China ranks third

Among exhibitors after Germans and Italians

The number of Chinese exhibitors at Glasstec 2004 in Düsseldorf, Germany, reached 42, more than double than the country’s representation at Glasstec 2002. The doubling trend continued at Glasstec 2006 that saw 97 exhibitors from China, the second highest contingent of non-German exhibitors at the show, topped only by Italy’s 198 exhibitors.

Mike Willard, executive vice president of Salem Distributing Co. of Winston-Salem, N.C., noticed the rise. He also observed an improvement in quality among that growing number of Chinese companies.

"Year after year, you see improvements. … Some equipment suppliers are really starting to get it right, but others still have a long way to go,” Willard says. "Eventually Chinese manufacturers will be able to produce high quality, and it will affect equipment makers across the board."

Glasstech Inc., a glass bending and tempering technology, vies for market share against the increasing Chinese competition through its own technology development, says Jay Molter, vice president of marketing and sales for the Perrysburg, Ohio, company.

Even if Chinese companies are able to sufficiently improve quality and technology, Molter says Glasstech’s strong customer service sets the company apart. The growth in Chinese competition “has taken some of the market away,” Molter says. “But we’re not going to compete on price against some Chinese equipment manufacturers, so we spend a lot of time developing our technology and dedicating ourselves to good customer service.”

Finland’s equipment manufacturer Kyro Corp. also is taking an active approach to deal with the growing contingent of Chinese competition, but by establishing its own locations in the country. Kryo is the parent company of Glaston Technologies Group that includes Tamglass, also of Finland, and Z. Bavelloni of Italy.

“We’re addressing [the issue] by being in China. Just watching doesn’t get you anything,” said Mika Seitovirta, who takes over as president and chief executive officer of the company at the start of 2007. “We want to act, and we can see very clearly that we need to establish a presence there. We have done that, and we have a Tamglass plant there,” Seitovirta said during an exclusive interview with Glass Magazine at Glasstec.

Growing Chinese competition extends to all parts of the industry, says Philip Collin, president of Allmetal Inc., a producer of spacers and components for insulating glass in Itasca, Ill. Like Kyro, Allmetal is also working to develop a presence in China in the face of growing competition.

Collin says Chinese manufacturers of insulating glass units and of IG components are also striving to improve quality, and Allmetal will be able to better serve that demand by serving that market. "Many of these companies know the oftentimes negative assumptions about their products, and they want to change that," Collin says.

One segment of the glass industry in China that has not seen continued growth throughout the last year is the float manufacturing sector, according to Egbert Wenninger, glass engineering sales manager at Germany’s Grenzebach Group.

“After the extreme boom in 2003 and 2004, China is now experiencing a clear cooling-off period, as its growth in float glass is receding to a normal level,” Wenninger says. He attributes this correction in production to a June report from the Chinese National Development and Reform Commission that warned about the detrimental effects of overproduction from the country’s glass manufacturers.

Chinese glassmakers produce about a third of the world’s flat glass, Wenninger says.