The event got off to a great start with an impressive number of 750 international glass specialists gathered together in the TähtiAreena exhibition and sports center, which combined music and lights, and above all, a place to share knowledge. With the theme of “All eyes on smarter glass,” a truly global lineup of speakers gave their views on the glass business – and the importance of embracing and implementing new technologies.
The opening words of the GPD event were given by Jorma Vitkala, Chairman of the Organizing Committee. “This year, the focus is very much on the future. Smart cities, smart buildings and smart glazing are our future. Changes are happening faster than ever before. But we need to continue being the catalysts for ideas and innovation.”
“Since 1992 when the very first GPD took place, more than 14,000 delegates have participated, over 3,500 presentations have been given and some 11,000 pages of technical documents have been written,” he shares. “GPD has truly become a unique platform for trustworthy information.”
This is the 16thtime for Jorma to orchestrate the show, and the last time for him in the role of Chairman of the Organizing Committee, as he will be retiring. Regardless, Jorma’s ongoing passion for Glass Performance Days will continue. After 2019, he plans to devote some time to GPD, focusing on maintaining the conference spirit and the relationships that he has created over the last 30 years.
Arto Metsänen, CEO and President of Glaston, was next. Speaking about the development within the glass industry, he strongly emphasized the importance of collaboration.
“The global need for environmental energy and sustainability is reshaping the nature of glass. Energy efficiency has always been a challenge. As a material, though, glass is very competitive in terms of CO2 reduction. It provides a unique opportunity for the sustainable development of the world. But we can only succeed if we work together,” Arto said.
“No company or individual can do this alone,” he notes. “That’s why we introduced Step Change, the first-ever event of this kind, as part of the 2017 conference to become the platform where innovative ideas and technologies can meet with glass. This will also remain as the core spirit for future GPD conferences.”
Executive Director of the City of Tampere Teppo Rantanen warmly welcomed everyone to the city. “Tampere has been an innovative city for a long time. Here, innovation has been built by sharing our thoughts and ideas – and moving forward together. That’s why it is a perfect location to host GPD,” he said.
Mr. Stefan Blach, from the world-renowned architectural company Studio Libeskind in New York, presented some of the most successful global examples of integrating ultra-modern architecture within city landscapes.
“It can often be a challenge to introduce important new public spaces without taking off the spirit or the heritage of the city. Innovating and combining the variety of glass types and technologies is what makes it possible,” he claimed, adding that glass helps to include the context of the surrounding area, which is key.
Mike Pilliod, Director of Manufacturing Innovation at Tesla, presented his ‘team of teams’ approach to innovation. Achieving something as amazing as the safest cars in the world requires disruptive methods of innovating.
“If you look at the automotive windshields, most of them would be the same. That’s because it is the supply chain that dictates how glass looks,” Mike pointed out. “At Tesla, our principal design idea dictates the requirements. Then we find a way to fulfill them. This approach expands the toolbox for our designers and has enabled us to have a focus on glass throughout all of our products.”
In his inspiring speech, Mike also shared how important it is to be the ‘yes, and…’ team to foster innovation. By this, he means that instead of saying “No, it’s impossible,” every team should question what is needed to actually make it possible. As an example, when challenged to develop the world’s largest windshields to date, the answer of Tesla’s Manufacturing Innovation team was: “Yes, and we need a larger glass bending furnace!”
Dr. Sener Oktik, CTO of the biggest flat glass producer in Europe SISECAM, gave an extensive overview of the development of flat and coated glass for the construction and automotive segments. He expects considerable growth in demand on almost all fronts, with the demand for multifunctional coatings increasing significantly as well.
“Both the construction and automotive industries have a growing need for redefined surfaces: self-dimming, color-changing, lighter, greener, more flexible, durable and reliable. You can get most of these technologies already today. But at what cost?” Dr. Oktik asked.
At the end of the Opening Ceremony, James O'Callaghan from Eckersley O’Callaghan was announced as the recipient of the very special Jorma Vitkala Award 2019 in recognition of all the great job he has been doing throughout his life to the development of structural glass designs, sharing his knowledge around the world and being a true contributor for the entire glass industry.