On the Road with USGlass

New Trends at Glasstec

Rider Glass of China

Glasstec 2010 is winding down in Dusseldorf today and there are a smattering of new products and processes to discuss. But, just for today, let’s look at some of the things that have changed about the fair itself. My top ten:

1. China has arrived. It’s been interesting to watch the ever-advancing style of many of the Chinese companies that exhibit in glasstec. As the quality of the products has advanced, so has their marketing sophistication. The booth that the Chinese company Rider Glass displayed could just as easily have represented a company headquartered in Alabama or anywhere else in North America.

2. Machinery Madness. There’s a great shake-up going on among companies that manufacture machinery for the manufacture of primary glass. The major European powers that long dominated this market niche today are being challenged by companies from China (see above), Eastern Europe and elsewhere. And those traditional manufacturers are feeling the pinch. New companies such as Neptun (a company involving the glass industry’s Stefano Bavelloni) also are emerging to increase competition in the fabrication equipment field.

3. Where have all the truckstops gone? Dusseldorf Messe is actually a series of 17 buildings that form a horseshoe around a center group of buildings. Glasstec occupies nine of the 17 halls. Usually the center “courtyard” is awash in outdoor displays, truck carriers and haulers. But not this year, as only one glass truck— (with a totally removable top) was displayed.

4. Fewer crafts, more dog day afternoons. The first hall usually has a large contingent of what I would call artisans and crafters. This year, I saw only one glass blower. The crafters have been replaced by some incredible glass art pieces that can take your breath away. And for the first time this year, I saw a number of canine attendees leading their masters. Fair organizers say the animals are permitted.

6. And the winner is … no one. Usually the attendees from one country or region of the world attend in such force that they dominate the pool of participants. Past winners include China, the Middle East, Brazil, even North America. But not this year—no one country or region emerged as a clear winner, although from what we saw in our stand, I think Russia has an edge.

7. Make it four or five, but don’t last until six. Over the years, glasstec has gone from being a four-day to a five-day show. Because 2010 is a crowded year for the Messe in which some every-four-year shows are held, glasstec 2010 is back to four days. Most exhibitors to whom I spoke liked the four-day rotation better but bemoaned the long show hours (9 a.m. – 6 p.m. each day), especially late into Friday.

8. Oh, the irony. Marshall Stephens, our extraordinary video producer, attended his first glasstec with us. He noticed a few items that struck him as unique, shall we say. What’s a video producer to do? Create an online slide show of them. Thanks, Marshall!

9. Solar—yes or no? The success of the whole solarpeq concept led to a variety of different views which, due to length, I’ll cover in my next post.

10. How are we—really? As visitors exchanged reality checks about the economy with each other, the general consensus was “not good, but not getting worse”—which is good. I wouldn’t exactly say that a spirit of optimism prevailed, but the feelings of extreme pessimism seemed to have dissipated.