The first half of 2022 brought some big changes for Press Glass’ U.S. operations, based in Ridgeway, Va. Gregg Vanier, director of operations, started less than a month ago but is already thinking about major plans for the company. Two recently installed Glaston furnaces, one at the 270,000-square-foot facility in Ridgeway and another at the 110,000-square-foot facility in Stoneville, N.C., are seeming to set the stage for more growth in the company.
Press Glass has been operating the new furnace in its Ridgeway location for about six weeks. The other furnace recently installed in the Stoneville location is expected to begin operating by the first week of April.
Planning and executing the installation of not one, but two furnaces, is not easy, but it’s a challenge the company has met before.
“We are fortunate our sister companies over in Europe are used to installing Glaston [equipment], so we have experience with the installations,” says Vanier. “Glaston brings in their crew, and then we use our maintenance techs from Ridgeway and Stoneville for the installment.”
He says it is a time-consuming process.
“You must be patient and let [the crews] do their thing,” says Vanier. “It’s the same as most other furnaces. You must heat it up and let the rollers burn for about 24 hours. Then you must run all your glass of different thicknesses and soft coats until you have the recipes locked in and have ensured all the sensors are working. After this, production is ready to go live.”
Vanier says it’s important to have operators and backup operators trained.
“We need our employees engaged and educated, to prevent unacceptable product from leaving our building… the key is to have the operators adjusting when the Osprey [inspection system] tells them to. Operators need to raise their hand for help if they can’t fix the problem.”
With the facilities moving toward more automated machinery, the furnaces allow the company to produce more—and bigger—glass. Vanier says the new furnaces don’t necessarily add to the company’s product portfolio, but they do increase the capacity and quality of the glass.
Press Glass tempers everything from 5-millimeter up to 19-millimeter glass sizes, and the newly installed furnace in Ridgeway tempers about 72 tons a day, according to Vanier.
“Architects’ eyes are getting bigger, and they want bigger sizes of glass,” he says. “That means [insulatingd glass units (IGUs) are] going to go up to 8 millimeter and 10-millimeter sizes.”
The Ridgeway facility also operates two cutting tables, auto seamers, grinders, polishers, a computerized numerical control machine, two heat soak ovens, one jumbo lamination line with autoclave and one IG line. The addition of the new furnace brings in more glass and a plan to eventually add more machinery.
“We already are staffing up with a second IG line coming at the beginning of June and hope to be operational by the first week of July 1.” But before Vanier plans for more, he says he needs to evaluate production as things progress—slowly but surely, he sees continued growth and expansion.