Exclusive interview: Sandor Kis, Plant Manager at Guardian Glass

Exclusive interview: Sandor Kis, Plant Manager at Guardian Glass

In 2018, a high performance laminated glass production line was commissioned alongside the Guardian Glass float plant in Hungary. Plant Manager Sandor Kis discusses this and other projects undertaken at the Oroshaza site. The full version of this article appears in the November/December issue *.

Oroshaza is one of 10 float plants operated by Guardian Glass in Europe and one of 25 worldwide. Primarily, the site produces float, laminated and coated glass products for the residential sector, in addition to specialty products such as anti-reflective glass for high value-added applications.

According to Plant Manager Sandor Kis, the plant has been the subject of significant changes within the past decade, as existing strengths have been reinforced and the product portfolio developed to accommodate growing customer requirements. Mr Kis joined Guardian in 2011 as a Finance Manager at Oroshaza and was appointed Plant Manager in 2017. The factory had been acquired by Guardian Industries in the late 1980s and was upgraded to start producing float glass in 1991. In 2007, a coater was added and the latest significant investment was completed in 2018, when the laminated glass production line was commissioned. As well as producing standard laminated products, this facility makes a range of thick, coloured, acoustic and coated laminated glass.

Float glass produced at the factory is either shipped direct to customers or is further processed on-site into laminated and/or coated glass. “We have an advanced magnetron sputter coater, which allows us to produce a range of Guardian ClimaGuard coated glass, our low emissivity glass, used mostly in residential applications” Sandor Kis explains. “We also produce Guardian Clarity, our anti-reflective coated glass for special applications such as retail shopfronts, museum glass displays or high end facades.”

The majority of glass produced at Oroshaza is destined for the residential market. As well as customers in Hungary, the plant delivers to such neighbouring countries as Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia, Kosovo and Montenegro, while its Guardian Clarity anti-reflective glass is sometimes shipped even further afield.

Skilled workforce

Approximately 320 people are employed at the Oroshaza site, including 220 production staff, working a three shift, 24 hour operation. The importance of maintaining a skilled and experienced workforce is never overlooked, especially as the technology employed continues to change quickly. “Our personnel are very skilled and together, we function as a single team” Sandor Kis confirms. “Employees are provided with the necessary tools and methods to enable them to carry out their tasks effectively and efficiently. Of course, Guardian Glass being part of a large group, Koch Industries, is also an advantage, as we share and learn from each other.”

Mr Kis also emphasises that transformation is a continuous process, involving not only business transformation but also the personal transformation of employees.

Laminated glass investment

Guardian Glass invested in the new laminated glass production line to support growing demand throughout Europe, which is driven by three long-term trends. First, country-level regulations in Europe require the use of safety glass in an increasing number of fenestration and interior applications, for which laminated glass is recognised as the most effective solution. Second, the desire for buildings to have more natural light is driving the trend towards larger, energy-efficient windows, which requires the use of laminated glass for higher mechanical resistance and security. And thirdly, a general rise in demand for noise reduction for both residential and commercial buildings has increased the use of acoustic laminated glass.

“We believe we are well positioned to capture this growth due to our strong presence in Europe, a comprehensive product range, as well as our business approach, which is to create value for customers” Mr Kis contends. “Furthermore, the plant has demonstrated its stable operation over the years and was ready to add further fabricated products to its portfolio. Everything was in place to ensure a successful investment.”

Engineers worked closely with key suppliers to design the laminated glass production line, which is the first fully automated line installed within Guardian Glass. This created the possibility to produce jumbo sizes in a more time-efficient and effective way. Defects are detected by a scanner, just like on the float line, while loading and unloading of the glass in the autoclave is a fully automated process.

Investment plans

Future investments at Oroshaza include a scheduled repair of the existing float furnace during the second half of 2020. This project, together with the Guardian Glass plant in Czestochowa, Poland – where one float line was recently repaired and upgraded and a second is currently under construction – will ensure continued support to satisfy increased demand in Eastern Europe.

In line with Guardian Glass strategies, the management team at Oroshaza strives to innovate to deliver better product solutions using fewer natural resources. Like other Guardian float operations throughout Europe, the plant is ISO 14001 certified. This covers a wide variety of aspects, including air emissions, water consumption, waste management, transport and packaging.

“We have a strong culture and our vision is to create value for our customers and our communities, as well be a preferred partner for all of our constituents” says Sandor Kis. “We want to be the first choice if they need any solution for glass. We focus on delivering high quality products through an optimal service from initial order to glass processing. Furthermore, our technical support is also highly appreciated by customers.”

According to the Oroshaza Plant Manager, the automotive market in Eastern and Central Europe is expected to remain fairly stable in the coming years, although demand is currently affected by a degree of economic uncertainty. “Globally, electric vehicles, autonomous driving vehicles and shared mobility will change the picture of the automotive industry over the coming decades but new functionalities could increase the use of glass in cars, in displays, for example.”

Turning to prospects for the region’s architectural glass sector, Mr Kis confirms that the situation often differs from one country to another. “In Hungary, the building industry has recovered from the 2008 crisis and last year was a very good one. Various investments are in the pipeline, including some very nice commercial buildings. However, some commercial projects have been delayed because of a lack of capacity.” The building industry is described as very busy in the residential sector especially, as companies speed up to finish projects before the end of the 5% VAT period announced for the end of 2019.

The primary focus for the Oroshaza team next year is to successfully complete the float furnace repair. This will represent the foundation for the plant’s future development. “In the long-term, we need to work on planning, how we will further improve our operational capability and move in the direction of the factory of the future” Sandor Kis explains.

“My main challenge is to execute the repair properly” he concludes. “I’m positive about our flexibility and capability to serve customers locally, regionally and globally. We want to be a strong contributor to the Oroshaza community and an employer of choice.”

Further Information: 

Guardian Glass, Oroshaza, Hungary
tel : +36 68 887 200
web: www.guardianglass.com

* The full version of this article appears in the November/December issue, alongside a series of exclusive interviews with other industry figureheads, topical market reports, events round-up and technology updates. Subscribe now to receive the full paper and digital versions (subscribers receive a free copy of the Who’s Who / Annual Review yearbook!).