Welcome to the New World of Glass

My first major assignment when I joined Glass Magazine as an intern in 2004 was to provide research assistance for The World of Glass—a detailed database of float glass plants operating worldwide, which was eventually published as a map and chart in the August 2005 issue. For me, this proved to be a challenging, fascinating, and at times inspiring introduction to the complex and multifaceted glass industry.

That 2005 World of Glass feature, began, “The furnaces burn day and night to form fiery pools of melted sand that transform into flat ribbons of glass as they float down long beds of molten tin.” It’s from this fiery origin that we get every window, mirror, windshield, glass shower door. And as such, any shift at the primary glass level reverberates throughout the entire industry.

During my 10 years at Glass Magazine, our industry has been rocked by a global recession, transformed by an accelerating green building movement, and altered by a growth explosion in emerging markets. So, it was with great interest that I returned to the state of the global primary glass market in the January/February issue.

I was struck, first and foremost, by the extent of the damage the float glass industry has suffered due to the extended market downturn. It is no surprise that plants were shuttered, and lines put on hold. However, the extent of the capacity reductions—estimated at 25 percent in North America alone—was startling.

Also impressive was the extensive investment in emerging markets throughout the course of the downturn. While North American and European plants were closing, lines in Brazil, Russia, India and China were coming online.

In the in-depth feature, “Brave New World of Glass,” we present these major changes at the primary level, along with profiles of the leading global players. The market shifts will trickle down to every player in the industry, and businesses need to be ready and aware. But as Scott Thomsen, the former president of Guardian’s Glass Group, says in the article, “after experiencing prolonged economic downturns in North America and Europe, there are no challenges, only opportunities.”

Welcome to the new World of Glass.

Devlin is editor of Glass Magazine. Write her at kdevlin@glass.org.

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