Developing business opportunities for flat glass in Europe

Christian Quenett’s opening speech at the restart of the Porto Marghera float plant in Italy.

NSG Group’s Head of Architectural Glass Europe, Dr Christian Quenett has recently been elected Chairman of Glass for Europe, the trade association for Europe’s flat glass sector. He spoke exclusively to Glass Worldwide about both roles, as well as the challenges and opportunities faced by the industry.

It may not have been the original plan but it was an obvious decision for Christian Quenett to pursue a career in the flat glass industry. His father had worked in the industry for over 35 years and during his studies, Christian spent several internships at the Pilkington research laboratories in Germany and the UK. “Besides that, I have always been fascinated by glass as a material, its properties and the application opportunities it can offer” he explains, emphasising that this latter aspect has developed remarkably over the past couple of years.

A physics graduate from the Technical University of Karlsruhe in south west Germany, Christian Quenett completed a PhD in mechanical engineering in the field of fluid dynamics at the French-German Research Institute in St Louis in 1995. He was born and raised near Wernberg, Bavaria, where his father worked at the local glass processing site. Ten years later, his father took over the management of the Flachglas AG R&D function in Gelsenkirchen, where schooling was finished.

He joined Pilkington Germany as a Project Engineer at the Wernberg processing site on completion of his PhD. In 1996, he moved to the UK, taking over as Best Practice and Benchmarking Manager at Pilkington head office in St Helens and two years later, he returned to Germany and started at the Gladbeck float site as Production Planning Manager for the company’s German float lines.

Dr Quenett was named Gladbeck Plant Manager at the end of 2002 and at the same time, his logistics-related responsibilities gradually increased, leading to the role of Head of European Supply Planning in 2007. In 2010, he was appointed Developing business opportunities for flat glass in Europe NSG Group’s Head of Architectural Glass Europe, Dr Christian Quenett has recently been elected Chairman of Glass for Europe, the trade association for Europe’s flat glass sector.

He spoke exclusively to Glass Worldwide about both roles, as well as the challenges and opportunities faced by the industry. Managing Director for Architectural Glass Germany and a member of the Pilkington Deutschland AG Board. He became Head of Architectural Glass Europe in 2015, concluding his Plant Manager role at Gladbeck and moving to Gelsenkirchen.

It was a very important step when I became Plant Manager at Gladbeck, a site with approximately 500 employees” Christian Quenett recalls. “The responsibility as a leader for such a large site was really exciting and I learned a lot about people management, especially during the more difficult times experienced by the European glass industry some years ago.” Another major highlight was to take over full responsibility for Architectural Glass Europe. “This role represented another step change for me, assuming responsibility for several countries with different people, languages and cultures.

Dr Quenett emphasises the important role played by current NSG Group COO, Dr Clemens Miller in supporting and initiating step changes throughout his career

Key role for Europe

As Head of Architectural Glass Europe, Christian Quenett is fully accountable for all NSG Group architectural glass activities in Europe, ie full profit and loss responsibility for the group’s European upstream and downstream businesses, with a total workforce of more than 4500 people. As part of this brief, he represents Europe within NSG Group’s global architectural organisation. In addition, he continues as a Board Director of the German legal entity Pilkington Deutschland AG.

Architectural Glass Europe plays an important role within the NSG Group. In revenue terms, it is the largest of NSG Group’s architectural business units and as such, contributes significantly to the group’s results. Float lines are operated in Germany, Italy, Poland and the UK, as well as processing sites in Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden and the UK. “In addition, our fire protection business, based at Gelsenkirchen, is a very important part of our business in Europe” Dr Quenett explains. “We also work together closely with our colleagues in North America and Asia and explore new business opportunities, in particular innovativhigh value products for special applications such as BIPV and solar.

Christian Quenett confirms that Europe’s glass industry is enjoying much improved market conditions compared to two or three years ago, thanks in part to the general recovery of EU economies. “This is supported by increased activities in the building sector, in particular in Central Europe, as well as the constant growth of car sales in Europe over the past five years.

Elsewhere, Pilkington MirroView is a development that helps the company to explore digital signage markets, while Pilkington Mirropane Chrome and Pilkington Spacia are other recent innovations.

Among the main challenges currently facing Architectural Glass Europe, the global economy and recent international events are something on which Christian Quenett keeps a close eye. “Inevitably, these changes may have a business impact, whic sometimes lasts for a long time” he explains. Furthermore, in many European countries, the availability of employees is becoming more of an issue, due to an ageing population. “Challenges often also open up opportunities, however” Dr Quenett maintains. “Europe is a great driving region, still with a very skilled workforce and well informed consumers. This gives us an opportunity to thrive as a profitable business.”

A sign of trust

A member of the Board of Directors of Glass for Europe for nearly four years as Head of the European architectural business at NSG Group, Christian Quenett’s recent election as Chairman reflects the industry’s desire for continuity. “Glass for Europe has developed very positively in recent years” he explains. “It has a robust structure and needs to keep delivering added value for all members and partner organisations. On a personal note, the election is a sign of trust from the glass industry. I am delighted to take up my responsibilities for the common good of the flat glass industry with this two year mandate as Chairman.

Dr Quenett is delighted by the recent transformation of Glass for Europe and its enlargement to include national glass processing associations. “This project has taken two years of hard work to materialise. Last October’s change of visual identity and the official launch of the new structure were only the celebration of this achievement.” In this comment, the word ‘achievement’ is used intentionally: “The enhanced co-operation in the flat glass value chain, improved co-ordination between EU and national activities, the reinforced advocacy outreach and the strengthened visibility of our industry in EU institutions… all our initial objectives as a Board of Directors have been met. We are now starting to see the benefits of this enlarged association for the entire flat glass sector.

Like his predecessor, Dr Reha Akcakaya of Sisecam, who is thanked for his contribution as Chairman over the past two years, Christian Quenett intends to ensure that Glass for Europe continues to work in a constructive and collaborative manner. “Board meetings must be the catalyst of this co-operation” he says. “I want to ensure that all members can express their views freely, that new ideas can be voiced and assessed collectively for the entire industry to adhere 100% with all projects. I count on Philippe Bastien (Vice Chairman) and all colleagues to enrich our debates and I have the same expectation from Secretary General, Bertrand Cazes.

It is anticipated that Glass for Europe will become even more effective in the future, with new experts, viewpoints and perspectives around the table. “I welcome national glass processing associations to join us as partners.” Another priority is to explore new opportunities to grow the flat glass market. “This is about activating legislations in a positive way but also about joint industry initiatives, work on standards and communication. Now that Glass for Europe is more representative of the entire sector, new tools and activities can be explored, including the continuous development of planning tools and services for members.

As exclusive preferred journal of Glass for Europe, Glass Worldwide is described as a well known, high quality magazine that provides valuable information to a wide group of readers in the entire glass industry.

A single voice

According to Dr Quenett, as a relatively small industry, the flat glass sector can only have a voice if it talks as one industry. “It is important that we have regular discussions with the EU to ensure that our interests are being considered. From these activities, new opportunities are being created and secured by Glass for Europe for its members.

From an EU regulatory standpoint, he believes that the main challenges currently facing Europe’s flat glass community include sustaining the industry’s competitiveness; for example, compensating the EU industry for its environmental and climate costs. There is also a long-term need to decarbonise the manufacturing process: “This is very challenging both technically as well as economically but at the same time, it is vitally important for meeting Paris climate commitments.

In addition, there is growing uncertainty about world trade, as evidenced by recent decisions made by the US administration with respect to the imposition of duties, the risk of a trade war and technical barriers to free trade in the automotive glass industry.

Turning to the industry’s main opportunities, Christian Quenett is confident about the growing need for energy efficiency and the speeding up of building renovations to create more business opportunities. He is also positive about the industry’s ability to develop advanced glass technologies, products and solutions to benefit various industrial sectors in Europe. “This should help in the development of new value added products and applications.” Separately, he is confident that the collection of end of life building glass waste will be enhanced, potentially bringing high quality cullet back to Europe’s float glass furnaces.

Further Information: 

NSG Group, Architectural Glass Europe

Glass for Europe, Brussels, Belgium
tel +32 2 538 43 77