The US glass industry consists of 2,000 manufacturers with combined annual revenue of $25 billion. Large companies include PPG, Owens-Illinois, and Corning. The industry is highly concentrated: the 50 largest companies hold close to 90 percent of the market. Most companies in the industry manufacture products from bulk glass bought from a handful of primary glass manufacturers.
Demand comes from the construction, auto, bottling, and container industries. The profitability of individual companies depends on low-cost operations because most products are commodities that are bought based on price. Big manufacturers have large efficiencies of scale in operations, which is why the industry is so concentrated. Small manufacturers can compete effectively by producing specialty products or serving a local market. The industry is capital-intensive; annual revenue per worker is close to $200,000.
Major products are glass containers, flat glass, fiberglass, and specialty products such as TV tubes, glass ware, lenses, mirrors, and optic fiber. Specialty products account for more than half of industry revenue, containers about 25 percent, and flat glass about 10 percent.
Bulk glass is made by melting quartz sand and adding various substances such as limestone, soda ash, metals, and other materials to produce a 'melt' The melt is then formed, cooled, and further processed by grinding, cutting, and polishing into finished products.
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