Volume 40,   Issue 11                      November  2005

Volere è Potere*
Vigorus Vitrum Showcases Machinery in Milan
by Charles Cumpston and Ellen Giard

These must be nail-biting days for many of the Italian machinery suppliers. They are being assaulted in the global market by Chinese competition. They are facing varying degrees of economic health around the world, including a stubborn European market that has yet to bounce back. 

Are they concerned, worried, scared? Maybe they’re all three, but you would never have known it at Vitrum 2005 where the Italian exhibitors, at home, displayed an air of confidence that their offerings—with high quality, stylish design and innovative features—still lead the global glass processing industry. Sponsored by GIMAV, the Italian association of glass processing machinery manufacturers, Vitrum took place October 5-8 at the fairgrounds in Milan, Italy. This year, 438 companies exhibited, offering equipment and machinery to more than 16,000 attendees.

“We are really satisfied,” said Renata Gaffo, general manager of Vitrum and GIMAV.

“Worldwide, exhibitions are going down, but we have increased.” According to show reports, the number of exhibitors, compared to 2003 (there were 432 exhibitors in 2003) and the number of attendees both increased. In addition, the amount of exhibition square footage grew. This year the show encompassed more than 640,000 square feet; 582,000 two years ago.

“There are a lot of people here, a lot of business for the exhibitors,” said Gaffo. “Our first goal is to satisfy the exhibitors.”

Turning Points
This year’s Vitrum was a pivotal one for Italian equipment suppliers, who make up the majority of the exhibitors. They must now compete with new competitors, including those from China. The show program listed 18 exhibitors from China and Hong Kong, eight more than at Vitrum 2003. 

On the home front for the Italian equipment manufacturers, Gaffo said the market had been quiet as far as sales.

“Exporting is pretty good,” she said. “We saw a big increase in export machinery last year. ” She added that the United States is always a good market for Italian equipment.

“There had been problems with the dollar versus the Euro value, but the last six to seven months have been better,” she said. “The market is moving, slowly, but growing.”

International Exhibition
Despite the fact that the GlassBuild America show is maneuvering into its fall time slot and took place just a month before in Atlanta, Vitrum retained its spot on the international glass exhibition circuit with a successful four-day event that saw visitors from various points on the globe, most prominently the Middle East and Eastern Europe. Also, for all one hears about the woes of the German economy, there seemed to be a lot of Germans there, as well.

At the show in Atlanta the previous month, Doug Sampsel, whose company Tempered Glass Inc., part of United Glass Corp., had purchased a workstation from CMB, had traveled to Milan to pick it up. He said that the company needed the piece of equipment to keep up with the decorative glass it uses for its glass entrances. He made the point that the new unit had “impressive quality and that it will improve our business.” Sampsel said his company had been very busy and needed to keep adding new machinery to keep ahead of its competition. “I’m like a kid in a candy store here. There’s so much to see,” he stated.

Cliff Green, vice president and general manager of ACI Distribution West in Santa Fe Springs, Calif., echoed Sampsel’s sentiments, saying he was in Milan to see what’s new “so that we can keep competitive.” Green said that he actually preferred Vitrum to the larger glasstec show held every other year in Düsseldorf, Germany. “[Vitrum] is more focused on our industry,” he said. “You don’t have to search through the bottles and other exhibitors you’re not interested in like in Düsseldorf.”

Technology on Display
New products were being introduced at Vitrum, and company expansions and improving markets were major themes. Visitors were there to do business. 

“Vitrum is never a bad show for us, because the people who come here want to learn new technologies,” said Michael Spellman, president of IGE Solutions Inc. of Jupiter, Fla. “[At] the shows in the states … machinery is shown. In Europe the shows are technology shows. The leaders in the industry go to glasstec and Vitrum; we’ll never stop going to these shows.”

Spellman had spent much of the show going from hall 14, which housed the Chinese company Fushan’s stand, and hall 16, which housed the Italian company Forvet. (IGE Solutions Inc. is the North American agent for the two companies, among others for the glass and stone industries.) Spellman said IGE Solutions Inc. had recently moved into a new headquarters location in Florida (see related story, page 20) and had also expanded into the South American market with an office in Mexico. 

And as far as the equipment displayed, Spellman said there had been outstanding interest in Fushan.

“The industry knows the Chinese are coming, and Fushan is the leader,” he said. The company introduced a new convection furnace with up to three bays designed for low-E and other glass types.

And in Forvet’s booth, the company introduced its Francessca line, which can make 30-40 shower doors per hour.

“This machine has seen an unbelievable response,” said Spellman.

Bovone, which is represented in the United States by Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Salem Distributing, showed part of a new laminating line. Salem’s president Howard Hanes said the line was very successful. He explained that one of the lines had been installed recently at a nearby factory, so Bovone was able to shuttle customers to the plant to see the line in action.

“That has been very effective,” said Hanes.

In addition to the laminating line, Bovone exhibited its edging and mitering machines, for which it is already known. In the edging category, the company introduced its smallest flat edging machine, the E04 102, which was showed for the first time at Vitrum.

Hanes explained that the new edger is an attempt from Bovone, known as the “Cadillac” of the industry, to offer more cost-competitive products for companies that are more cost conscious.

U.S. Lite?
And while the presence of U.S. attendees was small, Hanes said those customers he had seen from the United States were all very interested in the laminating line, since laminated glass is being used more and more in the United States due to the evolution of hurricane codes. 

Vitrododi, also represented by Salem in the United States, showed a newly-designed edger. Hanes explained that for machinery operators, checking and changing wheels can be time-consuming and difficult. The new machine is designed so that when the operator turns the machine off, the wheel system automatically comes out. This keeps the operator from having to crawl under the equipment to adjust or work on the wheels. Luigi Dodi of Vitrododi said that people have been “astonished” to see the re-designed machine.

Though Edgetech I.G. of Cambridge, Ohio, just weeks prior to Vitrum, had a huge presence at the show in Atlanta, the company still found it important to exhibit in Milan. 

“Europe has been a very effective market for us,” said Mike Hovan, president. “Vitrum has been a great international show for us. It’s good for us to be here to see current and potential customers; it’s also an opportunity to further our relationship with our equipment partners.”

Bottero Inc., a large Italian company whose U.S. subsidiary recently moved to Florence, Ky., once again met its goal of introducing six new products at a European show.
Carey Brayer, president, said his company is growing by 25 to 30 percent a year. 

“We’ve already done more business at this point than we did last year. It will be a huge sales increase.” He said that the company was doing more business with tier-one companies and that the product range fits with the diversity of the market.

Michael Kuttner, head of marketing for Albat + Wirsam Software AG of Linden, Germany, said they, too, were having a good show. “We’ve been very busy.” The company promoted its completely new software for sorting systems with its partners Bystronic and Hegla. The Hegla system is already installed in a pilot operation in Europe and Bystronic has a European company that wants to do a pilot, as well.

Kuttner said the European market has bottomed out and there is now starting to be growth and optimism that things will get better. “People are starting to make investments, which they have planned and put off,” he said. He explained that his company is investing a lot now in North and South America, in the flat glass market but also moving into the fenestration segment. “We will be making a big investment in the United States in the next two to three years,” he said.

Hanna-Riikka Kuitunen, marketing coordinator for Uniglass Engineering Oy of Tampere, Finland, said that her company had closed a deal at Vitrum. “Business is very good. This year we sold a machine in Japan, which is a new market for us and because it has such a high technological standard this is recognition of our quality,” she explained.

North America has been a very strong area for the company, she added. “We’ve sold three furnaces there and are getting a good foothold.”

Vitrum will take place in 2007 October 3-6, once again in Milan. 

GIMAV Celebrates 25th Anniversary
With true Italian style, GIMAV, the Italian association of glass processing machinery manufacturers, celebrated its 25th anniversary during Vitrum with a gala dinner.
Greeting the 370 guests at La Pelota, where the event was held, was the most visible image of the group through the years, its first president and honorary chairperson Dino Fenzi.

Milling around to music designed to relax everyone after a full day at the show, guests had a choice of so much food that everyone kept joking that if they couldn’t have seen the tables set for dinner they would have assumed that the appetizers were the offerings of the evening. A true Italian meal, the feast prepared by celebrated Ristorante Vittorio of Bergamo.

While the guests dined, a multimedia presentation celebrated glass. The theme of the evening was the four elements of glass: earth, air, fire and water. A theatrical presentation of each preceded the four courses of the meal. After all, this was Milan, so why not have a fashion show-style dinner?

In welcoming the guests, Angelo Lovati, current GIMAV chairperson, said that while the group is 25, “It has a lot of young energy.”

Fenzi spoke about the association and its accomplishments over its 25-year history.
Annibale Besana, also a former chairperson of GIMAV, chronicled some of the changes and technological innovations that have taken place in the industry. 

It was an evening on which to look back, and in the context of the Vitrum show, to look forward.

Glaston Technologies Introduces Tamglass, Bavelloni Products
Glaston Technologies, parent of Tamglass and Z. Bavelloni, held a press conference at Vitrum to discuss the status of the global industry and to introduce new products. 

Pentti Yliheljo, president and chief executive officer, surveyed the current equipment market and said, “Big companies are growing, gaining market share and investing in machinery.” He made the point that there is strong demand in the United States, especially for high-output machines.

In response to a USGlass question, Yliheljo stated that 40 percent of glass output goes into safety glass, “so this is a growth area.” The U.S. market is driven by solar control glasses, he added.

To capitalize on these points, the Tampere, Finland-based company introduced new equipment.

Tamglass introduced the Sonic high convection tempering furnace, designed for tempering super low-E (E=0.02-0.04) products, mainly for insulating glass units and other architectural glass applications. The unit is capable of continuous production of window and patio door glass sizes with 65 percent utilization, according to the company. The unit can also process glass at a speed of 33 second/mm. 

Yliheljo agreed that both ends of the tempering market are gaining as people come in at the entry level, and at the other end, the bigger companies add more sophisticated equipment to operate faster and to make better low-E products.

Mauri Leponen said there have been talks with big window manufacturers about the new tempering unit and that it was feasible one would be in operation in the United States within a year. 

With bigger customers developing more integrated operations, Tamglass’ Kai Appelberg pointed out, more of them are utilizing both Tamglass and Bavelloni equipment.

Stefano Bavelloni then introduced a new double edging and drilling line. It includes the VX EVO double edging machine and the HDM drilling, milling and countersinking machine, an 18 axes CNC unit. The units are available in the MAGNUM series for jumbo size glass lites up to 3.3 meters wide and 7.2 meters long (approximately 10.8 x 23.6 feet). He pointed out that the pre-processing line is “ideal” for processing soft coat low-E glass. All the units are designed to work at the same speed to avoid bottlenecks.

The Author:
Charles Cumpston and Ellen Giard are the contributing editor and editor, respectively, of USGlass magazine.

© Copyright 2005 Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.