Volume 46, Issue 7 - August 2011

AMinuteWith …
Richard Beuke, PPG Industries
Vice President of Flat Glass
Effective May 1, PPG named Richard A. Beuke vice president of flat glass, replacing Gary Danowksi, who has been named vice president, automotive refinish, EMEA.

Beuke joined PPG in 1976 as an industrial coatings sales representative, and much of his career has served on the coatings sides. He became vice president, silicas, in November 2009. A native of Indianapolis, Beuke earned a bachelor’s degree from Georgia Southern University, during which time, he revealed in an interview with USGlass, he got an early education in the glass industry.

USG: You’ve been with PPG since 1976; is this role your first involved specifically with the flat glass segment?
RB: I got involved in the glass business in my college years. I worked with my dad, who was an ironworker and installed curtainwall on high-rise buildings, during the summers as I was going through college. Actually, a lot of the jobs that we did used PPG glass. So I really got involved in the glass business at a very young age, but I never knew it would come in handy! When I was interviewing for jobs I got an interview with PPG and I knew of them through my ironworking days. That helped land a job with PPG—although there weren’t any positions open in glass and I ended up in our aluminum extrusion coatings segment. For the 35 years I’ve been with PPG I’ve always been kind of around the glass…­ To me, it fits a little bit naturally …

I really started working very closely with the glass guys when I was vice president of architectural coatings [in 2000]. That’s probably when I gained a lot more detailed experience around the glass business.

What are you most looking forward to in this new position?
RB: I’ve always been on the sales and marketing side of the business. I really like to get engaged with customers… One of my basic philosophies is that strategies within a business really come from the outside in, from the customers in. So that’s really what I’m going for, hopefully, the first year of the business: meeting as many customers as I can and trying to understand from them what we can do to help them improve their business…

USG: What are some goals you’re setting for PPG’s glass segment?
RB: Because of the economic activities in construction, one of my first goals is to try and improve the business in this downturn. I’m really looking for new opportunities to expand the market for glass. There are a lot of opportunities from what we see out there…

One of my jobs prior to this was as our vice president of growth initiatives across the corporation, and one of the things I learned from that job was how we expand and get into new types of businesses. That’s one of the things I’ll be looking at in this business. How we can build on some of our advanced coatings systems, like our Solarban 70 glass, and how we can take that technology and expand it into new market opportunities, whether it be a solar glass or even light emitting diode-type glass, both of which we have pretty elaborate R&D projects on.

USG: What do you think are some of the biggest challenges with which the glass industry as a whole is faced? How can the industry work to solve them?
RB: Our biggest issue is probably the economy, and what’s going on in the construction industry with both commercial and residential being at extremely low levels. Our international business continues to do quite well, so we’re exporting quite a bit of glass, especially high-performance glass to other parts of the world. There’s really no solution [to the downturn] short of trying to expand opportunities for glass. [PPG has] a lot of activities going on in that area; that’s where most of our R&D activities stand, developing higher performance products and focus on light management. If you can say there’s a mega-trend out there it’s managing both of those, energy and light.

USG: The glass industry is one that is continually evolving; how would you like to see PPG’s flat glass business evolve over the next few years?
It’s a business that’s more than what it was 20 years ago, melting sand and soda ash and making clear glass—it’s [now] really about the research activities going on in the glass business and how those research activities are going to improve—for instance, how efficient solar cells are. We’ve got a project to improve the energy-efficiency of solar cells up to 10 percent… We have a fine chemicals group that makes small molecules for organic light emitting diodes and we combine that chemistry with our glass chemistry to really work on this Department of Energy project in creating white light in office buildings in a much more efficient way. Those are the types of things that really excite me about the opportunities in the glass business and what we can do.

If you’re going through what we’ve gone through for the last four years it really challenges everyone to be more creative. I think we’ve seen some of that. Even some of the incentives the government has put out there really tackle some of these major energy opportunities. And a lot of them play into our core competency as a company, a combination of coatings, chemistry and glass.

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