Meeting the challenge of industrial and service integration
At the official opening of glasstec 2016, Saint-Gobain’s President of the Flat Glass Sector, Patrick Dupin joined with other senior representatives to address key topics affecting the glass industry. Here, Mr Dupin summarises his presentation for Glass Worldwide readers.
In addition to the major building crisis that is still ongoing, glass producers and processors have been through some major challenges in recent years, involving complex regulations, rising energy costs, a sharp volume decrease in the market, as well as volatility of supply and increased quality demands from the market.
None of these have been completely resolved but I feel new challenges are arising that need to be faced (together once again) that will again impact and structure the glassmaker-glass processor relationship.
At least three major challenges are predicted from the market, or three new requirements:
- More interest in and demand for sustainable products.
- Further stress on the supply chain, service and digitalisation.
- The evolution of multi-comfort requests on top of thermal performance.
These latest topics from the market are, however, both challenges and opportunities to redynamise our businesses or differentiate and ultimately create a larger market for glass.
How will these trends impact relationships between float and processors?
Firstly, I see new, made-to-order products. Float and transformers will have to co-operate on innovative co-developments that fit the individual demands of customers. Active glazing is certainly the most emblematic evolution that will be witnessed but others are best colour personalisation, optic in reflexion, protective coating for tempering etc.
Secondly, cost competition is more intensive: The key is to adapt our processes to a seamless upstream and downstream integration, in order to make gains in terms of costs, quality and delivery times. Here, I am referring to default digital marking, traceability, digital interfaces etc.
Thirdly, a common commitment to the sustainability of our products: This is what the industrial players of the building industry but also more and more the end users, will expect from us. Proven recycling circuits, life cycle management, cullet reuse, robust and honest communication and eco-innovations etc.
Finally, differentiation but co-operation. Glass marking on processed products, data storage on RFIDs, the creative shortening of delivery times etc are all examples of a necessary co-operation between us to meet demand.
Competition between glassmakers in order to offer ‘price, quality and services’ so that they keep their share of the processors’ market will remain what fundamentally makes the business improve. In addition, I see the strong necessity, within this framework, to improve our co-operation by intensifying co-development, developing long-lasting relationships to allow innovation and differentiation, building partnerships in supply, as well as associating and pushing common initiatives like recycling, marking and process integration.
All of these can be actions for fruitful co-operation in this new market evolution and glassmakers are ready to play their part and make their contribution through:
- More technical support, support on certification.
- Faster developments and cycles.
- Concrete and useful innovations in glass and coating.
- End user awareness, channel management and lobbying.
- EDI and better visibility in supply chain and availability.
It is also clear that the lines between glassmakers and processors in some products, capabilities, areas and in market access are moving. Both sides need to accept this.
Throughout, the digitalisation of commercial relationships and end user behaviours will certainly interfere and are already changing practices. In line with general trends in commercial, marketing and industrial areas, the digitalisation of our businesses, or industry 4.0, will help us to find a new approach to these subjects.
And I do not think we will have a choice: Those who equip themselves and integrate this new approach will be those who will best embrace the challenges of penetrating the market with a multi-comfort offer and sustainable products and the challenge of industrial and service integration along the supply chain.