It's a very packed blog this week, but before I get to the news portion, I want to remember a great man who passed over the holidays. Lowell Rager, formerly of Libbey-Owens-Ford and best known from his days at Ford and Visteon Glass, passed away at the end of last month. Lowell was absolutely one of the nicest and classiest gentlemen in our industry. A technical icon, he knew everything and what he did not know he learned with great ferocity. He was, among many other things, the guy behind educating the industry on the turtle code. The code was so bizarre that many could not believe it, but Lowell knew everything there was to know about it and the glass that was needed to save turtles and other marine life. Lowell carried himself with style, always dressed nicely, with a smile and solid handshake.
One of the last times I saw him was a mid-summer day in Detroit, at a jobsite that had the always fun “quench marks” on the glass. Lowell deftly explained and handled the issue better than anyone I have ever known. He did this all while not breaking a sweat—wearing a suit and tie—in the searing Michigan humidity. Cool and in control. No one else could pull that off. Whenever I would compliment Lowell in my blog or in person, he would tell me I was “much too kind.” Well, I can say he deserved every compliment and then some. The world and our industry is not as good today and in the future without Lowell. Rest in peace, my friend.
- No doubt the fall out from the Trulite-AGC deal dominated the industry last week. The biggest surprise was the immediate closure of some of the acquired facilities. I had totally misread that. Maybe I am naïve or just plain clueless (don't answer that!), but I did not expect facilities to close so fast. I figured some would, just not on day one. Probably the only silver lining is the fact that those who are losing their jobs should be in major demand since qualified employees are very hard to find in our industry. Still sad. And now the watch begins to see how the rest of the industry reacts to markets being consolidated.
- Also there was a tremendous comment (and my attempt at a reply) posted on my blog on the Glass Magazine site that talked about how the industry has changed. Great take; worth reading and considering.
- Last week I recapped my 2014 predictions. Now it's time for my five fearless predictions for the glass and glazing industry for 2015.
- Instead of one big acquisition in our industry, I am predicting several smaller ones, maybe along the lines of five or six this year. I do think one sale will be a company who no one expected would sell.
- The “bird safe” revolution for glass will grow with more and more architects starting to ask for it.
- With North America now loaded with more digital printers for glass than ever, 2015 will be the year where their usage in several industry segments takes off.
- At least two major companies will return to participate heavily in GlassBuild America this fall. With the show being a premier attraction, some companies who have skipped will realize they can’t miss it again.
- The glass shortage will have an effect but the transportation issues will be even worse—items that the industry will have to be very creative and proactive to deal with.
- Speaking of transportation issues, this is another angle on what we are up against, from the Detroit Free Press on January 4th:
For example, a nationwide shortage of truck drivers recently forced Ann Arbor Township-based shipping company Con-way Freight to launch its own driver school. The firm provides 12 weeks of training at no cost for prospective drivers, who spend half of that time earning compensation for dock work until they receive their certification.
Con-way expects to train and hire 50 Michigan-based truck drivers in 2015 — all of whom return to their homes at night, unlike long-haul drivers — and about 1,600 nationwide. The company gave a "significant" raise to its current drivers in June and plans to deliver another one in January, said Con-way Freight President Greg Lehmkuhl.
"More than anything else in the next few years, it's a war for qualified and safe drivers," Lehmkuhl said. "The whole industry is raising wages to attract people into the driving profession."
So glass haulers, already short on qualified people, now have to take on nimble companies looking to control the game themselves. Not to mention, fabricators who need to hire or keep drivers face the same pressures. This is a tough one, folks.
- Last this week, a crazy one. I am pretty much a protectionist when it comes to North America, so what to do when the United States and Canada get in a fight over building material supply? This is a bizarre story involving steel: who makes it and where it goes. Reading it makes me feel like a kid between divorcing parents. Make sure you scan some of the comments, too; some wild takes there. Let’s hope diplomacy, compromise and logic take hold here instead of backbiting.
The author is founder of Sole Source Consultants, a consulting firm for the building products industry that specializes in marketing, branding, communication strategy and overall reputation management, as well as website and social media, and codes and specifications. E-mail him at MaxP@SoleSourceConsultants.com.
The opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Glass Association, Glass Magazine editors, or other glassblog contributors.