Exclusive GlassTrend interview

Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, GlassTrend is a consortium of worldwide operating industries and institutes working in the field of glass and glass production. Having taken over as Chairman in January 2021, Oscar Verheijen spoke to Glass Worldwide, preferred journal of GlassTrend, about the organisation’s aims to co-ordinate research and development activities to improve the competitive strength of glass industries, its suppliers and customers. The full version of this article appears in the May/June issue that has been mailed globally and is also now available free of charge in the digital archive*.

Exclusive GlassTrend interview

GW: How would you summarise GlassTrend’s role in the international glass community?

GlassTrend is acknowledged globally as the international platform addressing the key (technological) challenges and potential solutions of the glass industry. GlassTrend brings together state-of-the-art technology providers and glass companies seeking technological innovations.

In addition, GlassTrend provides access to facilities to develop technologies in a joint cost-sharing environment. The technology development in combination with knowledge sharing by means of seminars creates the valuable forum GlassTrend aims for. Last but not least, GlassTrend also has an important social role in organising events at which the global glass industry gathers to build and strengthen relations and even more importantly, friendships.

GW: What are the recent organisational changes to the boards of GlassTrend?

After being a member of the GlassTrend Advisory Board for seven years, I succeeded Anne-Jans Faber as Chairman of GlassTrend. In addition, we implemented some organisational changes.

Since its start, GlassTrend has been managed by the Managing Board, supported by the Advisory Board comprising lately 10 Board members. As both Boards were working together more closely in recent years, merging the two into one overall Board was a logical step. One of the key tasks of the (new) GlassTrend Board is the definition of the GlassTrend events and GlassTrend R&D projects. To spot new challenges for the glass industry early, the GlassTrend Board felt that it is necessary to be even more closely connected to the various glass applications. For this reason, we have addressed specific ‘ambassador’ roles for GlassTrend Board members, including ambassadors for float glass, container glass and specialty glass. At a later stage, ambassadors for other glass types might join.

Because a significant proportion of GlassTrend members are suppliers to the glass industry, a ‘supplier ambassador’ has also been designated. Finally, to reach out better to initiatives and organisations in the various regions, regional ambassador roles have been defined covering the USA, Europe and Asia. These organisational changes will support further embedding and growth of GlassTrend in the glass community.

Therefore, in addition to my role as Chairman, the board now consists of:

• Sven Kahl (Ardagh Glass): EU ambassador

• Terutaka Maehara (AGC): Asian ambassador

• Bruno Purnode (Owens Corning): US ambassador

• Estela Alejandro (Vidrala): Container glass ambassador

• Mathieu Hubert (Corning): Speciality glass and ICG ambassador

• Hande Sesigur (Sisecam): Flat glass ambassador

• Hans van Limpt (Sibelco): Supplier ambassador

GW: What level of expertise does this board bring to the organisation?

The members of the GlassTrend Board represent an enormous level of experience in the field of glass production and applied research and development. This enables GlassTrend to address the right topics for knowledge sharing and build-up, both from the perspective of short-term process improvement and medium- to long-term innovations guiding us towards sustainable glass manufacturing.

The GlassTrend Board also covers the various glass types, each with their specific needs and challenges to learn from each other. The intrinsic love of glass shared by all Board members creates a highly motivated group, eager to find solutions for the key challenges faced by the glass industry.

GW: What are the main objectives of GlassTrend?

The main objectives of GlassTrend comprise the initiation, development and execution of technological innovations to support the glass industry in meeting its increasingly stringent requirements on quality, emissions and sustainability. These innovations are envisioned via joint development projects and knowledge sharing via the well known GlassTrend events.

GW: What is CelSian’s role as facilitator?

CelSian, formerly known as TNO Glass Group, was involved in starting GlassTrend in 2001. My former colleague Ruud Beerkens was the driving force in realising this global platform that has grown to over 50 members in recent years. From the start of GlassTrend, CelSian together with the GlassTrend Board, has managed GlassTrend by organising events and pre-competitive consortium projects.

Since its start, the GlassTrend Board has been chaired by four CelSian employees: Ruud Beerkens (2001–2014), Joris Goossens (2014), Anne-Jans Faber (2014–2020) and Oscar Verheijen (since 2021).

GW: How has GlassTrend adapted its activities during the Covid-19 pandemic?

Traditionally, GlassTrend organises seminars twice a year, one of which is denoted as a stand-alone event, with access only for GlassTrend members, while the other is connected to international glass conference. Generally, stand-alone GlassTrend events are hosted on-site by a GlassTrend member.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the scheduled two day event hosted by Sibelco (Belgium) had to be converted into a two day virtual event.

To remain connected to the glass industry in this challenging period, GlassTrend intensified its events with a webinar series, during which invited speakers were given the floor for a one hour session presenting roadmaps and technologies. Despite the drawback of not being able to have a beer with the GlassTrend community at associated social events, the virtual events enabled more employees of GlassTrend members to participate in the events, further spreading the activities of GlassTrend throughout the glass industry.

GlassTrend events are famous for their interactive sessions, including demonstrations, group tasks and quizzes that run into the cosy welcome drink, lunches and relaxing diners. Luckily, we have been able to maintain this atmosphere throughout the virtual events by active participation of GlassTrend members in these events. However, we look forward in connecting again face-to-face to enjoy gastronomy and friendship.

GW: Where is GlassTrend currently prioritising its R&D efforts?

Currently, GlassTrend is focusing on all technologies to improve the sustainability of glass production, emphasising process development for the use of an increased share of (green) electricity and hydrogen, reduced CO2 process emissions by implementation of alternative raw materials and sensor development enabling improved control of glass production.

GW: What is GlassTrend’s policy on collaborative industry initiatives aimed at revolutionising glass manufacture, such as the CelSian / DNV GL hydrogen initiative, BV Glas’ HyGlass project, Glass Futures and FEVE’s Furnace of the Future?

GlassTrend is open to collaboration with the various initiatives working on revolutionising glass production. As the glass industry is relatively small within the energy-intensive industries but has its very specific challenges in improving sustainability, it should align and co-operate to make the required change feasible within the short time span we have available.

GW: In general, how open is GlassTrend to collaboration with other industry bodies such as ATIV, DGG, ICG, GMIC and SGT etc?

GlassTrend has co-operated with various industry bodies in organising seminars for the glass industry globally. During these joint events, GlassTrend focused on the glass technology-oriented sessions. It has always been a pleasure to make a success of these events wherever they are located. Next to the aforementioned glass-related events, GlassTrend is also looking for opportunities outside of the glass industry to learn from developments in other energy-intensive industries including for example the steel, aluminium and cement industries.
In the past, we staged a GlassTrend seminar dedicated to sensor applications in other industries and in March 2021 we organised a virtual seminar ‘Application of sustainable technologies in energy-intensive industries’, continuing our wish to implement new sustainable solutions.

GW: What role do seminars and meetings play in the GlassTrend organisation?

The seminars are vital for GlassTrend, as they are the basis for building friendship and co-operation throughout the glass industry. They provide GlassTrend members with easy access to state-of-the-art technologies and the key companies active in the various important aspects of glass production. Next to sustainability, knowledge transfer is one of the major objectives of GlassTrend.

GW: How successful are the ongoing series of TEDx-like webinars?

The webinar series has been a great success, as it enabled the glass industry to remain connected, while sometimes being very isolated working from remote locations. It kept on offering the glass industry relevant knowledge to use on a daily basis and to allow technology suppliers reach out to glass producers. This reason and the large attendance list convinced us to prolong this webinar series in 2021 and we expect that it will remain a GlassTrend activity that a large number of GlassTrend member employees can easily access.

GW: What are the current plans for events in 2021?

Because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, probably most GlassTrend activities will be organised virtually. We will continue with the monthly webinars and will extend the number of (virtual) seminars to at least four, covering topics including ‘learning from other energy-intensive industries’, ‘emission reduction’, ‘sustainability’ and ‘process automation’. The last item will be the topic of the joint symposium of GMIC and GlassTrend on 4 November 2021, taking place the day after the Glass Problems Conference in Columbus, Ohio (USA).

In 2021 GlassTrend and a working group will join forces in the field of European-subsidised projects. Applying for an EU-funded project is an intensive process of building a consortium and defining an excellent proposal. As GlassTrend covers all glass sectors and their suppliers and is well distributed geographically, it can serve as a basis for EU-funded projects. Via the working group, we aim to make this process more efficient by co-operating and learning from each other. In addition to the aforementioned events and depending on the Covid situation, we will schedule other activities to keep the glass industry closely connected in this period of remote work.

GW: How many members does GlassTrend have and which industry sectors are represented?

Currently GlassTrend has 54 members including representation of the container glass, float glass, specialty glass, domestic glass, glass wool, fibre glass and lighting industries. In addition, suppliers are well represented, covering about 50% of the GlassTrend community, including suppliers of refractory, furnaces, gas, raw materials, sensors and process automation technologies. Finally, various knowledge institutes complete the broad variety of GlassTrend member competences.

GW: Are you actively looking to grow the membership?

On a continuous basis we are searching for new members to steadily grow. In this way, we can better jointly define the most relevant topics and projects for glass industry for co-operation. This creates a solid basis to further improve the glass industry for a sustainable glass production process.

GW: What could GlassTrend members contribute more to assist in the consortium achieving its goals?

We are always very pleased when GlassTrend members pro-actively participate in events and projects, as this is the basis of GlassTrend. GlassTrend offers an open atmosphere that is highly appreciated by members and enables open discussion and sharing experiences. Any ideas to further develop GlassTrend and/or propose ideas for seminar, lectures and events are welcome.

Despite the fact that we are prohibited from meeting together these days, the virtual events have opened GlassTrend to the participation of many more attendees from the various GlassTrend members that support the GlassTrend platform.

GW: And how could the industry do more to support the efforts of GlassTrend?

As GlassTrend has the platform and capabilities to share knowledge, expertise and capabilities, we are pleased when the industry (including institutes, branch organisations etc) reaches out to GlassTrend in the case of any specific needs and/or requests to be of support. GlassTrend aims to be the frontrunner in addressing the challenges and potential solutions for upcoming legislation such as sustainability and zero-polluting production plants. To be more readily linked to these needs, we defined the ambassador roles in the GlassTrend Board accompanying this.

GW: What is your vision for GlassTrend in the future?

I see GlassTrend as the globally-acknowledged frontrunner in addressing the key challenges for the glass industry worldwide. GlassTrend also enables the development of technologies required to cope with these challenges. This will be done in co-operation (glass producing companies, suppliers etc.) on a cost-sharing basis. In addition, to anticipate the circular economy ambitions, I expect GlassTrend to extend from a focus on the hot part of glass melting to more downstream processing, providing an overall view on (the sustainability of) glass melting.

Image: Alongside Ivana Popović, Oscar Verheijen moderated the GlassTrend spring seminar in March 2021 that focused on technological developments in energy-intensive industries.

Further Information: 

GlassTrend, Eindhoven,
the Netherlands

tel: +31 402 490 100
email: glasstrend@celsian.nl
web: www.glasstrend.nl


* The full version of this article appears in the May/June issue that has been mailed globally. To increase accessibility in the current environment, the digital version of this issue can be read free of charge in its entirety alongside back copies in the Digital Archive (sponsored by FIC) at https://www.glassworldwide.co.uk/Digital-Issues. To receive the paper copy, all future issues and a free copy of the Who’s Who / Annual Review 2021-22 yearbook, subscribe now at https://www.glassworldwide.co.uk/subscription-choice

Click here for our Hot Topics latest news round-up