Glasstec was a great show—and now that it’s over, I’ve had a little time to reflect. So if you’ll forgive me for my jetlagged pontifications, I’d like to share my top five take-aways from this year’s event. Here goes:
1. Thin Is In—and Out. I wrote a full story on this one on Friday, as it was the top story to emerge from this year’s event.
2. You’ve Got to Move It, Move It—the second most pronounced theme was the advancements being made in glass handling equipment and machinery. The robotics we glimpsed at at glasstec in 2010 and 2012 have now gone mainstream, and just about every handling equipment provider offers at least one model. Not only are these handling machines robotic, they are super-efficient in their own right. And as more and more fabricators and contract glaziers purchase them, those who do not will be at a distinct efficiency and cost disadvantage. Given how fast this category is advancing, I’m betting that there’ll be a drone flying glass from Hall 16 to Hall 17 by the next glasstec show in 2016.
3. Why Do They Get to Have It First? Recognizing a problem usually means you are more than half way to the solution. So it’s distressingly refreshing to see North Americans finally articulate what we’ve known for years; that is, most new glass technology comes to us via Europe. Almost everyone with whom I spoke talked of the eight-year trajectory from introduction there to introduction in the United States and the 15-20 years it takes for that same technology to gain widespread acceptance here. There are some exceptions of course, low-E being one of them, but people are starting to not only ask why there is such a time disparity–they are also starting to do something about it. The Glasscon Global event that was held in Philadelphia this summer was one such effort. Dialogue with architects and development of technology that solves their challenges with glass is another. It’s good to see these subtle steps in the right direction.
4. Decorative Dominates. Printers, blasters, silkscreens, coatings–you name it, it was there. Decorative glass has hit its stride, and each glasstec brings even more breathtaking new examples of what can be done with our favorite materials. It always tickles me to see how much time is spent creating glass that looks like wood, metal, water, brick, you name it… anything but the glass it is. And their quality and ingenuity in their application continues to grow.
5. What It’s All About, Really: I was fortunate enough to share a table at dinner on Thursday evening with the Porter family of All Weather Tempering in Phoenix and All Weather Architectural Aluminum in California, as well as with Kenny Ahnen, general manager, and his wife, Lisa. Now, I had met Dad Lance before, but never had the privilege of meeting sons Seamus and Thomas or the Ahnens. I must say our dinner together was one of the highlights of my week. I so enjoyed hearing Larry’s stories of how he started out in the business. Did you know he went to the University of Alaska for college? “I’ve been out in negative-72 degrees there and 140 degrees next to a tempering over in Phoenix.” That’s a 213 degree swing that not many people get to experience– and perfect prep for the glass industry.
Seamus is an engineer who works in the business, but after talking to him for a few hours, I believe he might have another career ahead as a writer –or baker of baklava. And Thomas was just a delight, as well. Family businesses are becoming rarer by the minute, but family businesses where everyone loves one another and enjoys what they do are even rarer. Thanks to the Parkers for spending the evening with me. I enjoyed it.
Someone asked me if there were any bad parts to glasstec, and there was only one. It’s a tiring week but well worth it for the amount of education you receive and people you see. The only negative for me had more to do with the time of year than the show. Holding the event just a week before the city switches from Daylight Savings time meant the sun did not come up until almost 8 a.m. each day. This was an additional, and occasionally insurmountable, obstacle in my personal battle against jetlag. But hey, this show is so worth it, I’d go without sleep for the whole week if I had to.