Last week, more than 8,200 attendees entered the doors of the Las Vegas Convention Center for the 2022 edition of GlassBuild America. The 146,700-square-foot show floor featured innovations and products from 386 exhibitors, both domestic and international. GlassBuild continues to attract new interest, welcoming 81 first-time exhibitors this year.
“GlassBuild 2022 has been electric, exceeding our expectations and more,” according to officials from Technical Glass Products. “We’re here in Vegas connecting with friends, new and old, along with other professionals that keep this industry innovative and exciting.”
Editors from Glass Magazine and Window + Door navigated a busy show floor to speak with exhibiting glass industry members. Here’s a few major takeaways from our conversations and observations.
1. Machines can help create interest in the glass industry
Exhibitors agreed that machinery, automation and robotic solutions continue to grow in the industry, largely due to the labor shortage. Joe Gates at Adelio Lattuada spoke to automation’s potential to increase quality and efficiency, but also its potential to attract young people to the industry. “The more we continue to improve and advance technology, the more young people we can get interested in the field in the future,” he said.
Artificial Intelligence is the next wave in machines, according to Bottero’s Fulvio Toma, as it will allow companies to correct workflow issues as they happen on the factory floor.
2. Companies help relieve labor burdens
Many conversations with exhibitors circled back to labor, the largest and seemingly permanent roadblock to growth. Exhibitors offered products that were easier to use for an unskilled and unstable workforce. Adam Smith at Door Controls USA also highlighted the company’s efforts to relieve in-house staff of the time needed to constantly train new hires.
“New hires often have no training in the industry, and the best teacher within the company is likely to be the best technician at the company, who is probably working with your best customer. That means that tech can become overloaded. That's why we try to provide as much training on our products as possible, to minimize that burden on staff," he says.
3. As supply chain woes continue, companies create a ‘safety net’ of suppliers
"The days of single sourcing are over,” says Rich Brevik of Argon Filling Systems. Delays, especially in hardware, have forced companies to think about diversifying sourcing, though ensuring quality is a challenge, he says.
Greg Koch of Deceuninck and Brandon Lawrence of Lawrence Industries, say continued supply chain difficulties are driving the creation and sourcing of components inside the U.S.
4. Security hardware is more wireless, for improved looks and function
Door and entrance hardware continues to have improved aesthetics and higher, more high-tech security options. Both Interlock and Assa Abloy displayed hardware options with streamlined looks, including the elimination of wires for Assa Abloy’s wireless card reader option.
Hardware is increasingly smart, says James Elizarraras at Access Hardware Supply, and people want options that can be operated remotely from mobile devices, or have touchless access control, a holdover from the pandemic. Assa Abloy’s Daniel Joella says companies want electronic card access, and more transparency and data about who enters buildings, and when.
5. Women in the industry, mental health, take center stage
Meanwhile, programming at GlassBuild’s Main Stage focused on issues critical to creating a healthy, stable workforce. The National Glass Association hosted a panel discussion on mental health, Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, featuring panelists from the industry as well as mental health experts.
Another session put the focus on encouraging women to join, and stay, in the glass industry. "The voices of women are very important," said Deb Callahan of the National Fenestration Rating Council, one of the panelists at the session. "Women are strong leaders and it's critically important that we share resources and information with one another. Women lead by example so please help one another by advocating, mentoring and helping to pay it forward."
6. Coming up? Big glass, and a strong 2023 for commercial industry
Glass, for commercial and residential applications, will continue to be large in size, say exhibitors. "With new codes coming into effect, we're likely to see more triple pane units and large glass, which will be heavier,” says Fleming Nielsen of SmartLift.
Conor Lokar, senior forecaster, ITR Economics, delivered a fairly sunny kenote at GlassBuild, anticipating a strong 2023 for the commercial market, though the U.S. market growth broadly will decelerate.
Current challenges may push companies to make different decisions in the near future. Max Williams of Bavelloni says it is possible the industry will see more consolidation, as well as companies continuing to optimize their business. "I'm already seeing some companies moving business locations to less costly areas, just because prices are so high,” he says.