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Evaluating New Glass Technologies In The Light Of Market Demand

Aug 17, 2007
A skill set that the glass making industry's supply chain needs to acquire is a farmer's instinct where one is able to separate the wheat from the chaff when evaluating the feasibility and viability of new product offerings.

Make no mistake about it; there will be an opportunistic and very profitable cadre of products for the astute customer. It will be up to each individual company to determine whether the new technology offering is a lemon or lemonade. This may be difficult because the future will not be an extrapolation of the past; nor will there be a clear line of demarcation. Trends will emerge from various parts of the globe as well as across industry migration. Since these new products and new markets will emerge at different "clock speeds" in each region of a country as well as the world, a global vision and awareness enhances and secures competitive advantage.

While everyone would like to be on the leading edge of this movement, there is the caveat of being too early and falling on the bleeding edge. There will be the tendency to over-hype new offerings with fuzzy jargons. This leaves the trade open for wild claims and illusions. It won't take many failures or false starts to badly damage the image and reputation to our highly visible industry.

To cite a recent example, consider when segments of this industry introduced a new product. In hindsight, was it no maintenance glass, low maintenance, easier to clean, only works with distilled water, or when the sun is shining. The gap between what was promised and what is delivered defines not just a company's credibility but also that of the entire industry. On the other hand, when great products are developed - and delivered in a timely manner to the marketplace--a great brand is created and a reputation generated that makes the next generation of product easier to bring to market.

While glass has been highly coveted for literally thousands of years, in a technological sense, this millennium will mark the renaissance of a new and different "glass age."

As an example, it's clear that the western economic model of fossil fuel based throwaway economy is not viable for the world. A new economic paradigm will be powered by renewable sources of energy and will recycle materials comprehensively. No sector of the global economy will be untouched by this environmental revolution. Already in some stock exchanges there are "green futures." In this new economy, companies will be winners or losers. Those who participate in building the new economy will be the winners. Those who cling to the past risk becoming part of it.

The key to building a global economy for sustained economic progress is the creation of an honest marker to tell the ecological truth so that the market can allocate resources with total cost efficiencies. A properly defined green ideology will transcend politics -- it will mobilize liberals, conservatives, businesses, and environmentalists on a common agenda.

One possible case in point is the pilot program proposed by the Clinton Foundation. As part of the organization, former U.S President Bill Clinton has created a coalition of 16 of the world's biggest cities and five banks with a pledge is of up to $5 billion in loans to upgrade energy intensive heating, cooling, and lighting systems in older buildings. Four international energy service companies would certify and guarantee a 20 to 50 percent reduction in energy costs to pay back the loans with the accrued savings. In addition to saving money, it will make money, and create jobs while favorably affecting climate change.

Politically this program would not be a millstone on economies of rich nor developing countries while shrinking the world's carbon footprint with a pro-growth policy. While climate change is a global predicament, it requires local action to make a real difference. Finally this would help redesign the materials segment of the economy so that Mother Nature is compatible with Father Greed since the throwaway economy will be but a passing aberration.
About the Author
Guardian is a diversified global manufacturing company headquartered in Auburn Hills, Michigan, with leading positions in float glass, fabricated glass products, fiberglass insulation and other building materials for commercial, residential and automotive markets.
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