From the Fabricator: glasstec Recap

Settle in folks; this is going to be a long one. Lots to cover!

Last week was my third glasstec, and by far it was the most impressive and intense. It is amazing how much has changed in four years. The biggest takeaway for me was the available automation options for fabrication plants. The advancement in this area was striking. I am not only talking about the robots or the automated forklifts, but also the technology and intuitiveness behind them. With virtually every piece of automated equipment I saw, it came with a backend intelligence plan that keeps the user alerted on everything from its production performance to its health. Being old school myself—and I know many others had this thought too—the fear is if you automate too much and equipment goes down, you are in trouble. But the backend intelligence is a huge guard against that worry and the detail it provides is nothing short of amazing.

I was able to see the way it worked with FeneTech at the Bystronic booth and at Grenzebach, and I simply was blown away at the visibility these machines and software provide. (Many other software and machinery companies offered this as well; I just did not get to see them like I did these.) The future is here with regards to plant automation, and when you add in the advancements in the machinery itself, this really bodes well for our industry. Higher quality products are something we all strive for, and it’s nice to see the efforts there on all levels to get us further on this path. 

Other big takeaways:

  • Forecast: There is positivity about the economics of our industry, but there’s no doubt worry about a slowing. It’s something to continue to monitor.

  • Railings and Balustrades: I have never seen so many styles and choices. I knew this was a busy business segment but was not aware how much so globally.

  • Go Big or Go Home: Two years ago, the theme was jumbo and oversize, and this year just continued that trend by showing large glass in different fabrication styles including amazing bent, decorative, etched, painted and laminated options. We may only be touching the surface in North America with oversize, but there is no doubt the rest of the world is full speed ahead.

  • Vacuum Insulating Glass: This product appeared in more stands than I have ever seen before and the push to grow its commercial footprint is significant.

  • Dynamic Glass: The advancements for dynamic glass continue. Sage had a very impressive stand and launched Harmony, its latest groundbreaking product. Relative newcomer Halio was in the courtyard of the halls, showing faster transition time and a product that could be easily used inside. Pleotint/Suntuitive had its product all over the floor thanks to several international partners pushing it and showing the way a thermochromic approach can work. Eyrise was also a new one to me. The company had an incredible setup in the Glass Technology Live area showing a skylight in action with its product. 

  • Smart Glass: I am estimating maybe 25 companies (probably more) were showing one form of a switchable interior glass or rear projection material. I know there are a lot of folks who make this product, and I think most were on the floor at glasstec.

  • Safety gear/clothing: This product market is moving toward lightweight and safe, something the folks in our plants and jobsites will go crazy for.

  • Technology: The technology area was the best I have ever seen with interesting concepts. This is similar to the auto shows in the United States that show futuristic visions of vehicles, and this year at glasstec we had that with architectural glass. Craziest one for me was a solar piece that used algae to generate electricity. But other items in this area included great advancements on structural glazing, curtain wall material, thin glass usage, laminated stacking and hardware. 

To see a lot of what I mentioned, check out the twitter feeds of Glass Magazine and Glass Nation, along with coverage from GlassMagazine.com. Videos from the show are also up, including my video of the week. And if anyone is curious on anything specific, please reach out to me; glad to chat with you about it.

Elsewhere (but still glasstec)…

  • Guardian Glass had a marvelous stand that showed a wide range of products and innovation, both in concept and also ready to go. Of course, the team there could not be any nicer to me. Getting to see the one, the only, the great Amy Hennes is easily the highlight. She is always going full speed, so the fact I get a couple seconds with her is an honor. I love talking with Chris Dolan; we’ve been through a few of these now and it’s always great to hear his insights and opinions. Folks like Matt Hill (who I have seen a bunch in my life but never in the States for some reason), Joe Butler, Samer Abughazaleh and Sarah Wansack are incredibly classy and cool. Thank you all for the amazing hospitality you always show me.

  • At every glasstec I have visited with Bernard and Linda Lax from Pulp Studio, and it’s nothing short of awesome. Plus, this year, old pal Kirk Johnson was with them, and that made it even better. Also seemingly a glasstec visit tradition is seeing Thomas Martini of Vitrum and his talented crew. Tara Brummet was at the show for the first time, and it was great to chat with her on her experiences, and seeing Adam Byrne and Tyler Boult again was enjoyable. I spent some time in the very innovative Schott booth and got to see Rob Botman and Jordan Richards from Glassopolis while there and catch up with Dan Poling as well. Such cool folks, and I’m humbled to get to spend time with them. Speaking of Schott, they win the “great call by the marketing head” award as they were told their dress for the show would include jeans and tennis shoes. Folks, there is basically no carpet anywhere in the halls at glasstec, and the show runs from 9 to 6 daily. Dressing your team casual/comfortable was the call of the year! 

  • The Tristar Glass team was there, and I will never pass a chance to talk with Greg Oehlers. I also met his fabulous wife. Greg is an industry great and with more knowledge about glass in his pinky than I’ll ever have the rest of my life. My friend Mike Synon of HHH was there and smiling despite his beloved Brewers not making the World Series (probably for the best that he missed game seven of their series with LA while flying to the show). I just stepped back and watched Max Hals and Ian Patlin of Paragon Architectural work a portion of the floor and was in awe. Those two guys know everyone. They don’t need an exhibit; everyone came to them.

  • Wrapping up, I enjoyed seeing Mark Seaton and Glenn Davis from Vitro, but I think it was obvious (as it should be) that they would’ve preferred to see my brother Steve versus me. (Most would; that is the better choice.) Still, was nice to see them and also see Ricardo Maiz for the first time in several years. Great man he is. I did not get to see Michael Spellman like I usually do and that was too bad. But, I know he had several IGE partner companies on the floor, so I think every time I went to Forvet to see him he was at Landglass or Tecglass, etc. But I did see Manny Borda from IGE, and that’s always an absolute pleasure.

I probably missed a bunch, and if so I’ll hit it on my next post. Overall though, it was a positive experience, and I sincerely hope to make it back in 2020.

Read on for links and video of the week…

Max Perilstein 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.

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