Volume 35, Number 1, January 2000

 

Millennium Madness

Experts Predict Distribution/Fabrication Trends for 2000 and Beyond

Safety and security, environment, energy efficiency, smart glass—these are all factors which will guide fabricators in the year 2000 and beyond. And on the distribution side, companies will be concerned with how to ship glass products quickly and efficiently, while at the same time coping with rising costs. Representatives of three manufacturing/distributing companies discuss these, as well as a host of other issues, in the following articles. So, if you’ve made some predictions concerning what the future holds, read on to see what others in the industry have to say.

 

AT A GLANCE

Five-year trends in coating demands (at Viracon)

 • Low-E: square footage produced increased from 36 to 49 percent of production.

High-performance reflective (20 percent and less light-transmittance): down 10 percent.

Coatings with light transmittance of 21-30 percent: holding steady at 9 percent of output.

Coatings with 31 percent and above light transmittance: 10 percent increase.

Silkscreening: added lines to triple capacity.

Safety

Safety and Security to
Serve as Major Trends

by Brenda Delhanty

 Increasingly aware of the risks in life, consumers will choose glass products for their safety and security qualities. This will be a major trend as we enter the year 2000. In fact, fabricators have already recognized this trend. Fabricators are designing, refining and testing products that are resistant to hurricane-force winds, vandalism or theft attempts, bullets, blasts and fire.

Environmental concerns will also be a top priority in the next millennium. Green glass won’t refer just to color but to the impact on the environment. Additionally, low-E glass will continue to gain in popularity as buyers choose high-performance glass coatings to control their environments. For the same reasons, insulating glass and use of silkscreens will also see increased demand.

Consumers will want glass that uses energy efficiently, whether by insulating from the elements or using sunlight to light buildings, or gathering energy to supplement a building’s electrical needs.

Glass manufacturers and fabricators will not just be marketing glass but information. They will educate architects, glazing contractors, general contractors, engineers and others about using glass to meet design and performance requirements. Advances in glass technology will also call for more information and
education.

Those advances will include “smart glass” solutions, including electrochromics, photovoltaics and holograms. While these may not be ready for general consumption in the year 2000, they will be placed in prototypes and demonstration models before the end of the year.

Electrochromics allow users to “dial” up the amount of sunlight that passes through the glass. If it’s too sunny or hot, the windows can be electronically controlled to shade the sun. At night or when more light is desired, the electronics will allow for a clearer window.

Photovoltaics gather the sun’s energy for use in the building’s electrical grid, while holograms use crystals to catch, condense and direct light. With those qualities, holograms can be used in conjunction with photovoltaics to more efficiently trap the sunlight needed more efficiently. Holograms can also be used with fiber-optic cables to transport light from windows and skylights into darker crevices of a building, therefore saving on lighting costs.

Given the above trends, it looks as if the year 2000 won’t see an end to the technological advances in glass, only an acceleration.

wpe1D.jpg (2167 bytes)Brenda Delhanty is the marketing communications manager for Viracon in Owatonna, MN.

Distribution

Rising Costs Present Daunting Challenges

by Chuck Kaplanek

 There are a variety of trends and changes to occur in the glass industry in future years. But, in this article I want to specifically forecast the changes I foresee in terms of getting glass and glazing products to the customer or the designated point of its end use.

It is evident that the cost of delivering flat glass products to customers is constantly increasing. This is a fact universal to all products that must be taken from a point of manufacture or storage to another location where it will be put to use.

The cost of moving construction hard goods such as lumber, steel, concrete, aluminum and glass is spiraling upward each decade. The typical modes of transportation are trucks, railcars, container sea vessels or air cargo services. In each case, the rates are rising annually.

The human requirements of shipping glass are large: people are needed to safely drive and deliver products from one place to another. Whether the truck is an 80,000-pound tractor trailer or a half-ton pickup with a homemade rack, a qualified concerned driver and/or helper is mandatory. Special education programs and special licenses are the trend today.

The safety and care of both the driver/helper and the product is required. These individuals need training in not only the driving aspect of their job but also in the handling and care of the product. Injured drivers/helpers or scratched and broken glass are costly. Custom glass carrying bodies, special air ride shock absorbers and modern stone or case handling crane systems with outriggers are standard equipment for those who want to get architectural glass from one place to the next in one piece. The value of the sum is much greater than the value of the parts in the glass industry.

Gasoline and diesel prices per gallon, which have been deceptively low recently, will take their steadily upward movement along with all maintenance costs such as lubes, oil changes, brakes, shocks, springs, windshield wipers, tires, body work, paint jobs, special handling permits, bulbs, filters, tune-ups, etc.

This high cost of transportation is most evident within the distribution and fabricating sector of the glass industry. Does this mean there is a corresponding increase in the value and price of the end product … sorry, it’s not happening. The value of raw glass in stock sheets has been relatively stable over the years.

So, what should we come to understand from this trend? Distance is of the essence when it comes to selling glass on a distributors basis. You can’t travel very far with distribution products in the modern glass industry unless:

1. There is a lot of it on any one truckload.

2. There are higher margin specialty products on the same trip.

3. The customer will pay for the trip.

4. You are not in tune with understanding your transportation overhead.

There will be an increase in the popularity of minimum delivery requirements, delivery charges, free delivery zone restrictions and Freight-on-Board point of delivery terms.

If your total delivery costs are higher than your profit of glass sales on the truck, then my advice is … “tell ’em you’re out of stock.”

Chuck Kaplanek is the president of Floral Glass located in Hauppage, NY; Cheshire, CT; East Rutherford, NJ, and Bohemia, NY.

One Company’s Story

Glass Wholesalers Prepares to Differentiate Itself

by Bob Lawrence

 What will be the trend of the new millennium for Glass Wholesalers Inc.? Ours is the same as any wholesaler/manufacturer: to differentiate ourselves from the multiplying brand-X competitors in any U.S. market. There are several key factors on which we are focusing to ensure this differentiation: technology, quality, communication and people.

While Glass Wholesalers is already proficient with bath enclosures, heavy glass doors/interior glass wall systems, glass awards, tools and sealants, fabricated/edged flat glass, aluminum storefronts and brake metal products, we decided to expand our product offerings with a new tempering furnace. We reached this decision because Houston had only a single furnace surrounded by six “out-of-towners” bringing in tempered glass. All good ideas are copied, so within six months, Houston promptly went from one furnace to four locally-operated furnaces (ours being one of them) with the same number of “out-of-towners,” effectively dropping the market share of the established furnaces by an average of 28 percent. That’s a pie that was just cut into smaller pieces!

Well, competitors are unpredictable, so what did we do in anticipation? We purchased a state-of-the-art convection tempering furnace capable of efficiently producing the best quality tempered glass that has ever been produced to date. It wasn’t an accident that we ended up with the best furnace … it was a conscious decision to spend substantially more than a conventional furnace would cost to get more efficient, higher quality output. This is our first advantage, thus our focus will be on reaching customers who need excellent quality and who want it done right. Communication with our market, the glass shops and manufacturers that use glass and aluminum is essential in getting our quality and service message across. Coupled with the products we already manufactured and distributed, customers will find the convenience of one-stop-shopping the next advantage.

What about new products? The float manufacturers have been working intensely on new low-E and post-temperable reflective glass, rivaling high-performance coated products that previously had to be tempered first, and then coated … this is extremely exciting. I predict this new technology will launch a burgeoning era of development, and a revolution of new coated products that will dramatically affect glass specifications for residential and commercial buildings nationwide. These products are very difficult to temper in conventional furnaces, so new technology convection furnaces will prove to be especially important in producing the kind of finished reflective quality necessary to satisfy architects and owners. Chalk up another ad-vantage for those who continually upgrade their technology.

The shortage of quality employees is going to be the hardest challenge for this industry. Warren Buffet, multibillionaire investor, recently described three qualities he looks for in hiring people … “develop integrity, which guides intelligence and energy.” “If they don’t have the first one, integrity, the other two will kill ya!” Quality people want to be associated with winners. Good companies (winners) offer secure jobs and nurture employees by offering health benefits, retirement plans … a sense of pride and accomplishment. Quality employees are much more productive and do it right the first time. An interesting trend is beginning to develop with more customers: they are starting to recognize that quality and service is rarely associated with the cheapest price. Additionally, using a quality supplier smoothes the way for more efficient, profitable jobs and satisfied customers.

wpe1E.jpg (2640 bytes)Bob Lawrence is the president of Glass Wholesalers Inc. based in Houston, TX.

USG

Copyright 2000 Key Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.