Volume 38, Issue 8, August 2003

"En Vitrum Veritas"    
    Vitrum 2003 Took Place in Milan, Rendering Low 
Attendance and Minimal North American Participation

by Ellen Giard Chilcoat

ForEl was demonstrating new machinery for the insulating glass market. Bystronic was demonstrating new machinery for the insulating glass market.

While Milan is regarded as Italy’s most industrial city, it’s a mere three-hour-or-so train ride to more tourist-oriented cities, such as Venice, Florence and Rome. The city is located in the Northwestern region of the country, and is a fashion Mecca—billboards galore flash ads for only the best in clothing and accessories. Likewise, the city is home to numerous restaurants (where you can order the best tiramisu ever) and pizzerias (when you order pizza you get the whole pie yourself; there’s no ordering one and sharing). 

Companies such as Lovati Fratelli  demonstrated machinery at the fair. Companies such as Bottero demonstrated machinery at the fair.

Italy is also home to a number of glass machinery and equipment companies. So, not every year, but every other year (in the odd-numbered years), the U.S. glass industry has an opportunity to visit Milan. Vitrum, the Italian trade show for glass equipment and machinery, is organized and sponsored by GIMAV, the Italian Association of Glass Processing Machinery and Accessories Suppliers. The event took place June 25-28 at the city’s fairgrounds—Fiera Milano, as the Italians say. More than 400 companies exhibited their latest technologies. 

While the show encompassed a larger area, taking up 27,473 square meters compared to 27,219 two years ago, and exhibitors rose from 421 to 432, attendance numbers were lower. Final attendance figures saw a nearly 20-percent decrease, with 13,032 attending, compared to 16,702 in 2001. Of that 13,032, 4,942 were from countries other than Italy. While the number of attendees from the United States was not available, speculation was that there were only about ten. Two years ago 69 attendees were reported.

Based on the current state of the industry, the low turnout may have been somewhat expected.
“In general, this is not a positive time for our business,” said Dino Fenzi, president of Vitrum’s board of directors. He explained that the glass business, in recent years, had seen continued growth, but 2003 did not appear to be on the increase. 

Annibale Besana, a Vitrum board member, agreed.

“As manufacturers of glass machinery, this is not an easy period.” He added that Vitrum stood as a test of courage. “Look at Vitrum as an expression of our will; the willingness of all participants to be the best in business and overcome this difficult time.”

While leafing through the pages of the show catalog, familiar names like Tremco and Dow Corning were listed as exhibitors, but a visit to their booths either found no North American representation, or a company division catering to the European market only.

Other exhibitors with North American representation present complained about the lack of customers. “There are no customers here,” was a complaint made by several U.S. exhibitors.

Where Were They?
So what kept them away? A common answer was too many international events in a very short time. 

“The GlassBuild America show was only three months before Vitrum,” said Bob Long, president of Salem Distributing. “Since GlassBuild was a very comprehensive show in terms of equipment and supply items being exhibited, I’m sure many felt they had just ‘been there, done that,’ and did not expect anything new at Vitrum.”

Others noted Vitrum’s close proximity to last fall’s glasstec in Germany.

“Glasstec was only eight months ago and the GlassBuild show was only three months ago,” said Nancy Mammaro of Mappi, an Italian company that began marketing in the United States about three years ago. “There are not many Americans here. It’s been really slow.”

Kris Vockler, director of marketing for Vancouver, Wash.-based ICD Coatings, agreed. “Not only is it hard for exhibitors to have new and exciting products to show, it’s hard for participants to justify two large trips [such as glasstec and Vitrum],” said Vockler.

“This year’s show was quite slow, at least by European standards,” agreed Marcel Bally of Bystronic. “1999 was the high-water mark; 2001 was slower, some said, due to 9/11. This year was slower yet, perhaps because of the show’s date. June is not convenient for glass people, especially not for North Americans. You didn’t need much more than one hand to count the visitors from America.”

(Editor’s Note: Vitrum 2003 was scheduled earlier than usual due to a large electronics show this fall, which will take up the entire Fiera Milano. Vitrum 2005 will take place in the fall as it has in the past.)

Other speculation about the low attendance included the weak worldwide economy, the lower value of the dollar against the euro, the SARS epidemic and the war in the Middle East.
“Vitrum was certainly disappointing for everyone, particularly the exhibitors,” added Long. “Less than ten people from the United States and Canada attended, so there were obviously few opportunities for sales.”

Carey Mobius of Garibaldi Glass in Burnaby, British Columbia, was one of the few who traveled the distance to Vitrum. Mobius said he found the show heavily centered on machinery, something he wasn’t looking for since he had attended glasstec last October, but was hoping to see more architectural technologies and systems. But overall, he said the show was good.

“It could have been larger and it was too close to Düsseldorf,” he said, “but it was displayed well in terms of the booths; the representation there was strong, but there wasn’t much from North America.”

Good Things in Small Packages
However, despite the lower-than-usual attendance and the few North Americans visiting the show, Vitrum still proved successful for many exhibitors.

Ellie Gamble, deputy marketing communications manager for Ritec, parent company of ClearShield Technologies, said the show was a good venue for the company to promote and demonstrate its product.

“We generate a lot of inquiries from around the world, and [Vitrum] was a good platform from which to hold our European launch of our new and improved ClearShield,” said Gamble. “Decorative glass specialists are always interested in surface protection on sandblasted glass, and seeing the product in action is the most practical way of demonstrating its effectiveness.”

According to Vockler, Vitrum proved quite successful for them. ICD exhibited with the Italian company AG Engineering, its new representative covering the Middle East and North Africa.

“We have always sold our products to Europe, but now we have a plant in Cordoba, Spain,” said Vockler. “With this we are seeing a large interest in our spandrel and screen ink products. The Vitrum show was a great place to meet those we have talked to or meet new, prospective customers.”

Regardless, a number of companies took advantage of Vitrum for launching new products.
“At every international show we launch six new pieces of equipment,” said David Mackey, a sales engineer with Bottero. 

New items in Bottero’s lineup included the double edger low-E Titan. 

“Nothing touches the low-E; it’s held in place by vacuums from below,” said Mackey. Other new equipment included the shape-cutting machine 331 BKM, which is designed for the residential window market, a CNC shape edger 421 BSK and a 6-axis computerized numerical control shape edger Multiwork.

According to Mackey, automation is a major trend among much of the equipment entering the U.S. market.

“Everything has always been more automated in Europe, and the United States has been more labor intensive, but we’re starting to see much for automation,” Mackey said. 

Bystronic demonstrated a prototype of its new vertical cutting machine, Verticut. Designed for insulating glass manufacturers, it is expected to be available in the middle of next year.

“Even though the exhibited machine was only a working prototype, the company received several orders for delivery next year,” said Bystronic’s Bally. “Vertical glass processing offers several advantages. It saves space, it is easy to integrate various process steps and it lends itself to automate the entire process.”

A number of new products for the insulating glass industry were also on display in ForEl’s booth.
According to Sergio Cosano, area manager, the show went well for ForEl.

“It’s a good time at the moment for the insulating glass segment,” he said. “There’s a lot for [the industry] to choose from.”

One of the new products available from ForEl was an automatic vertical glass edge arrissing machine, which automatically removes the sharp corners of glass lites.
“It’s fast, easy to use and costs less,” said Cosano.

On display in Forvet’s booth was the Chiara, an automatic seaming machine, which horizontally seams all four sides of the glass simultaneously. Once the glass is placed on the machine, the Chiara senses the size, thickness and dimensions.

“There’s been a lot of interest in this at the show,” said Michael Spellman with IGE Solutions Inc., which represents Forvet in the United States. “Of particular interest is that it is great for soft-coated low-E, because there’s minimal handling involved,” he said. He added that the key to the machine’s simplicity is being horizontal. Three versions of the Chiara are available: one for arrising, one for polishing and one for industrial edging.
Schiatti Angelo srl, represented by DeGorter in the United States, offered its new cut wheel double edger, which is designed for grinding and polishing glass with thicknesses between 3 and 12 mm. The company also offers a dubbing device for its vertical edgers.

Glassrobots took the opportunity to promote its new flat tempering line, RoboTemp™, which is still in the prototype stage.

“The first machine should be done by the end of the year,” said Karivähä-Antila, technical director. “We are very close to having our first machine sold.” 

Bovone also participated in Vitrum. Forvet also participated in Vitrum.

Reaching New Markets
Some companies chose to exhibit at Vitrum so as to establish a stronger international presence.
Cambridge, Ohio-based Edgetech, for example, has had operations in the United Kingdom for a number of years, but is now striving to create a stronger European presence. Gerhard Reichert, vice president of business development, explained the company didn’t want to take part in glasstec, disappear for a year and reappear two years later.

“It’s important to show the market that we don’t just show up and go away,” Reichert said. “We’re here to stay.”

According to Reichert, the European market offers a significant opportunity for Edgetech’s product, Super Spacer®. 

“It offers the tools to meet the market’s needs. First, it is a product that contends with European legislature. Now that Europe rates the entire window’s U-value, True Warm is very important. Second is durability testing. The CEN argon testing standard (the European test standard) now includes weathering the unit, which has raised the standard over the old DIN argon test (the German test standard until CEN standards are in place and take over).” He continued, “Hot-melt butyl gunned systems are fairing well in this new argon test, which bodes well for us.”

The third reason, Reichert explained, involves Edgetech’s cooperation with Lisec.

“The system is now automated, making insulating glass units very affordable for the European market. It’s the most productive system for high-performance units,” he said.

Exhibiting jointly were Tamglass and Z.Bavelloni. Bavelloni had been acquired earlier this year by Tamglass’s parent company, Kyro Corp. Vitrum marked the first show in which the two companies participated together.

“The co-operation between Tamglass and Z.Bavelloni will widen both companies’ customer bases and offer customers the benefits of the strongest-ever combination of glass processing and industry knowledge, products and services,” said Pentti Yliheljo, Tamglass president and chief executive officer. 

In Two Year’s Time 
Vitrum 2005 will take place October 5-8, 2005, at Fiera Milano. Visit www.vitrum-milano.it where information will be posted as it becomes 

Ellen Giard Chilcoat is the editor of USGlass magazine.


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