government use, we now find security windows in convenience stores, pharmacies, hospitals, TV stations, insurance offices, jewelry stores, and sadly, many schools. Due to the imposing appearance of many of these products, we are reminded every time we encounter a distorted image of someone working behind an unusually thick window, just how greatly we have been affected by the acts of criminals. With our current situation of escalating violent intolerance and armed malcontents wandering our cities, very few companies can afford to ignore these potential threats. Many are starting to change the design of their reception areas and offices.
With the exception of window film, with only limited applications, there have been no real innovations in security glazing in recent memory. Because of outdated technology (that imposing heavy green glass), many potential users of bullet-resistant windows have opted to remain unprotected simply for the reason that they didn’t want to advertise that they may feel threatened. In addition, being exposed on a daily basis to an imposing type of glass or entry system just serves as a reminder that intrusive criminal behavior has infiltrated our work lives. Yet with current innovations and product improvements, we are now able to offer a secure, but normal looking environment. Just because an executive or government official has windows capable of defeating rounds from a high-powered sniper rifle, it shouldn’t mean they can’t enjoy sunlight or be forced to attract attention to themselves with unnecessarily dark glass.
As we enter the new millennium, we believe the trend towards proactive protection will gain momentum and manufacturers of products providing reliable, state-of-the-art protection will find expanding markets worldwide. The challenge facing the security products industry is to provide consistent protection against constantly changing threats, while maintaining a normal appearance. A select few manufacturers have already introduced significant innovations, and we can certainly expect more in coming years.     

Andrew B. Shapero is director of sales for Ballistica Inc., located in Minneapolis, MN.


Reflections - Industry Sees Future Full of Promise

by Tommy Huskey

As we approach the new millennium, we are facing uncertainty. What challenges will the next century bring? Where do the opportunities lie? Are we up for this challenge?
Industry leaders have stated that we are in a tough business. This is certainly true. Is the challenge we face more difficult than those faced by companies in other segments of the building material industry? Even if our industry is more competitive than most, companies in the glass industry make great products that have unrealized potential. The mirror and glass industry has not reached a saturation point from a consumption point of view. The products we manufacture and sell have not matured in the marketplace based upon their potential. Therefore, a tremendous growth opportunity lies ahead for the mirror and glass industry.
Most of us in the glass industry can be considered a part of the building material industry. There are many building material products available that can fulfill consumer needs in the home or workplace. Products with glass is just one category of many building material and home improvement products that can be chosen by the consumer. Substitute products are purchased in huge volume every day. These products can be defined as products that can be used as alternatives to mirror or glass products. Examples of these products are paint, wallpaper, wood paneling, art, brick, solid walls, etc.
Some think that substitute products represent a tremendous threat to our industry. To the contrary, this marketing problem represents profit potential for all companies in the glass industry. We know that revenues for companies in other building material segments are in the multi billions of dollars. The possibility of increasing market share at the expense of substitute products represents opportunity for the future. From this standpoint, the potential for glass products from a marketing point of view is huge. The question is how can we implement a plan to capture this potential?
Capturing market share from substitute products in the future may require a paradigm shift and change in business strategies. Successful companies of the twenty-first century will not necessarily be the same as those that were successful during the twentieth century. Different competencies may be required in the years to come. Whether or not we turn these opportunities into reality in the new millennium may be determined by a few, very important competencies.
The first competency required to achieve this objective may be your willingness to embrace change in the future. Change is good and can be used as a competitive weapon. Challenge yourself and fellow employees to look at your business and potential markets differently. Who or what is the real competition? Are substitute products a form of competition? Can we enhance consumer awareness for our glass products in order to get a higher percentage of spending for the home or workplace?
The second competency required might be the speed in which you make positive change happen. The speed of decision-making and execution can be a differentiating point. Who will capture the opportunity first? Are we competitive in terms of the speed of product or marketing introduction? Why are other industries perceived to be more sophisticated than we are? Is it time to change this problem or perception?
Lastly and most importantly, it may be impossible to implement the first or second competency effectively without good people. The best leaders of tomorrow will be change agents. Therefore, the importance of our employees to the glass industry in the years to come will be elevated to a new plane. Quality employees will be the most important investment that we make.
Opportunistic change, speed, and attributes of leadership can help to set our industry apart from the rest of the pack in the building material industry. We can create more opportunity for glass products if we are willing to make an investment into these disciplines. The mirror and glass industry has grown leaps and bounds during the twentieth century, and the new millennium is also full of promise.   

Tommy Huskey is the chairman, president, and chief executive officer of Gardner Glass Products, based in North Wilkesboro, NC.


The “Middle” Man - Meeting Needs of the Hardware Customer

by Dan Alexander

Consider the following challenge as presented by a homeowner or architect: Create a 60-foot wide by 10-inch high opening that will provide a continuous flow between the indoor and outdoor living areas. Additionally, the opening will, at times, need to be closed off from the outdoor area with a tight weatherproof seal to protect the interior from the elements and to provide security for the inhabitants.
This kind of request is becoming increasingly popular as homeowners and architects search for opportunities to put their unique mark on a structure. Often they are seeking to capture a particular view and blend the indoor and outdoor environment, creating a free-flowing area between the two spaces. The challenge for window and door fabricators is to produce a series of large, operable sashes that may be in excess of 500 pounds—in essence, a wall of movable glass that provides unobstructed views.
In this example, producing the sash and frame probably will not create a major obstacle. Large sashes of wood, PVC, or aluminum are fabricated easily with the materials and equipment available today. Glass also is readily available and will not present any great challenge.
Creating the greatest obstacle will be the functional aspect. For this, the window and door fabricator will look to the hardware manufacturer for fittings to meet the operational challenge the homeowner/architect has presented.
To provide a solution that will meet all the requirements, the hardware manufacturer not only must consider the needs of the homeowner/architect, but also those of the fabricator. Typically, the needs of these two principals are mutually exclusive. Two possible solutions emerge. The fabricator might incorporate a mix of independent fittings designed and manufactured to perform functions similar to those required in this example. But the preferred solution would be a systems approach, meaning a system of hardware fittings designed and manufactured to perform a desired function.
Our example has several key elements that must be considered before hardware selections can be made:
• How easy will it be to move these large sashes to create the desired effect? Ideally, the hardware solution should allow the window wall to move with the pressure of a fingertip. Larger sashes, however, as in this example, which will exceed 500 pounds, have a direct effect on the weight, which directly affects operations. Typically, as the sash weight increases, the effort it takes to move the sash also increases. Thus, for ease of operation, the hardware system must overcome the effect of weight.
• A large opening provides many opportunities for water and air infiltration when the unit is closed. The homeowner/architect wants to blend the indoor and outdoor environments, but also needs to form a barrier between the two for weather and security concerns. This element can work directly against ease of operation. In most cases, the creation of a tight weather seal produces resistance on the operable sash. As with all operable sashes (window and door systems), however, the right hardware fittings can enable the unit to perform the desired function,
• Finally, for the homeowner/architect, the hardware solution must provide some aesthetic appeal. Although the visible components often add little to the systems function, the best systems will be poorly received if the visual components are not attractive.
After identifying the requirements of the end user, hardware manufacturers must also consider the needs of window and door fabricators. How will the hardware solution affect the fabricator’s manufacturing requirements? If a hardware maker is to provide a solution that will be readily accepted by the window and door industry, the effect on the manufacturing process should be minimal or at least standardized. Other considerations affecting the fabricator are the product’s quality and durability.
Additionally, does the system meet or exceed industry-established performance standards? Is the system adjustable? In other words, does it allow for changes in site conditions that would affect the unit’s performance? All of these factors are key if the fabricator is to produce a product that not only meets the need of the end user but also provides a system that will perform reliably.
Industry standards and building codes will continue to change. As the window and door industry looks to meet the demands of the market, hardware manufacturers will be there to provide functional solutions.    

Dan Alexander is the national sales manager for G-U Hardware Inc., based in Newport News, VA.



Capacity Up - Product Demand Soars

by Howard Hanes

As we near the year 2000, several trends are visible in the glass and mirror industry. Some trends are due to product demand, others are caused by a shortage of available labor, while a few are driven by the environment.
Shipments of value-added products continue to remain strong in the distribution and furniture industry. There are increased orders for beveled, edged, and sandblasted glass. Bevelers are being built to run faster and for easy operator set up. Computer-controlled bevelers are more popular than ever and even the new, small “mini” bevelers are starting to sell in some market areas. Additionally, many furniture designers are using decorative edges on their glass tables. OG, waterfall and other special edges are in demand. There are also many, high quality flat edge and mitered edge products being sold. This creates markets for the high-end peripheral and cup wheel edging machines now available.
At the recent Furniture Market in High Point, NC, I was amazed at the amount of furniture that included sandblasted glass. In some show rooms, I saw as much as 40 percent of the products decorated in some way with sandblasting. This is creating a large market for automatic sandblasting equipment that can efficiently and uniformly decorate glass or mirror.
Machines are being supplied with numerical controls to help operators make job changes easier and faster. Automatic lubrication systems are being added to most high-end machines to allow the machines to run longer without maintenance downtime. Although the newer computer-controlled shape machines continue to be slow, they are becoming popular due to their labor savings.
In-line washing machines will be installed so glass or mirror can be washed as it exists in the fabrication process instead of being accumulated and taken to a separate washing machine. Additionally, there will be more use of robotic loading and unloading systems for conveyor type machines such as double edgers to eliminate labor and increase output.
Heavy environmental pressure is being applied in major metropolitan areas where the government is starting to restrict dumping of grinding coolants. In the last couple of years, the glass swarf removing centrifuge has become very popular. In the year 2000 there will likely be as many centrifuges sold as in the last several years combined. In addition to eliminating the environmental problem, the labor savings from reduced manual tank cleaning and fewer machine maintenance requirements result in lower production costs.     



Copyright 1999 Key Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.