Vitro Vidrio Plano president offers tips to the industry
During the BEC Conference in Las Vegas, March 28, Hugo Lara, president, Vitro Vidrio Plano S.A De C.V., Mexico, presented some opportunities for the glass industry in the midst of the current tough market. The North American market is overcapacity by eight float tanks, even after the plant closures of recent years. The construction market is not likely to return to the peak demands of 2006 and 2007, Lara said, and the industry needs to look for new opportunities. These include:
- Brazil. South America demands 2 million tons of flat glass annually, with Brazil using 50 percent. “The Brazilian [construction] market has been consistently growing since 2004, and will continue to grow. With the Olympics coming in 2016, Brazil will be building for the world,” Lara said. “We’ll see this through 2014.” Lara added that the number of cars is also growing in Brazil, providing opportunities for the automotive side of the glass market.
- Logistics and supply chain. “The industry needs to find ways to ship glass cheaper, more efficiently,” Lara said. “The racks, A-frames. All the things we need to transport glass, are very expensive.”
- Solar. “The only way we will see all that capacity up and running is if we have a big impact in solar,” Lara said.
- Value-added products. Glass companies need to sell their value-added products for buildings in and out of the United States. The export market offers a “huge opportunity” for many value-added glass products that are commonplace in the United States, Lara said. “All the glazing in Mexico is monolithic—all the houses and apartments have monolithic glass. … What is the right product for us [in the United States] might be the right product for other customers around the world,” he said.
- Material substitutions. Glass can be used as a substitute for other building materials in and out of a building. “Work with architects and engineers to show how glass is a building material that can replace other materials,” Lara said. “Shower doors are glass. Interiors are glass."
In order to maximize these opportunities, glass companies should dedicate time to training architects and contract glaziers. “We offer training to architects and designers directly in the universities. … We need to show people what glass can do. Teach people how to use glass,” Lara said. Contract glaziers should know the uses of value-added glass and provide solutions to the customer. “Glaziers should be able to provide solutions for noise, air, light,” Lara said.
The entire supply chain—flat glass manufacturer, fabricator, glazier—should work together to find solutions, Lara said. “We, as a whole supply chain, can work together to offer customers an integrated solution.”