By all accounts, GlassBuild 2017, which took place last week in Atlanta, will not be forgotten. Not because of what happened within the Georgia World Congress Center, but because of what happened outside the days prior … leading to what ultimately didn’t happen inside.

Given Hurricane Irma was barreling its way north, I was surprised I ended up making it to Atlanta on Monday night, the day before the show started. Despite a flight cancellation, and then a rebooking, and then delay after delay after delay, we departed around 8:30 that night, getting in around 10:30. By that time, the rain had died down a lot and so had the winds. Earlier in the day I heard reports that no cabs nor public transportation were running, but we had no trouble getting a cab that night.

I had spent a lot of time on Monday re-scheduling and planning appointments I’d set for the show. I checked in with them all to see if they would still be there. Two of them said, no and that they decided against it given the current weather situation. And they weren’t the only ones. Once at the show there were many other vacant booths of those companies that had decided to not risk the trip.

General Glass International used its glass markerboards to welcome attendees to its booth.

Once the show got started, most of the exhibitors were in pretty good spirits; we all know there’s nothing anyone can do about the weather. Many of the companies I talked to said that while the attendance numbers may be low, the quality of the people they talked to was strong.

There were also a few themes I picked up on during the show. Here’s a look at some topics I heard a lot about.

The Move to Automation: Given the labor challenges the manufacturing and construction industries are facing, more and more companies are looking for ways to automate more of their processes. Many companies were focused on the move toward Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things, which refers to the interconnection of the machinery and software within the plant, and how they communicate.

Big Glass Keeps Getting Bigger: And it’s not just about the size anymore. Creating a bigger piece of glass impacts components and fabrication, handling and transportation, and energy performance. Companies are developing products and technologies specifically with jumbo sizes in mind.

Many companies, including Guardian Glass, continue to focus on jumbo glass developments and technologies.

Heavy Lifting: And with big glass comes equipment and machinery designed to move and install it. Over the past couple of years it seems like the number of companies offering handling and lifting equipment has grown tremendously—and many of them are focusing on the growth in large glass. As the sizes get bigger it becomes increasingly challenging to lift, move and handle. Working with the right equipment can help ensure a safe, smooth and efficient installation.

Let’s Work Together: A number of machinery companies and distributors were announcing or had just announced new equipment partners. Salem Glass & Mirror is now working with IGis, Folienwerk Wolfen and Ashton Industrial, while IGE Glass Technologies is now working with Tecglass and the Fenzi Group. Likewise, DeGorter is now working with an Australian software company called Spil, which provides a variety of business management software products for the glass industry.

Despite the slower than usual turnout for the show this year, it’s always a great opportunity to catch up with what’s new in the industry. I had a laugh at the airport on the way home when I saw this picture of a glass door. Fresh off a glass conference, I’m sure there were still plenty of companies in the area who would have been happy to replace the door should anything have happened.

What are your top takeaways? As always, I’d love to hear your feedback.