Monday, April 22, 2019

Norah Dick The Mid-Atlantic Glass Expo, hosted by the Mid-Atlantic Glass Association, hosted a 163 exhibitors this year. Held in its usual location at Martin’s Crosswinds, in Greenbelt, Maryland, the regional show welcomed 943 attendees. Here are a few highlights from the trade show:

1)     Bohle’s Mobile Showroom

Bohle at the Mid-Atlantic Glass Expo
This year, Bohle America took its products on the road, showcasing its new mobile showroom at the Mid-Atlantic Glass Expo. The truck is equipped to show Bohle’s general hardware products, and includes a video display showcasing the company.

“It adds value to the customers,” says Connor Leahy, national sales director, Bohle. “They can touch and feel the products for themselves.”

“We’ve had a great response,” says C. Scott Welch, director of hardware products. The mobile showroom began visiting customers two weeks ago, he says.

2)     Education and training

This year, the MGA Expo also included educational presentations, hosted by Jenni Chase, content director of the National Glass Association.

MyGlassClass at the Mid-Atlantic Glass Expo

“The Mid-Atlantic Glass Association Annual Glass Expo is always a terrific event for networking and seeing advanced products and services,” says Chase. “New this year was the addition of a learning theatre, where attendees learned how to use to train employees.” The online training portal now offers over 60 courses for training new personnel in the glass industry.

“I like the new NGA education offering. It’s an innovative part of the show,” says Lauren Conners Anderson, sales representative for Conners Sales Group, who has been attending the expo for about 13 years.

3)     Networking

As usual, the show featured an atmosphere congenial to networking. For several exhibitors, the show is an opportunity to see longstanding customers. 

Evening activities at the Mid-Atlantic Glass Expo

“You see the customer base you normally can’t see at a national glass show,” says Jacob Bowser, inside sales manager, Standard Bent Glass.“This is a great networking show,” says Mike Nicklas, director, engineered glass systems, J.E. Berkowitz. “It’s a close-knit market.”

The relaxed evening also included brownies, pretzels and a few games of foosball.

Norah Dick is the assistant editor of Glass Magazine. Contact her at

Monday, April 22, 2019

Busy industry week for those on the East Coast. Both the Top Glass event in suburban Toronto and the Mid Atlantic Glass Expo in Maryland were packed and attracted a great range of glass professionals. I was lucky enough to be in Maryland and experience what the fine folks at the Mid-Atlantic Glass Association put together. A good, large layout made it easy to work the room and network. There was great representation of industry companies overall, and a pretty positive attitude towards the market though the event happened before the latest ABI came out—more on that below.

For me, the networking possibilities are the driver, and I got to meet some new people and re-connect with others. In the new category, it was great to visit with Joe Sennese of Vitro Architectural Glass. Good guy for sure, and he was working their stand with my old friend Nathan McKenna who gets congratulations on his latest promotion inside the walls at Vitro! Kudos, Nathan!

I also got a chance to talk to Trevor Elliott of Kawneer, but it was too quick—I wanted to talk longer, but he was the man in demand, being the outgoing president of the MGA and all. Hopefully during the next show we can catch up more, but I’m glad I put a face with the name. 

Meanwhile, it was an awesome trip down memory lane for me at the Trulite booth. I got to see three people that I worked with closely at various times of my professional career, but really had not seen any of them once I started Sole Source. Debbie Lamer and I go very far back, and it just was incredible to see she is the same awesome, focused force she was back in the day. I worked with her when we were both young pups in the business and I look and feel like I am 70 years old, and she looks 24. April Oakley and I worked together at Arch Aluminum and Glass—now Trulite—and she was one of my favorite customer service reps ever, as well as one of the first people to ever read this blog way back in 2005. I loved catching up with her, and the fact her skills and talents are being perfectly utilized by Trulite was a daymaker.  Last but not least. I worked with Ken Passmore when I was at Vitro and he has not changed a bit—still smart, sharp and just an all-around solid guy. It was a great thrill for me to see and visit with these three.

Of course, I am now very fired up about the next two events on my calendar: The Texas Glass Association conference, May 17, in Waco, Texas, and of course GlassBuild America in September. I can’t wait to see people and keep the networking and education going. This week just helped keep those fires burning!


  • Speaking of GlassBuild: get ready, registration opens this week! Keep an eye out for notification of the open and get registered. Even bigger: go get your hotel rooms locked down. Atlanta will be busy, so get in the hotel blocks sooner than later. This show will be off the charts, you will not want to miss it.
  • Some sad news this week on the people side. John Lang passed away. John was a fantastic sales professional in our world for years and I worked with him when he was at Arch in Kansas City. Funny guy, great sense of humor and timing. He retired from the industry a few years back and traveled the world and enjoyed himself. I am so sorry to see him go; my thoughts, prayers and condolences to John’s family and friends. 
  • Back to the industry world, I teased above that the Architectural Billings Index hit a big roadblock this month: the ABI posted its lowest score in seven years at 47.8.*

    A few things to look at. First, we knew that the crazy January score of 55.3 was a bit of an outlier, and so the lower scores are corrections for sure. The labor shortage, as we all know, already is very real and now the analysts pointed to that as a reason the index was underwater. On the good side, work and future activity is still pointing to a strong year and economic experts are waving off any thought of a recession at this juncture. We’ll keep monitoring it all, though, and see if we get a bounce back.

    *Note: the ABI has changed formulas, so the 47.1 posted in 2012 may not be an exact match to this month’s low score, but there’s no conversion chart to use otherwise.
  • On the flip side, other metrics were up in March so, again, we have a lot of data at play here and it all bears watching closely. I think those scarred by the recession happen to be more keenly interested in every data point—I am one of those for sure.
  • Last this week: you may have seen this, plans for a big floatable city that is big-time sustainable.

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 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.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Hard to believe it is more than a quarter into 2019; time flies when you’re having fun. What is more fun than to think about where we can go in the next decade, and what we have to look forward to?

Solar power
I was thinking about this while traveling across the country recently. I couldn’t help but notice how much land is occupied with solar farms, so I started counting them. A few short years ago I may have seen two to three large facilities heading out of Charlotte; this trip I counted eight large plants before reaching the Appalachian Mountains and I loved every second of it. 

Glass industry media
I’m also looking forward to the next episode of the Edify Studios Podcast, a new glass industry related podcast for the passionate glass enthusiast. If you’re like me and “The Brads,” as the hosts call themselves, you stop to inspect the glass products you’re familiar with in the world and, at times, criticize these products because they may be a reflection of an industry you, and I, are proud to be a part of. Of course, we know 99 percent of the population doesn’t even register what we see, yet we simply can’t help ourselves. We all share a fascination with glass and a passion for our industry which, clearly comes through in the first episode of the podcast. Who would have thought I’d be looking forward to downloading a glass podcast?

GlassBuild America 2019
This morning I read Max Perilstein’s blog, “From the Fabricator,” always insightful, and as usual it got me thinking. Max is right; we’re expecting this year’s GlassBuild to surpass any I’ve attended (2019 will be the 12th year for me and that is two years less than Max has been writing his blog!). As an equipment supplier we’ve been focusing on GlassBuild for at least 6 weeks, and after 2017’s Atlanta show (the hurricane we won’t name) we expect to make it count. As always, GlassBuild is packed with top vendors from across our industry. Plus, enough access to networking and educational forums to make you feel like you’re cramming for the bar exam. If you love the glass industry there is nowhere else to be that entire week. This year, GlassBuild is held in Atlanta, Sept. 17 – 19.

Glass tech
Personally, I am looking forward to seeing advances in technological glass products. I am a firm believer that future glass products will be integrated with electronics, and that glass will be thinner and stronger. Recharge your battery with Corning Incorporated’s YouTube channel if it’s running low.

It is an exciting time to be a part of these changes. Together the possibilities are limitless and like a chain, our industry is no stronger than the weakest link. Time to show what we’re capable of; where we are today is only the beginning. I look forward to seeing you around and being a part of a glass revolution. Onwards and upwards!   

Pete de Gorter is vice president of sales and marketing at DeGorter Inc. Contact him at

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.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Yet another week with lots of news bits around the industry and beyond. Let’s take a look.

  • Coming and going: two very good people made the news this week with updates on their careers. First, my old friend Marty Biskup was named sales director at Gamco in New York. Marty is a great guy, and this seems like a perfect spot for him and his energy. Though I must say, when I saw in the news piece he was listed as Martin, and the picture showed a guy without a mustache, I had to wonder if that was really him! LOL. Congrats Marty! On the flip side, Steve Morren of Walker Glass announced he’s retiring effective at year-end. I don’t know Steve that well—I have interacted with him on a few occasions and those times were really interesting and helpful for me. I do know that Steve has a reputation as one of the more brilliant architectural minds in our world, so him hanging them up will leave a hole. Congrats Steve on your retirement, enjoy the next phase of life!
  • One of the hottest subjects/exhibits at the BEC show was and this week I noticed a pretty cool pitch on LinkedIn about it: was originally created for glazing professionals. Now the curriculum has expanded to more than 60+ on-demand courses designed for fabricators, installers, sales reps, customer service reps and more.”

    Preview the free courses here. Really good stuff, and major steps for the industry.
  • The latest Dodge Momentum Index stayed steady—in fact the report said the index moved “sideways.” The analysts point to many major projects being in the late stages of work for the “sideways” quote. In any case, it stayed in positive ground and the focus on public buildings and schools for the rest of 2019 should keep it in plus territory.
  • This piece of news usually comes up a few times a year, but it’s been a while since my last mention; surging gas prices are back, and this pain at the pump is returning just in time for summer driving/busy season. What’s frustrating for me is there’s usually never any rhyme or reason for the price maneuvers, but here you have it. 
  • Last week I mentioned Chris Phillips’ incredible shower door page. This week he had me on his podcast.  A ton of fun for sure, and I really enjoyed the questions Chris asked. Thank you, Chris, for having me on! I’ll be posting a link here and on my social pages as soon it is live! (Feel free to listen on that next commute or whenever you take in podcasts.)
  • I love brands and I love lists, so how about a cool story that lists the most-loved brands? This is for 2019, and it's a fun breakdown, but, man, I have disagreements all over the place. Check it out for yourself, but never in my wildest dreams would I expect the U.S. Postal Service or Subway in the Top 20. Well worth the read.
  • Last this week; my wife often calls me a “travel snob” because I have no patience for other travelers since I am on the road a ton. (Honestly, I try to be very patient with non-travelers, I just fail a lot. LOL.) Well, this week I got my comeuppance making the ultimate rookie mistake. I left my iPad behind on the plane, safely nestled in the seatback in front of me. So. Stupid. This is one of those things I am always usually 100 percent focused on— “do I have everything” —and I check everything three times before I leave the plane. This time, I completely blew it.

It’s been a week since I did it and while the lost and found forms have been filled out, there’s been no sign of it.  I have the tracking technology on it but so far nothing has been turned back online, and there’s no sign of someone trying to get in. Who knows, maybe it’s in a bin at gigantic warehouse somewhere waiting for some awesome employee to find it, but I am not feeling too confident. This travel snob obviously doesn’t have all the skills.

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 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.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

“John. Wait, stop right there.”


“Stop right there and go back to that prior statement.”

“What statement?”

“The one where you mentioned lack of experience in the supply chain; I think it may be the biggest issue of them all as to why so many projects take longer, and require more work and energy to get completed. I don’t think you can overstate it. It’s a real issue that I deal with constantly. In fact in my view, it’s the biggest issue we face in getting these projects moved forward and completed.”

It was this conversation with my client, with whom we’ve collaborated over the last 25 years, that helped trigger more public recognition of this topic for me. It’s one that I, and we in the industry, experience frequently. It’s not an isolated discussion. It is common in the industry. The discussion started like this:

“John, what’s your experience on project work these days? It seems like everything is taking longer to get done.”

“Yes, that’s our experience as well. Projects seem to take longer and require more project management, more time and more inputs.”

“What do you think are the reasons for that from your point of view and experience?”

“Well, there are multiple reasons on any given project. But, generally, there’s more complexity in buildings, less detail in architectural drawings, more reliance on modeling, inconsistency in specifications vs. drawings —that’s always been the case—lack of experience in the design community and the decision-making supply chain …”

That’s where my client said, “STOP.” He sees the lack of experience in the supply chain as the No. 1 issue he has to confront and deal with.

And frankly, I am not sure where to go with this. I am just putting it out there. I have more questions than answers. And I have no complaints either. I’m glad to be in an expanding industry, with more required due diligence, where more professionals have entered at various stages in their career, particularly young professionals. We’ve all been there before at some point. I think collaboration from a crowd, a managed and controlled crowd, or project group, is better than the isolated solution of one person or small group. But someone has to make a decision. Someone has to be the initiator of a solution or approach, or a set of solutions; a context. This takes experience. Someone has to be able to take the lead. But that’s where it then can get challenging. Experience then often meets inexperience.

To start with, on any project, we need to ask for clear information. It’s often not initially provided. We need to get clarity on vagueness or conflicts that we find in the drawings and specifications. Sometimes this is perceived as a criticism and is not received well by the design community. Then decisions have to be made. Lack of experience enters here where the approver may not be comfortable with the decision, or may not have the breadth of the full picture in order to provide a clear and timely decision. Let’s not forget that, in the meantime, schedules need to be met. Then the GC enters and the schedule can be used like a hammer, but on the wrong nail.

On the other side of the table there’s also, at times, issues with inexperience in the subcontracting and glazing team. Their inexperience shows and gets exposed to the delegated design professional, to the AEC/AOR team or to the GC. Then there are breakdowns, and more messes can happen.

There are two aspects to any supply chain. There is the material part; the physical supply and logistics of material and goods. And then there is the decision making part; those decisions that impact everything downstream. Both are required to be managed well. If the front end decision-making breaks down or is delayed, then it impacts the tangible material supply chain, the schedule, and the closure of a building exterior.

We need to do a better job as people, as collaborators, as businesses, in working together; building trust; respecting each other’s positions of responsibility, and relationships with each other. We need to be clear, succinct and truth-telling in all circumstances. Inexperience creates challenges, but it also creates opportunity. We’ve got to find ways to better deal with and approach the issue.

John Wheaton is the founder & co-owner of Wheaton & Sprague Engineering, Inc., also known as Wheaton Sprague Building Envelope. The firm provides full service design, engineering and consulting services for the curtain wall/building envelope/building enclosure industry, and works at “Creating Structure” for clients. He can be reached at and on Twitter, @JohnLWheaton1. 

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.

Monday, April 8, 2019

For those of you who have been following this blog since its start way back in 2005, you know that one of my favorite subjects of the early years was the National Fenestration Rating Council. I spent tons of time and thousands of words on that organization and its movement, and through my writing picked up fans and detractors along the way. It truly was a time where we had massive engagement from our industry with regards to the way our products were being received and being reviewed in the marketplace. Especially considering the Council’s lack of knowledge of commercial vs. residential.

As the years went by, things calmed, movements settled, and the need to be a watchdog went away somewhat. NFRC is still out there and can still be very disruptive, but it’s not anywhere near what it was… or is it? I had to laugh when I saw a blurb online about the latest members elected to the NFRC board. I clicked the link and cracked up when I saw so many of the same exact people from 10 years ago, still in the same positions of power there, meaning the same approaches and most likely the same lack of understanding of the commercial glazing world. Now there’s at least one person on that board I have a ton of respect for, and she knows who she is, but when I saw some of the others listed, especially those who went after our industry with such rancor and disrespect, it really hit me. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Anyway, I hope the calmness will be here to stay but you never know, and we always have to be prepared for any instance coming our way.


  • I know for many people Facebook is something not to utilize anymore, but I will say if you are in the shower door world, being a part of the Shower Door Installers and Manufacturers group (search for it) is awesome. Incredible pictures and stories there. Major props to Chris Phillips of Showcase Shower Door Co. for starting it, and to all of the folks posting on it—great job!
  • Heads up marketing friends; last year we had GPDR compliance go into effect for e-mail and communication to Europe. Now we have a new wrinkle from California with the California Consumer Privacy Act. This goes into effect Jan. 1, 2020, and from all that I am reading will have a serious effect on how you market in the golden state. Here’s a quick link with some details. 
  • Congrats to my friend Tim Finley on starting his own business, T.Fin Building Solutions. He is now a full scale, high-end manufacturers rep with an absolute powerhouse of lines under his roof. Very happy for you Tim, and you will do great with this business!
  • April 17 I will get to do another first for me: a visit to the Mid-Atlantic Glass Expo. I have never gotten to attend this legendary event and hopefully I’ll even get to see people like the great Michael Albert of S. Albert Glass—one of the best people in our world. More info on this event can be found here
  • For folks in Canada and the eastern U.S.: the next edition of TopGlass in suburban Toronto is also coming up on April 17. Very good educational event and trade show. Among presentations there will be strong presentations on contractor certification and the adventures of anisotropy.
  • Last this week: full disclosure, GlassBuild America is a client of mine, and has been for years. This year I am taking on a larger role in promoting the show, so be prepared, there will be more mentions here than normal. But, also please consider coming to the show and share that message around. What is being planned for this year is very exciting on so many levels. I truly believe we will have an event to cherish because of the education, innovation, and networking along with incredible displays by the best companies in the world who will be exhibiting. This is the heads up to get ready; there is more to come! 

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 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.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Chris KammerThere are many elements to consider when running a successful glass fabrication business, so updating your software is probably the last thing on your mind. It shouldn’t be! While you may think that your software is working with you to help you manage your business, outdated software actually slows you down. So how do you know if your software is hurting instead of helping? Here are signs you may have outgrown your current software:

1. Your software company hasn’t had a recent update.

Don’t waste time and money on software that isn’t updated regularly, or worse, has never been updated. Outdated software prevents you from replacing your computers and machinery because it isn’t compatible with the latest technology. While you might think you’re saving money, you’re actually hurting your productivity. If you can’t replace your outdated technology because your current software won’t run on something faster and more modern, it’s time to move on.

2. You’re upgrading your production equipment.

Are you planning to add a new cutting machine to speed up production time? Make sure your old software will integrate with the new equipment. If not, it’s time to upgrade. With Industry 4.0, it’s imperative that your machines and software integrate seamlessly to help you keep up with your growing demand.

3. You’re looking to generate more demand.

Your business is growing and your software is falling short. Entering large or complicated orders seems nearly impossible because your software system was built for a small company with limited capabilities. You need more flexibility for complex or rush orders that your current software can’t accommodate. Your software is slowing you down and you need a solution that streamlines and optimizes your production—from ideation to delivery—to fill orders as quickly and efficiently as possible, so you can keep growing.

4. The competition has upgraded.

If there is one surefire sign that it's time upgrade your software, it's this one. If the competition is throwing out their old enterprise resource planning system, you could be falling behind. You need to keep up with the latest technology in order to maintain your competitive advantage. While you may not be quite ready to fully automate your factory floor, investing in the right software now will build the foundation for future growth.

5. You’re opening a new facility.

This one is self-explanatory. You’re branching out and opening another site to accommodate higher volume and customers in more areas. However, your current software won’t support a multi-site operation. You need a glass fabrication software solution that will support multiple facilities.

These five signs are a guide to help you make the best decision for the future growth of your glass fabrication factory. If you’re having any or all of these issues with your current glass fabrication software, it’s time to start looking for a better software solution.

Chris Kammer is the marketing lead for A+W Software North America. A+W Software provides software solutions for flat glass business of any size with any production environment. Its glass software is the intelligent backbone of your business. The company also supplies a full-integrated software solution for window, door, and roller shutter manufacturing, where all commercial and technical processes are under your control. Kammer can be reached at and 1.847.220.5237.

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.

Monday, April 1, 2019

The news of a major retirement in our industry has been floating out there for several weeks now. I had heard that Glenn Miner of Vitro was hanging them up back in January. It initially did not connect for me; after all Glenn is blessed with youthful looks and personality so I couldn’t even fathom retirement talk attached to him. It was true, however. He told me himself, and I had the obvious emotions. First and foremost, I was so happy for Glenn and his family. Happy that he’ll get out of the industry and now do all of those things he’s wanted to do.

Next, though, was sadness because he is such a good man and such a major part of our world. Glenn is, in my opinion, one of the most well-rounded folks in our world with regard to knowing so much about every product line that went into a building and understanding its value and place. No tunnel vision there at all. In addition to his great knowledge, Glenn’s desire to push for advanced education at all levels of our world is something that I hope gets carried on at Vitro. I am confident it will, but more than that—Glenn always made time to catch up with whomever crossed his path. For me personally, he always cleared some time to chat—though he would skillfully push off any of my video requests to the great Joann Funyak—and I will always be grateful. We as an industry will miss Glenn a ton and his impact will not be forgotten. Go enjoy the heck out of that next phase of life Mr. Miner—you have absolutely earned it! 


  • As I noted last week, this week the industry had two events happening at the same time. I was at the Glass Processing and Automation Days in San Antonio and it was an excellent event. Ron Crowl and the awesome Fenetech team did everything first class and the education there was off the charts. The technology and innovation that is out there on the fabrication side is mind blowing to me. Over the course of GPAD, I saw so many pieces of machinery and software that fundamentally would change the way we all work. Very exciting stuff.
  • In addition to the education side of it, the networking was top notch and a great chance to catch up with some of the great technical and business minds in our industry. Plus, because of the operational nature of it I met a ton of new people from across our world. That was a really cool expansion of the network! It really was like a BEC for the fabricator and it’s a conference I don’t plan on ever missing again.

Staying in Texas for three more items—I do love the great state of Texas, by the way:

  • First, it was great to spend some time in San Antonio before the GPAD Conference kicked off. Getting to visit with my old friends, the Lunas of Champion Glass, was awesome. I am such a huge fan of David, Ray, Joe, and Davey Luna—they are just awesome people and I am honored to be a friend. They are class acts, and great for our industry. In addition, I got to see some old friends I had not seen in forever—David Shaw and Rod Pistokcha of Complete Line Glass. Both guys are simply tremendous and their hospitality towards me and the team from NGA, in town for the event, was nothing short of spectacular. It was great to catch up with them both and I was very impressed with what they are doing with the Complete Line plant and brand. 
  • Second, it’s been recently finalized that I will once again be speaking in Texas at the Texas Glass Association’s TGA Glass Conference II. The conference is May 17 in Waco and I’ll be giving a piece on the state of our industry. So please, my Texas friends, I would love to see you at this event. The agenda is fabulous, and you can view it and sign up here. Oh, and the picture they used for me is no doubt old—but it’s nice to remember that once upon a time I had hair and could actually fit into clothes that weren’t marked “tent size.”
  • Third: Texas Tech! Congrats to the fans of the Red Raiders—my pal David Shaw, mentioned above, and especially Bowie Neumayer of Cardinal. He is a gigantic fan and no doubt will be floating all week until the Final Four begins Saturday!
  • Reading wise: This piece on lessons learned from past hurricanes and ideas for new hurricane builds; am I crazy or did it leave out or skip over hurricane glazing? Maybe I missed it as, thanks to Twitter, my reading comprehension is not great, but I didn’t see it. Hurricane glazing is an incredible product area—the aluminum and glass are superstars in a field that is still trying to catch up.
  • Last this week: I am so far behind in my sports, I missed the start of baseball season and I know you all need my prediction on who’s going to win it. Here goes; it’s the Yankees to win it over the Braves in the series. Congrats to every other city but New York and Atlanta—you have a chance now.

Links 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 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.

Monday, April 1, 2019

“Once you’re in you can’t get out.”

That was the most common theme I heard at the networking event the evening before Glass Processing Automation Days began last week in San Antonio. As a relative newcomer to the industry, this was my first major foray into the glass world. And what an entrance to this industry GPAD was.

The 20 presentations throughout the two-day-long event all focused on automation and Industry 4.0, which encompasses digitalization, automation, connectivity and analytics. Although I’ve spent plenty of time writing about automation in construction in a previous job, the automation on the manufacturing floor was among the most advanced I’ve seen in the construction world. Most presentations included videos and renderings of shop floor robots, which I found to be most useful to gain a basic understanding of the processes and machines involved in making glass.

Many presenters touted automation’s benefits, including the need for fewer people (some robots could eliminate up to six positions per shift), increased safety (robots can perform dangerous tasks), and the elimination of human error and increased job satisfaction among human workers (robots don’t mind doing boring and repetitive tasks). Robots also don’t require benefits, paid time off, breaks, vacations, insurance premiums or other costs associated with hiring individuals.

Quality control is another important aspect where automation can help, according to Nate Huffman with Softsolution North America Inc. Objective quality control in today’s environment is especially important, he says, because of the pressure to produce high quality product, pressure to keep prices down, a lack of experienced people and demand for flexibility. 

But automation doesn’t just happen, says Kimmo Kuusela with Glaston. Rather, it’s a result of systematic development steps. He outlined the five steps he sees to achieve total automation, with the first step being the operator continually exercising longitudinal and latitudinal control all the way through the fifth and final step of the system being able to cope with all situations without requiring an operator. Kuusela said we’re in the fourth phase of full automation now, in which automation is a huge player, but can’t quite yet do it all. “The result of full automation can create and change the entire business logic of your company,” he said. “Real-time data already changes the business logic.” Kuusela aims to have a fully automated tempering line by 2020, but acquiesced it is an “ambitious” goal and may not happen until 2021.

Beneficial as robots are, they aren’t a panacea to the productivity and labor problems plaguing the industry. Several people I spoke with mentioned these machines are sometimes cost prohibitive. Others told me how they can introduce a whole new labor issue. “Automation will help but then you need really good operators,” one attendee told me during lunch. “One bad operator can take you down.”

Nicola Lattuada of Adelio Lattuada also reminded us that only humans can improve processes, which is why they should always remain the focus. Lattuada also quoted Tesla that “automation is good as long as you know where to put the machine.” Even though fewer human workers may be required as automation gains more ground, the skills and analytical abilities of humans will be even more important.

I’d be remiss, of course, to not mention all the fun the glass industry has, with even competitor companies, sharing a beverage and a laugh. The Wednesday evening social event was true Texas fashion and complete with a wealth of Tex-Mex cuisine, armadillo racing and a couple longhorn cattle to sit atop.

 The FeneTech and National Glass Association teams. 

Ron Crowl, president and CEO of FeneTech, and his team did a great job organizing this event. The conference ended with Nicole Harris, National Glass Association president and CEO, and Crowl discussing GPAD’s future. NGA, of which Glass Magazine is the official publication, will assume responsibility for the conference in subsequent years.

My first GPAD is in the books and, with it, my inaugural event in the glass industry. I’m in it now, and from what I was repeatedly told, I’m in it for good. It’s a fascinating place to be.

Laurie Cowin is senior editor of Window & Door, Glass Magazine's sister publication. Contact her at

Monday, March 25, 2019

Kai Knuutila headshotPutting digitalization into practice in the glass processing industry has taken some time. But now the momentum has picked up and the number of users is accelerating rapidly. Why is this?

Glaston has helped fuel the demand for greater digitalization by educating customers about the benefits, demonstrating real progress along their digital strategy roadmap – and adding more customers and their data to the cloud to accelerate the entire movement.

We spent the majority of 2018 building our confidence by implementing ideas and collecting data to bring the benefits of digitalization that other industries are starting to enjoy to the glass processing industry. Now, we can look back and see our progress. We’re actually even further than we initially aimed. Our online reports have improved, and we’re really proud now to present them to customers and to the entire industry. Our work has led to a lot of information that now offers value.

Reaching the first milestones

By the end of 2018 and according to plan, Glaston successfully reached several of its big milestones: over 100 tempering and laminating lines are now cloud-connected, and data from 1 million loads has now been recorded.

But what do all these figures mean in practice?

These processors understand that by connecting their information, they can learn and improve their operating processes. They know they can fully trust the data so that everyone connected benefits. For them, the more they’re tapped into the cloud, the more they can learn about running their equipment smarter, finding ways to raise productivity and discovering ways to improve their quality. In short, making better business decisions that lead to greater profitability.

For machinery suppliers, like Glaston, the information gathered helps us offer new services based on data analytics.

We can see, for example, how our machinery is used, how various glass thicknesses are tempered and laminated – and learn more about the types of glass being run and their parameters. This helps us improve our own service offering to support our customers in reaching higher capacities and better quality.

Real progress with AI

Another development along our digitalization roadmap is to take artificial intelligence to the next level, which means enabling tempering and laminating machinery to become fully autonomous. Glaston is currently working intensively on adding machine learning and vision to its technology.

As part of this, we’ve implemented augmented reality and virtual reality to help our own people and our customers with training and maintenance tasks. Our new support room concept using AR was showcased for the first time at Glasstec last fall – and by the coming GPD Finland this summer, we’re pleased to be able to show everyone more.

For operators, too, digitalization will make their jobs much easier and less stressful. Still, even with fully autonomous machines, we will always need humans to take care of the machines, develop the processes and explore new types of glass for their markets. We won’t be operating without humans for many years to come, if ever. We need people to ask the questions – and partner with AI to create the world we’d like to envision.

Originally published on Glastory

Kai Knuutila is Digitalization Manager at Glaston Corp.

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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