Ebeid: Prepare for a new glass industry

Katy Devlin
February 17, 2009
COMMERCIAL, RETAIL, AUTO, FABRICATION : MEETINGS AND EVENTS

The glass industry as we know it will be no more in just a few years, Russell J. Ebeid, president, Glass Group, Guardian Industries Corp., Auburn Hills, Mich., told a group of more than 500, Feb. 16,  during the Building Envelope Contractors Conference in Las Vegas.

In the very near future, a global player will emerge from the quickly consolidating and improving Chinese glass industry, three or four well-established glassmakers will depart the market and regional players will be acquired.

“In our own back yard, the North American glassmakers are in turmoil with the permanent closing of 20 percent of their facilities plus another 10 percent down for repair and an indefinite startup,” Ebeid said. “Over 50 percent of North America’s current float lines, and nearly 65 percent of the automotive capacity has recently, or likely will in the near future, change ownership.”

Additionally, the industry will see a “second generation phenomenon” as younger professionals will become leaders in successful companies. Ebeid used the example of a customer in the United Arab Emirates. “While I talked to the founder [of the company] about inventory and delivery times, the newly minted MBA from Purdue talked about investments, technology and value added propositions,” he said. “Entrepreneurs who have built their business over past decades now are faced with handing it off to a new generation without losing the company culture.”

In the midst of the current economic crisis, companies that focus on technology and anticipate future trends and demands will not only survive, but succeed. “Companies in this room that are driven to be the best, focus on core of their business model, and the future—those that are bold are opening doors. Those that are inventive, succeed. Those that wait for a return to the past like old soldiers, just fade away,” Ebeid said.

Companies that merely restructure will fail. The market downturn serves as a great opportunity for companies poised to take it. There will be opportunities for mergers and acquisitions, and to recruit talented individuals that would be unavailable during better times, Ebeid said.

Read Ebeid’s take on the industry’s role in green in next week’s e-glass weekly.