USGNN.com™ Talks One on One with PPG's New VP of Flat Glass
June 7, 2011

Effective May 1, PPG named Richard A. Beuke, vice president of flat glass, replacing Gary Danowksi, who has been named vice president, automotive refinish, EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa).

Beuke joined PPG in 1976 as an industrial coatings sales representative, and much of his career has served on the coatings sides. He became vice president, silicas, in November 2009. A native of Indianapolis, Beuke earned a bachelor’s degree from Georgia Southern University, during which time, he revealed in a recent interview with USGNN.com™, he got an early education in the glass industry.

USGNN: You’ve been with PPG since 1976; is this role your first involved specifically with the flat glass segment?

RB: I got involved in the glass business in my college years. I worked with my dad, who was an ironworker and installed curtainwall on high-rise buildings, during the summers as I was going through college. Actually, a lot of the jobs that we did were PPG glass. So I really got involved in the glass business at a very young age, but I never knew it would come in handy! When I was interviewing for jobs I got an interview with PPG and I knew of them through my ironworking days, and that helped land a job with PPG – although there weren’t any positions open in glass and I ended up in our aluminum extrusion coatings segment. For the 35 years I’ve been with PPG I’ve always been kind of around the glass, but never fallen in the hole of the curtainwall, so this is the first chance I’ve had to do that. To me, it fits a little bit naturally with what I’ve been involved in for probably 30 years in the construction trade on the coatings side.

USGNN: PPG seems to do a good job of allowing employees to try a little of everything.

RB: In 2000, I became vice president of our architectural coatings business. That is part of our coating operations – house paint, basically, and we go through the same distribution-type environment as our glass business, starting with the architect and through different distribution channels. So I really started working very closely with the glass guys when I was vice president of architectural coatings. That’s probably when I gained a lot more detailed experience around the glass business.

USGNN: What are you most looking forward to in this new position?

RB: For me, I’ve always been on the sales and marketing side of the business. I really like to get engaged with customers. I love discussing opportunities with customers. One of my basic philosophies is that strategies within a business really come from the outside in, from the customers in. So that’s really what I’m going for, hopefully, the first year of the business: meeting as many customers as I can and trying to understand from them what we can do to help them improve their business, especially during this construction recession we’re all in.

USGNN: As far as getting engaged with customers, will industry associations play a role in that?

RB: When I was on the extrusion side of the business I was involved with the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA). I think I’ll be involved in these industry trade groups, especially the Glass Association of North America and I would say AAMA, the two groups that I’m familiar with from my past in our industrial coatings business on the aluminum extrusions side. I want to stay involved, and get involved in those in a bigger way.

USGNN: What are some goals you’re setting as far as the future of PPG’s glass segment?

RB: Because of the economic activities in construction, one of my first goals is to try and improve the business in this downturn. I’m really looking for new opportunities to expand the market for glass. There are a lot of opportunities from what we see out there. From that side, I’m really looking at trying to expand the potential usage for glass.

One of my jobs prior to this was as our vice president of growth initiatives across the corporation, and one of the things I learned from that job was how we expand and get into new types of businesses. That’s one of the things I’ll be looking at in this business. How we can build on some of our advanced coatings systems, like our Solarban 70 glass, and how we can take that technology and expand it into new market opportunities, whether it be a solar glass or even light emitting diode-type glass, both of which we have pretty elaborate R&D projects on.

USGNN: Compared to the other divisions in which you’ve worked, what do you see as the main differences compared to the flat glass segment?

RB: A lot of what I’ve worked on in the past has been on the coatings side. I’ve spent a lot of my career in coatings and really, today, our glass business is more of a coatings business than it is just melting sand and soda ash. Most of the value-added that our customers get from our products, and that we sell to even the end-users, is all about the different coatings stacks that we put on glass and the functionality of those different coatings. I mentioned the Solarban glass product line, the low-E coating – the performance of that clear substrate is all about that coating. Even our Clarvista™ glass shower door glass, has a type of coating we put on shower doors that really adds functionality to the homeowner, eventually. So it’s very similar to what I’ve been doing in the coatings side of the business for many years on the sales and marketing side, really just trying to figure out that value chain and what makes the customers value our product line.

USGNN: What do you think are some of the biggest challenges with which the glass industry as a whole is faced and how can industry companies work toward solving them?

RB: The economy, and what’s going on in the construction industry with both commercial and residential being at extremely low levels, is probably the biggest issue. Our international business continues to do quite well, so we’re exporting quite a bit of glass, especially high-performance glass to other parts of the world. There’s really no solution [to the downturn] short of trying to expand opportunities for glass. [PPG has] a lot of activities going on in that area; that’s where most of our R&D activities stand, developing higher performance products and focus on light management – that’s energy and light. If you can say there’s a mega-trend out there it’s managing both of those, energy and light.

That’s what we look forward, getting some construction economic activity back and then seeing how the products are going to perform to help manage both light and energy.

USGNN: The glass industry is one that is continually evolving; how would you like to see PPG’s flat glass business evolve over the next few years?

RB: It’s a business that’s more than what it was 20 years ago, melting sand and soda ash and making clear glass – it’s [now] really about the research activities going on in the glass business and how those research activities are going to improve. For instance, how efficient solar cells are. We’ve got a project to improve the energy-efficiency of solar cells up to 10 percent and that’s really a lot of value to people that are in the business of generating electricity though solar cells. And what we mentioned earlier, about the organic light emitting diodes, it’s really a teamwork we have within our corporation. We have a fine chemicals group that makes small molecules for organic light emitting diodes and we combine that chemistry with our glass chemistry to really work on this Department of Energy project in creating white light in office buildings in a much more efficient way. Those are the types of things that really excite me about the opportunities in the glass business and what we can do. It’s all about the different coatings and the value and the chemistry we add on the surface.

USGNN: If there’s a silver lining at all during this downturn it’s that it really challenges organizations and people to become more creative… 

RB: If you’re going through what we’ve gone through for the last four years it really challenges everyone to be more creative. I think we’ve seen some of that, even the government, some of the incentives they’ve put out there really tackle some of these major energy opportunities. And a lot of them play into our core competency as a company, a combination of coatings, chemistry and glass.

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