Volume 41, Issue 5 - May 2006


Spring Fervor

Ellen Giard’s excellent report on the emergence of China as both a consumer and supplier economy for the glass industry begins on page 80. It explains some of the causes and potential effects—including the ripple ones—that such a seismic shift in the economy can bring to our market. 

Other industries have faced it. The local office supply store and the hardware store are few and far between. They have been replaced by big boxes that have emerged due to changes in technology that allow for real-time inventory and delivery. More than 60 percent of all flowers ordered are now ordered online through national services; the Internet heralded the seismic shift in the floral industry and changed it forever.

Every industry faces a series of seminal changes that forever alter its landscape. The glass industry has faced few thus far, with the development of the float process being the most notable. (Imagine the sheet glass manufacturers of the 1950s sitting around talking about the emerging “float glass threat.”)

The emergence of China as a glass economic power will change our industry radically. But change can be good—or bad—depending on what it does to you. In fact, there’s a school of thought that says change is neither inherently good or bad, just different, and it’s what you do with the change that determines its orientation. Try telling that to people who’ve lost their jobs because of it.

Whether change is good or bad for a particular company will be determined by how well it adapts to and exploits the opportunities that such change brings. Today, smart industry companies are in the process of making their own changes in response to China’s emergence to make and keep their own businesses strong.

In the furniture industry, a number of U.S. companies have survived and even thrived, despite a movement of almost all manufacturing offshore. The U.S. furniture industry as we once knew it is effectively dead. (And this death sent fatal ripples to the U.S. mirror industry as well.) Those furniture manufacturers that partnered early with Chinese manufacturers and those companies that import have done well with the change. Companies such as RoomStore, Rooms to Go and Pier One are extremely successful with almost all of their furniture products made outside the United States. Even a company as American as Ethan Allen has had to file for bankruptcy reorganization, yet has adapted by moving much of its manufacturing offshore while keeping some finishing in the United States.

Sometimes change is fast and reflexive, sometimes it’s slower and adaptive, but always it is different. We can spend our energy bemoaning it or use it to our advantage. 

Using glass to our advantage is one thing I also hope that many architects do. In this issue, we’ve excerpted a section from our sister publication, The Architect’s Guide to Glass, to give you an idea of some of the many glazing products architects will be viewing at the AIA show in Los Angeles next month. Our section begins on page 47. And if you happen to be at the AIA show, I hope you’ll stop by and visit us in booth 2400. 

- Deb -

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