It was in 1916 that a renowned chemistry lecturer at Sheffield University in the UK recognised the value of bringing together the various groups of people interested in the production, properties and uses of glass within a single organisation, including those from a commercial, aesthetic, academic and technical perspective. The foresight shown by Dr W E S Turner led to the Society of Glass Technology’s creation later that year. And today, the same objective still holds true, whereby this non-profit making organisation continues to concentrate on the advancement of glass technology, involving members throughout the world.
Sadly, an ageing glass industry workforce has resulted in a declining rather than a growing pool of members, a trend that recently elected SGT President, Stuart Hakes is keen to halt. The latest in an impressive list of glassmakers, technology suppliers, consultants and academics to assume the President’s mantel, Mr Hakes has been associated with the international glass industry for 55 years. From the early 1970s onwards, he trained and held increasingly important works management responsibilities at hollow glass production sites in the UK, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, before running ACI mould manufacturing subsidiaries in Australia and China.
While honing his bottlemaking expertise at former United Glass factories in Harlow and South East London (Key Glassworks), as well as Lewis & Towers in rural Kent, Stuart Hakes was an active member of the SGT’s London branch and a regular supporter of its monthly meetings at the Portland Place headquarters of the Glass Manufacturers’ Federation. Many years later, he was made a Fellow of the Society in recognition of his knowledge and career contributions.
Despite developing a strong business and personal attachment to New Zealand and establishing close family ties in New Zealand and Australia, however, the next career move required a relocation back to the UK. While Manufacturing Manager at Crown Crystal Glass in New Zealand, Stuart Hakes had acquired extensive knowledge and experience of electric boosting and melting technology. He returned to the UK to work with Fred Scarfe at Electroglass during the 1990s and in 1999, was named Chief Executive at FIC (UK) Ltd, where an established electroheat business has been developed into an international market leader for electric glass melting and boosting systems, as well as specialist components. These systems are designed for use with a wide range of glass types and manufacturing processes.
As a teenager, Stuart Hakes had dreams of becoming a nuclear physicist but an encounter with an enthusiastic member of the SGT’s London Section turned his head towards glass technology. He attended a ‘This is glass’ lecture at the London Science Museum by Jim Frost, who regularly enthralled chemistry and physics classes from local schools. A highly respected scientific glassblower from Berkshire, Jim Frost demonstrated the properties of glass via a series of live experiments. Most of the time they worked but on occasion, they did not and the sometimes chaotic outcomes that followed could be hilarious. They certainly served to inspire the young Stuart Hakes to pursue a glass industry career, albeit with a local glass packaging manufacturer rather than in the forming of scientific glassware.
The decision to enter the world of glassmaking has definitely lived up to expectations. “I’ve enjoyed every minute of it” Mr Hakes confirms. Over the years, a series of key individuals have helped to mould a successful international career but two in particular stand out. “After Larry Penberthy, Fred Scarfe made electric boosting more prevalent throughout Europe and he made a terrific impression on me, as did my first Production Manager, Frank Butterworth. He could be a difficult guy but if he’d asked me to stick my head in the furnace, I’d have done so, because he commanded trust and respect!”
Shaping the SGT’s future
Having been associated with the Society of Glass Technology at different times throughout his career, Stuart Hakes is pleased to be given the opportunity to contribute to shaping its future. “I was blown away when asked to become President because when you consider some of my amazing predecessors in the role, I was hugely honoured to accept” he explains.
The task is to reinvigorate, reinvent and reinstate the SGT’s position within the glassmaking sector, as well as the academic community, where membership is still comparatively strong. “I want to bring industry and academia more closely together… they have become too far apart” the new President suggests. This September’s Annual Meeting in Cambridge, for example, will see previously separate science, industry and heritage streams combined into one, where everyone can mix and share their common interests, challenges and opportunities. And although some industrialists may contend that some research is too academic for their needs, Stuart Hakes believes there are important nuggets of valuable information to discover and stimulate more focused developments in the future. “We also need to make meetings more relevant to students, including the introduction of mentoring opportunities within the industry. Moreover, we have to discover how to inspire the young, making glass technology interesting and relevant to them.”
Opportunities will be explored to facilitate more highly focused, single topic meetings in the future that are neither too time-consuming nor expensive, as well as being readily accessible for local young people.
On 6 June 2019, the SGT is organising its annual Furnace Solutions meeting in Stoke-on-Trent. The day before, a dedicated training day will focus on the delivery of consistent batch to the glass melting furnace. These represent a template for the type of focussed meetings the newly appointed President would like to encourage. A separate preview of these events can be found on Page 132.
Although there are no longer any local SGT sections in the UK, it is hoped to build on the success of the SGT in North America and to resurrect the Indian section. Opportunities for the establishment of more local sections in other parts of the world may also be explored. In addition, the SGT is in discussion with other professional organisations to explore possibilities for future co-operation where there are areas of common interest.
“It is critical that we find ways to excite the young within our industry” Mr Hakes concludes. Over the coming months, he hopes to reposition some of the SGT’s products, while reassessing some of its procedures to make the organisation more sustainable and more relevant to members, without detracting from the important values created and maintained by his predecessors.