An Exclusive Conversation with the Retiring and Incoming Presidents at Vitro

By Jordan Scott

After four decades in the glass industry, outgoing Vitro Architectural Glass president Richard “Dick” Beuke has seen it all, from rapid technological advances to a major economic recession and, finally, Vitro’s purchase of PPG’s flat glass division in 2016. Beuke helped lead the division through the acquisition and, now that the transition process is well underway, he plans to retire.

On January 1, 2019, Beuke stepped down from his position as president and passed the torch on to Ricardo Maiz. Beuke will aid Maiz in the transition until his retirement in March, when he will be retained by the company as a senior adviser.

Maiz has worked for Vitro and its subsidiaries since 2000. He led corporate planning through the PPG acquisition and has worked with Beuke directly for the past 18 months. Maiz holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education and has an MBA from the Wharton School of Business. With 18 years of experience in the glass industry, he has held different executive positions at Vitro in areas such as strategic planning,
finance and business development.

USGlass magazine spoke with both men about the company’s ongoing transition and how they see themselves within that process.

Richard Bueke

Q: Why did you choose this moment to retire?
A: I will have been in the industry for 43 years at a combination of PPG and Vitro when I retire. You get to a certain age and certain point where it’s just time to move on and time to turn it over to the younger guys. It’s been a great run and I know when it’s time to leave. After 43 years it’s time. It’s given me a good opportunity to transition from PPG with Vitro and into the market. It’s just time to retire.

Q: Will you still have any involvement with the
company following the transitionary period?
A: I’ll be officially retired from an operating role, but I’ll continue to be involved with the business on my time versus someone else’s … maybe from the ski slopes.

Q: What are your other post-retirement plans?
A: I’m a big snow skier and water skier so I’ll continue to do that. I’m also going to stay involved in a few outside boards and nonprofit boards. I’ll enjoy my kids who live all over the country. That’s what I plan on doing.

Q: What have been some of the major changes
since Vitro’s acquisition of PPG’s flat glass
division?
A: Probably the biggest change for us has been the level of investment that we’re able to get. That, for me, was probably the most important thing in building the business and finding a strategic buyer. I wanted to find a parent that liked the business. Vitro, having been in the business for over 100 years, knows the industry. They know what it takes to be successful in it so the combination of those things really made it a nice marriage. The oldest U.S. glass company and the oldest Mexican glass company merged. They knew what they were getting into and they stepped up and really made the investment we needed at the time of the
acquisition.

Q: What were some of the major highlights of
your career?
A: It’s really hard to say … I steer the ship in a strategic direction and let the people who really understand the day-to-day of the work do the key operating. The glass business is a difficult business. You’ve got a lot of technology involved in it, a lot of capital involved in it and it’s not a real easy business to run. Just letting the organization run the business
has been the most fun thing that I’ve been able to do.

Q: You said that the glass industry is becoming
more difficult. Why is that?
A: It’s the capital intensity of the business to keep up with the technology that makes it difficult. It takes technology, it takes strong operating discipline and it takes a strong capital investment on the float side. Nobody really gives the industry much credit for the capital intensity of the business. It’s a huge investment and you have to do it every 12-15 years. How you manage all that and how you manage the complexity of the supply chain if these big float tanks get shut down and rebuilt all adds a lot of complexity.

Q: What’s the greatest business lesson you’ve
learned?
A: It’s probably that technology, at the end of the day, will
rule just about anything. And to make sure that you’re always
keeping up with technology and investing for the long term.
I’ve been in businesses where we didn’t have the ability to do
that and I always regretted it. That’s one of the nice things
about what Vitro inherited from PPG … continuing with a
strong presence on the technology front. I love technology.
I think the glass business has been a very interesting business because of that and I see it changing all the time for the better.

Q: Looking back at when you first joined the business, has glass technology progressed further than you thought it would?
A: I think the advancements on low-E coatings have moved a lot faster and a lot further than I think anyone could have anticipated 20 years ago when the first ones were developed … A lot of technology that goes into coatings is huge. And the amount of research that goes into them and the complexity, in some cases putting 25 different layers of metal in subatomic thicknesses, it’s really complex. You see it in energy codes and other things that really drive the industry.

Q: What were the biggest challenges you’ve
faced during your time in the glass industry?
A: I think in the glass business it was going through the tremendous economic cycle that we suffered in the 2007/2008 timeframe. Being able to go through that has probably been the biggest challenge that I’ve ever seen. It’s unprecedented and hopefully we’ll never see another one like what happened, especially on the building products side of things.

Q: What are the greatest challenges the industry faces heading into the future and how can it continue to advance?
A: The biggest challenge is how we manage the complexity of all these different products that are in the supply chain and the different requirements and performance characteristics customers want. We really like to drive our strategy from the outside in. And we have quite a few different customers in the glass industry, from OEMs to architects and
glazing contractors. They’re all equally important and they all have different demands on the problems. So keeping up with all that is the challenge of the business, but it’s also the fun aspect.

Q: What do you hope the industry’s next generation does differently?
A: I hope they learn from the history that will always be there. I think paying attention to that will always keep us moving forward. Hopefully we don’t go back to what happened in the 2007/2008 recession. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

Ricardo Maiz

Q: How do you feel about following in Richard
Beuke’s footsteps?
A: It’s a little intimidating, frankly. I think he has done a great job here and I really am very thankful for the gracious help that I’ve received so far. It’s been a very orderly transition. There’s been a sequenced handover of certain responsibilities … I’m very grateful for the way Dick has handled it. He’s always lending a helping hand and advice. I’m looking forward to continuing what he and his team have built here.

Q: What are the greatest lessons you’ve learned
so far in your career?
A: I’ve been in the glass business for 18 years now, always at Vitro, and … we’ve certainly seen our ups and downs in the industry. Being able to deal with the ebbs and flows with a steady hand, having an eye out for the future and not over-reacting to short-term cyclicality and events [are the biggest lessons I’ve learned]. It’s tough for a newcomer in the industry to deal with some of this uncertainty and adversity a normal state or a better state. I’ve also learned to be patient going through the several stages that we’ve been through in the glass industry.

Q: What are you most excited about as you begin
your first year leading Vitro Architectural Glass?
A: Everything. It’s an exciting time for us as a company and an exciting time for me. Continuing on the integration between the Vitro legacy company and the PPG legacy company and just making the most out of our synergies and compatibility is exciting. I think there are a lot of things that Vitro used to do well out of Mexico that have been transferred and continue to be transferred. There are also a lot of things that PPG did in the states that Vitro didn’t do at all so the aim was to gain some of the technology and research and development. Vitro is now very high on that and we have the expertise and capabilities. Being able to explore those capabilities in Mexico and being able to go into uncharted waters
in terms of trying to increase the usage of value-added glass in Mexico is important for us. We’re also trying to make the most of our investments in the U.S. We’ve invested a lot of money into the jumbo coater in Wichita Falls, Texas. We’re very excited about some of our new developments. I’m looking forward to seeing all the hard work we’ve put into the Acuity launch and to seeing all of the investments that we’ve
put into it coming to fruition.

Q: What will be your biggest challenge?
A: If anything concerns me it’s being able to do everything that
we set out to do and accomplish it in a timely manner with perfect execution. Being able to execute our business plan, investment projects and our strategy, that’s what drives me and focuses my energy now. We can’t control a lot of what happens in the industry. What we can prepare for is any obstacles that might come our way be it a slowdown or anything else.

Q: How will you judge your own success?
A: I’ll judge my success by being able to get the most out of this team and being able to continue building the relationship. At the end of the day, I want to know that every day we’re doing things according to plan and doing things better. Then hopefully when it’s my time to move on to a different role, or maybe retirement if I get to stay here that long, I can
hand this company over as a better company than what I
am inheriting.

Q: Will this change in leadership bring about any
major changes to the company’s direction? 

A: We’ll certainly make changes for the better and we have been making changes in the past few months. Vitro is very relationship-oriented and very customer-oriented. We’ll continue to increase that and build on what PPG had, which was a very similar culture of being customer-centric and building on relationships. The beauty of the merger between Vitro and
the PPG flat glass division was that the companies are really very complementary. We have different strengths and weaknesses and we’ve been able to combine and build on those.

Jordan Scott is the assistant editor of USGlass magazine. She can be reached at jscott@glass.com.

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