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USGNN Original StoryIs a Glass Shortage Coming?

Could a glass shortage really be on the way? Rumors of such have been growing for months, and now conclusions are beginning to be drawn at factors that could have led to a shortage.

"It's pretty obvious," says Mauro DiFazio, vice president of float glass sales for Zeledyne in Tulsa, Okla. "Asahi Glass Co. has taken three tanks out of the industry. There was a huge surplus of clear. There is not anymore. My understanding is … that the clear market is sold out."

Beginning in April, AGC Flat Glass North America's (AFGNA) parent company, Japan-based Asahi, closed the doors of float glass facilities in Victorville, Calif., and St. Augustine, Quebec, and one production line at its Greenland, Tenn., manufacturing plant (CLICK HERE for that story). According to the press release issued by the company, the move was expected to reduce Asahi's glass production capacity in North America by approximately 40 percent.

"The downturn in the residential market resulted in a significant overcapacity situation," explains John Hughes, commercial segment manager for AFGNA. "This supply/demand situation resulted in AGC temporarily reducing its capacity."

Hughes adds, "AGC will be bring up the lines once demand warrants it."

While the move may have helped Asahi's bottom line, others worry about what may happen should residential market begin to pick up while commercial holds steady, increasing demand for this product.

"With the downturn of [AGC] and shutting down of three of their float lines we're now running at about 98-percent of capacity as an industry," says Russell Ebeid, president of Guardian Industries Corp.'s Glass Group in Auburn Hills, Mich. "So any little blip is going to affect supply of glass to the trade."

A blip such as last week's torrential rains that left parts of Wichita Falls, Texas, under as much as 15 inches of water-and left Pittsburgh-based PPG Industries minus one float glass line. (CLICK HERE for that story.) The disruption came shortly after the company began making scheduled repairs to its line in Carlisle, Pa.

PPG clearly is not alone in its need for repairing the long-running lines as continuous upgrades must be made to furnaces around the world. For companies such as PPG where, Vicki Holt, senior vice president of glass and fiberglass, points out, "the residential segment is actually the largest user of glass, in terms of tonnage," now may be just the time to repair lines when less demand is being heard from the residential sector.

What other factors do you think may lead to a glass shortage? And how would you prepare? CLICK HERE to share your thoughts on these topics.

And for more on this topic, look for the September 2008 issue of USGlass magazine.

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