As competing U.S. corporations vie for the attention of their customers at glasstec in different ways, there’s one thing on which most agree: they are all feeling the heat from Chinese companies that make similar products.
During the opening ceremony of the show, Zhang Fan, CEO of the flat glass division of the China-based CSG Holdings, was asked one of the most pointed questions of the week: Where is China on glass quality?
“China has reached the same level of quality as the U.S. and Europe,” Fan said.
Exhibitors weren’t so sure, and though most would talk with us about the issue, none wanted to be identified publicly.
While one exhibitor opined the Chinese government, saying it subsidizes stealing intellectual property, another explained the tactic.
“It’s a natural process for the Chinese to take things,” he said. “If you don’t learn, you don’t grow.”
The general consensus among exhibitors was that although some Chinese glass manufacturers may not always produce glass with the quality levels U.S. customers demand, Chinese companies have advanced production technology because float lines are newer and more efficient there.
“In equipment, China is 20 years advanced,” said one exhibitor who has been through a number of plants.
“There are 400 float lines in the world, 350 of them are in China,” says Jens Kayser, key account manager at ISRA Vision. The German company provides surface quality inspection technology for float glass plants. ISRA is seeing most of its new business come from China, according to Kayser.
“We help them improve [their glass]. We get rid of the optical distortion and cosmetic defects,” he says.
Other companies have taken notice of the aggressive quality advancements. Industry perception of Chinese manufacturing is changing.
“The Chinese are our competitors,” says Bill Flowers, sales engineer at the Michigan-based New Hudson Corp. “Anyone would be silly not to be concerned about them.”