The good thing about this special time in history, when the first significant signs of a pickup are being seen in Europe as well as in the United States, is an increasingly more perceivable mood of vital energy.Optimism is fundamental and one could say almost a must-have for a healthy business spirit. How true, but when this mood prevails, everything takes on different meaning.
Luckily, optimism is contagious and its propagation triggers a virtuous mechanism of positive thinking, inventing, improving, and finding new solutions. Simply put: innovation.
This theme comes at the right time. On 8 October, Vitrum 2015 is hosting the 30th A.T.I.V. (Italian Association of Glass Experts) Conference on: “Advances in Glass Processes: Key innovation topics in hollow and flat glass”. The focus will be on the concept of innovation in design and production. Companies and research centers from around the world will be presenting their most interesting technologies created and developed over recent years, as well as new production processes which, when combined with leading-edge technologies, have allowed the glass industry to optimize the quality and performance of its flat and hollow glass production. The proposals will be judged by a technical committee of leading experts from the industrial, scientific and academic fields: the 12 brightest ideas and most innovative solutions will be selected and presented to the public directly by their authors or developers.
A.T.I.V. (Association of Italian Glass Experts) President Alessandro Bandini.
The intention of this close collaboration between Vitrum and A.T.I.V. is to spread scientific know-how and technologies applied to glass, a material that is becoming more popular and appears to be opening up new, unexpected ideas for the application of avant-garde technologies.
We spoke to engineer Alessandro Bandini, Chairman of the A.T.I.V. Board of Directors.
After every recession the desire to make up for lost time means that the best energies are released. Engineer Bandini, what role do you think the glass industry can play here?
No sector of production has been spared from the socio-economic crisis that has gripped the country over the past few years, and many glass companies, while hard hit by the negative economic situation encountered in almost all their export markets, have reacted promptly by providing the right response to market changes and to the fall in demand. In many cases production processes have been reconverted and many production lines retrofitted to keep on improving in order to cut back on costs and compete on the global marketplace. The glass industry now plays a very important role in supporting the country which now more than ever before has the duty to recognize Made in Italy as being a mark of originality, quality and guarantee.
Investments have moved to emerging countries where living standards are improving, and the costs of labor, raw materials and energy are low. The Italian companies, that took their brands internationally in the past, are undoubtedly reaping the benefits and will continue to do so in the future. The glass industry is growing internationally in certain sectors, such as flat glass for the building industry, in architecture, in the automotive and in the food and beverage sectors.
The highly skilled and qualified people working in the glass industry and its related sectors as well as ongoing research into innovation will be critical to finding new interesting areas for growth.
The outstanding reputation of Italian companies as designers and manufacturers of glass processing machinery and accessories is well-known throughout the world. What fresh opportunities for growth can they count on?
The Italian companies that design and produce machinery and production units have a great opportunity, and this is to consolidate their role as leaders in this sector.
There is a huge demand for new production units and machinery from all parts of the world and our companies, which can rely on the technology they have developed within the Italian glass industry can compete in any area, from flat to hollow glass, in primary production and secondary processing.
Most importantly, being Italian, with new ideas and solutions, always brings a touch of originality, added value and customization to products, which increasingly more discerning customers need.
So I’m very optimistic about this sector.
In your opinion, which of the main applications of glass, that is, household, food, design/furniture, building/architectural and medical sectors, has the greatest technological and commercial potential?
If I had to judge the development potential of the sectors that have just been mentioned, I think that in terms of technology and commercial potential, flat glass in buildings/architecture and in design/furniture can currently be considered the most interesting.
Ever since ancient times glass has been a fascinating material and has a magical aura when being processed, used or simply observed with all its transparency and fragility. However, even though it is considered a fragile material, glass has a high potential as a structural material with major opportunities for development over the coming decades. The growing attention of world famous architects and studies by engineers into its mechanical properties in buildings are generating excellent designs of innovative buildings that were unthinkable until just a few years ago.
Over recent years, there has been a contraction in demand in the household/food sector and although figures have improved slightly over the last quarters it is still too soon to say that this sector is stabilizing and recovering. The Italian glass industry is feeling the effects of strong competition and needs to find new technological solutions to stand out by upgrading the quality of its processing operations and products and cutting down its costs which are currently much higher than its competitors. Glass companies need to be more flexible, they need lower taxes and energy costs, but above all they need to invest in the R&D of “lighter” containers with more innovative shapes for the luxury goods market and special glass.
While the above holds true for the Italian industry, at a global level and especially among the emerging countries, there are growing opportunities in all the sectors you mentioned. Countries that are rich in raw materials and energy will have an increasingly greater need for glass in buildings/architecture, and for their automotive, food and beverage and pharmaceutical industries, without forgetting solar energy and, in a broader sense, insulation.
I’d like to add one more thing about glass and its potential to drive the industry: GLASS is essential in our lives, it gives light and warmth, promotes communication and culture in all its various forms, it is Energy and Sustainability, the theme of EXPO 2015.