Exclusive interview: Rick Zoulek, Guardian Glass Vice President of the Americas

Guardian’s latest jumbo coater at its Carleton, Michigan glass manufacturing complex is a major milestone in a long history of oversized glass production from the company that delivers solutions to architects and fabricators around the world. Rick Zoulek, Vice President of the Americas, exclusively describes the benefits of this significant investment, as well as Guardian’s other activities in the region.

GW: What was the motivation for recently constructing a jumbo coater at the Carleton, Michigan plant?

Architects are increasingly designing projects with larger glass sizes. Adding the ability to coat jumbo-sized glass in Carleton means Guardian Glass can supply larger sheets of coated glass to its North American customers. It’s a natural progression of customer support and we have the expertise as Guardian has been producing jumbo glass in Europe for years. Also, this supports the architectural trend of more expansive views and higher daylight penetration in buildings with the energy savings of the Guardian SunGuard portfolio of high performance, low-E coatings.

GW: What are the major benefits of this investment?

This investment allows Guardian Glass to deliver jumbo-sized glass to North American customers with significantly reduced lead times. As a result of Guardian’s initiative, North American customers will no longer have to rely on overseas suppliers to meet the needs of domestic projects. This positive development means greater flexibility and a wider material palette for architects and designers. The new jumbo coater will also create value for independent Guardian Select fabricators by increasing their product offerings and allowing them to reduce inventory and waste.

This investment is part of Guardian Glass’ vision to create virtuous cycles of mutual benefit: We examine each investment for the magnitude of the value it creates for our customers. If we continually improve and add to our capabilities, such as the North American jumbo coater, we will reap the benefits of new opportunities.
This new capability adds to our already robust North American team. We’re grateful for the value our employees bring every day and we’re committed to the safety and wellbeing of our entire global workforce.

GW: As the company’s first such technology in the USA, how important to proceedings was Guardian’s global experience in jumbo coated glass manufacturing?

Guardian’s new North American jumbo coater is a major milestone in a long history of oversized glass production from the company that delivers solutions to architects and fabricators around the world.

Guardian’s North American jumbo coater is the company’s 12th worldwide and our experience around the globe has been invaluable in each phase of the process.

Supplying jumbo glass with Guardian SunGuard high performance coatings positions Guardian Glass well to meet the demand for architects developing the newest creative, innovative North American buildings with large expanses of glass – lites at or exceeding 130in x 204in – as well as the creative and innovative monumental projects that necessitate very large orders of coated glass. These projects require 200,000ft2 or more.

GW: What are the highlights of other recent and planned investment at Carleton?

We’re very proud of Guardian Glass’ footprint in Carleton, Michigan. In addition to the new jumbo coater, the plant has two glass float lines – it’s the only Guardian facility to house two lines. And these two lines are critical to Guardian Glass operations, as illustrated by their recent repairs: Line 1 in 2014, and Line 2 in 2016/2017.

Additionally, our Guardian Glass Science and Technology Center is located right across the street. A 27,000ft2 expansion three years ago included a full-size vacuum coater and a glass product showcase wall. This was followed by opening a second Science and Technology Center in Luxembourg in 2017. We now have more than 100 engineers, scientists and other team members dedicated to developing products and services that continue to create value for our customers and for society through constant improvement in not only our products but also our processes and how we contribute to our customers’ success.

GW: What do you consider to be the biggest challenges and opportunities facing Guardian in the USA?

Our opportunity is to give architects, developers and owners what we believe is the best glass solutions to deliver the finest building envelope and interior environment.

Guardian Glass works to constantly improve its portfolio and deliver products that are bringing glass closer to the same R-value as an opaque wall. More specifically, the Guardian Glass Science and Technology team has the opportunity to improve upon window performance to the point at which opaque walls and windows perform similarly, enabling more sunlight and a better connection with the outdoors.

Guardian Glass is well positioned to meet the opportunities that exist in North America with our diverse infrastructure and global footprint. Our challenge is to provide even better service and expand on the base we’ve built to create more value to our customers and their customers. It’s our goal to make Guardian Glass the preferred partner of our customers, suppliers and communities.

As with many manufacturers, talent is always a challenge but we believe our culture gives Guardian Glass a competitive advantage in this area.

Another challenge that exists for everyone in the construction industry is managing your momentum in the constant presence of headwinds and tailwinds. Inflation, cost increases for raw materials and wages are concerns for everyone in the supply chain. Fluctuations are inevitable and sometimes unpredictable. For example, prices on one of our core raw materials increased more than twice as much as was forecast in 2018. Guardian Glass is always working to understand and overcome these obstacles and communicate with our customers so that we can continue to create virtuous cycles of mutual benefit.

GW: How is Guardian Glass differentiating itself from other glass manufacturers in the region?

Guardian Glass differentiates itself by constantly looking to improve our service, capabilities and product offerings to bring our customers more value. The new North American jumbo coater is a great example of that. We are constantly working to refresh our portfolio with new innovations, such as those demonstrated on the Guardian Glass stand at glasstec.

An innovation of note is Guardian Vacuum IG glass. US customers replacing windows are going from an R1 insulating value of a single pane of glass to an R12 (standard) or an R14 (Guardian Vacuum IG hybrids with low-E glass coatings). This product also differentiates itself from other VIG products as the only VIG offering in fully tempered glass panes.

This and all Guardian’s forward-thinking work is governed by a culture we steadfastly believe in, which is based on our guiding principles, our application of Market-Based Management and our commitment to transformation and value creation.

GW: Are any major product launches planned for the American market in 2019 and if so, in which sectors?

Guardian Glass has plans to launch products within all three key segments in 2019, commercial, interiors and residential.

One launch I’ll mention is the bird-friendly solutions we have developed for our high performance SunGuard portfolio of commercial glass coatings. Bird collisions with buildings is a concern that is gaining momentum in North American communities. Architects and designers are responding to the voice of the American Bird Conservancy and communities by seeking bird-friendly glazing that delivers high performance and desirable aesthetics. Guardian Glass customers got a sneak peek at two products at the 2018 trade shows. We’re proud to have the endorsement of the ABC for Guardian SunGuard Bird1st glass, which utilises a coating that breaks up reflectivity, making the glass more visible to birds but very subtle to the human eye. Additionally, the ABC has endorsed Guardian SunGuard SNX-L 62/34 HT coated glass, which combines triple-silver low-E technology with frit patterns.

GW: What was the motivation last year for publishing Guardian Glass North America’s Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) and Health Product Declarations (HPDs) version 2.1 for flat glass and processed glass?

Guardian Glass is committed to the efficient use of natural resources, while operating in a way that protects the safety, health and wellbeing of our employees, customers, the environment and society. To further that effort, we’re supporting architects and designers who strive to understand the sustainability profiles of the buildings they design through these EPDs and HPDs. It’s the goal of Guardian Glass to bring value to the building team by providing the information it needs to meet transparency and sustainability goals, as well as achieve credits in global green building rating systems.

Further Information: 

SunGuard, Guardian Select, Guardian Vacuum IG, SunGuard SuperNeutral 68 HT and SunGuard Bird1st glass are Guardian Glass registered products.

Guardian Carleton,
Carleton, 
MI, USA
tel: +1 734 654 6264
email: info@guardianglass.com
web: www.guardianglass.com

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