Posts Tagged ‘Owens-Illinois’

U.S. Glass Manufacturers, International Competition and More Plant Layoffs

February 17, 2010

A recent article on GlassGlobal points out that when the original World Trade Center towers were built in Manhattan in the 1970s all of the glass used was provided by glass manufacturers in the United States.  When the most recent bids for glass for the new World Trade Center buildings were awarded, a Chinese company won the contract for the opaque glass for the first 20 floors and Guardian Industries won the contract for the layered glass on the upper 85 floors.  Guardian will be making the glass at its Carleton, Michigan plant.

More than 15 years ago our office got a call from a float glass customer, who asked us why non-U.S. manufacturers could immediately deliver glass to him when he ordered it, while U.S. manufacturers would schedule a delivery in 1-2 months.  As I told him then, the non-U.S. manufacturers had boatloads of glass sitting offshore, waiting to find customers to whom they would sell and deliver the glass, while the U.S. manufacturers were working on the traditional manufacturing scheduling system which produced glass to fill orders.  The glass sitting on shipping vessels offshore had been manufactured in plants which were subsidized by their governments, and those plants were making glass whether or not the company had orders for it.

As the GlassGlobal article points out, the glass industry in the U.S. cannot grow because glass imports are competing for customers and many of the glass plants which used to be available are gone.  We get calls in our office every few months from someone who wants to build a glass plant in another country by buying and shipping overseas a closed glass glass plant in the U.S.

Many of the U.S. glass plants which are are still operating are not at full capacity.   According to GlassGlobal, the Carleton, Michigan plant which will produce the glass for the new World Trade Center buildings is operating at 85% capacity.

Several glass plant layoffs have been announced since the beginning of the year:

The West Virginia State Journal reported at the end of January that the AGC float glass plant in Flemington (Jerry Run) will lay off 180 workers as it stops production, with the furnace on “hothold.”

The Zeledyne float plant in Tulsa, Oklahoma will be shutting a production line, according to, laying off 210 architectural glass workers.

Owens-Illinois is closing its Clarion, Pa. container plant in July, 2010, and the Clarion News reports local governments and union officials are working to try to keep the plant open.

We are updating our listings for the upcoming 2010 Glass Factory Directory of North America now, and as always, bracing ourselves to hear bad news about plant closings and layoffs as well as looking for the bright side of the North American glass industry.


Glass Problems Conference November 4-5

October 22, 2008

The 69th Glass Problems Conference in Columbus, Ohio, is just two weeks away. The sessions will focus on melting and furnace modeling, glass furnace refractories, and energy-saving for glass furnaces. Each year glass plant managers and staff, suppliers to the glass industry, glass manufacturing specialists from around the world and students and professors from several schools with glass engineering programs attend this conference coordinated by the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Ohio State University. There is still time to register to attend the meetings, click the link above.

If you are attending the Glass Problems Conference, look for the lady with “Scott on Glass” on her nametag and give her your tip for an upcoming blog entry!
Door and Window Magazine has the story “First-Hand Observations from a Glass Plant” on their blog, a great description of a visit to a PPG float glass plant in Carlisle, Pa.
Another website has pictures from inside an Anchor Glass container plant in Antioch, Calif. that has been closed for several years.
The New York Times recently showed a decorative piece by a student at Yale School of Architecture, which used recycled light bulbs as candleholders. Her light bulb candle holder came out of an assignment to make a centerpiece with recycled materials.
At the end of October Owens-Illinois will close its glass container plant in Lavington, B.C., Canada. The production will be moved to other Owens-Illinois facilities.
The Technology pages of the New York Times recently noted the announcement of the U.S. Department of Energy L Prize “to spur lighting manufacturers to develop high-quality, high-efficiency solid-state lighting products to replace the common light bulb.” The prize, which was announced last May, is for a viable solid-state LED replacement for the standard 60-watt incandescent bulb.

Glass Industry Employment Continues to Fall

September 25, 2008

Recently the Wall Street Journal had an article on Crystal City, Mo., where PPG Industries had a flat glass plant they billed as the world’s largest until they closed it in 1990.  Like the glass plants built in so many towns and cities in the 20th century, this glass plant was in the center of the town. The article reports that the plant site was bulldozed after the glass plant was closed, and the site has remained empty.   Many towns which used to have glass plants in the center of town still have the empty factory buildings standing.  When the plant closed, hundreds of people in the Crystal City area lost their jobs at the plant, and many others lost related jobs as well.

In 1977 there were 175,100 U.S. glass industry employees, including those at bottle plants, flat glass plants, fiber glass plants and smaller decorative and household glass manufacturers, according to the Annual Survey of Manufactures. In 1987 the Survey reported a total of 153,200 glass industry employees (a 12.5% drop).  By 1997 glass industry employment had dropped again, to 128,876 (15.87%), and for 2006, the latest year for which the Annual Survey has released numbers, glass industry employment was reported at 100,919 (down 21.7%).  While we were watching, glass industry employment has decreased 42.3% in the past 30 years.

Some of these employees worked for plants that had closed because more beverages were packaged in plastic bottles, and some closed because glass manufacturers outside the U.S. were making glass products that they could sell in the U.S. for less than the prices charged by U.S. manufacturers. In the current economic climate, the cost of energy is making it more difficult to make and sell glass in the United States.

As we mentioned in a previous post, General Electric is just one of the glass manufacturing companies which has announced that they will be closing glass plants this year.

YouTube has several videos of glass machinery in action, including one made at the Clarion, Pa. Owens-Illinois plant where glass bottles are made. It is very difficult for most people to actually take a tour of a working glass plant, but these videos help those who can never get inside a plant see what an amazingly beautiful process glassmaking is.