Publisher's Notes: Top 10 Jolts in the glass industry (so far)
The jolts take many forms, from the general to the specific, and from the small shock waves that promise to become tsunami-big. Unlike David Letterman's list, mine is no laughing matter, but depending on your perspective, there is an upside.
These jolts are inter-related as short- and long-term causes take effect. "We expect the residential housing marketing and the economy in general to continue to be depressed for some time," wrote Brad Kitterman in his April letter to AGC customers explaining why the company was closing three facilities and looking to divest their fabrication business. Kitterman is president and CEO of AGC Flat Glass North America in Alpharetta, Ga.By most accounts, we're still in that "some time."
I didn't list it, but there's talk of a slow-down in the commercial market; no surprise to industry veterans who have experienced previous business cycles. An East Coast glazier e-mailed, "commercial work has dropped off for us big time. Lots of bidding, but no one is pulling the trigger yet."Another subscriber's e-mail confirmed my September column's description (Page 10) about changes in China's glass exporting but from the North American perspective. He added that aged receivables continue to squeeze as demand for payment in 30 days intensifies-the subject of September's Trends & Analysis article (Page 14). I'm sure he's not alone.
You've seen our e-glass weekly and GlassMagazine.com coverage of the glass price increases of various ranges; PPG's 13 percent, AGC's 12 percent, Pilkington's 10 percent and Guardian's 7 percent. Pilkington added a jolt to a jolt when it postponed its increase to later this month after PPG's Texas plant closure, which at press time was coming back online.Does anyone remember a time of such variation in glass price increases?
One thing is understood: The law of supply and demand-fewer domestic float tanks producing glass, prices up for imported glass-holds true.
Of course, economic downturns can also bring new opportunities, such as foreclosure sales like the $400,000 Stockton, Calif., house selling at auction for $25,000. Caveat: The inside looks like it barely survived a dry hurricane. Appliances ripped out, floors, walls and ceilings torn up, it was stripped clean of all copper piping (back to those commodity price pressures). But if you know how to drywall...For a global company like Belron of Columbus, Ohio, North America is a buyer's market and a stage for its strategic expansion goals. Auto glass is also part of AGC's strategic focus. Kitterman described how the company is reorganizing into three areas: building products, solar glass and automotive glass. The question is, how long will it be written in this order?
Solar energy is this year's headliner at glasstec, the biggest glass trade show in the world. Every two years, organizers choose a technological theme that underscores the continued potential of glass. You can soak in the abundant potential of energy-efficient glass products, applications and future technologies Oct. 21-25 in Dusseldorf, Germany.
While there was general agreement when I sent my Top 10 list to a few industry friends, additions and sub-categories were abundant enough to make a Top 15 list, maybe even a Top 20. Many of these suggestions relate to No. 10, the subject of this month's Trends & Analysis on Page 14. Meanwhile, another quarter is ahead with potential for new jolts. Please e-mail or call me with your Top 10 now or any time before Jan. 1. Better yet, describe how you're dealing with the jolts so we can share your solutions in this magazine. It's what we're all about, after all.
1. The decline of the housing market
2. The corresponding credit crunch
3. The rise of energy costs
4. The tapering of China's influence
5. AGC's float and coating plant closures; intent to sell fabrication business by year-end
6. PPG's force majeure notice; sale of its automotive OEM and replacement glass services businesses
7. Retail auto glass consolidations such as Belron's purchase of Diamond Glass and Cindy Rowe Auto Glass
8. Glass, metal and other price increases
9. The specter of a glass shortage?
10. The promise of "green" or sustainable glass products and building design
Nicole Harris, publiser
703/442-4890, ext. 172