Glass set for a vibrant future

Dave Dalton, Chief Executive Officer, British Glass

Dave Dalton, Chief Executive Officer, explains a new approach by British Glass aimed at raising the profile of the glass manufacturing sector.

Glass has rapidly become the high-profile material of choice in so many areas of life, but it also remains so easily taken-for-granted and often under-estimated.

Glass pervades every walk of life, and many things that we touch and see rely upon its presence.  It is a fantastic material with an incredible future and something that we, at British Glass, are proud to be part of.

Of course, as part of the glass industry we would say that wouldn't we? But saying and believing is not always the same thing and - take it from me - we believe it!

Technology Horizon

Glass is rapidly approaching a new technology horizon - with research and development only starting to uncap the potential of this truly unique material whose theoretical strength is greater than that of steel. This is in contrast to many other materials which are now only slowly iterating forward from former glories. It is certainly an exciting time to be part of this industry as these developments emerge and our job is to keep this progress on track and help find the support and encouragement to ensure it does all of this and more.

It was pointed out to my great delight that at recent launches of the iPhone 5, Windows Surface and a multitude of other next generation smartphones that there is direct mention of glass in many publicity materials and specifications, enthusing of sleek and beautiful design comprising glass, and the amazing aesthetics this material brings to many of the most desirable objects currently in the marketplace.

Similarly, in other mobile devices, e-tablets, flat-screen TVs, and a host of other everyday items, glass is becoming an ever more popular material of choice.

When it comes to architecture and design, several innovative, large-scale projects feature glass - from the Burj Khalefa in Dubai to the London Shard - these projects are visibly overwhelming made from glass and provide exceptional elegance as well as incredible functionality. They celebrate amazing capability in light and temperature regulation, environmental control and unrivalled aesthetics.

Evolving

Technical glasses and intelligent coatings, even on everyday bottles and jars, are evolving at a tremendous rate and with increasing understanding and improvements in production control, the best is yet to come.

British Glass mission is to keep the momentum behind the continuing growth of applications requiring glass. In order for the glass industry to continue to grow and succeed, British Glass has been busy changing and restructuring itself to best adapt to the new challenges ahead.

As a trade federation, British Glass has for many years accomplished excellent work, particularly in energy, waste and general environmental support. This has been set against a backdrop of ever-increasing and potentially business-critical legislation. We have built an extraordinary depth of knowledge and understanding which has been applied to successful negotiating with UK government departments such as DEFRA and DECC. This has resulted in robust positions being achieved with regard to financial/fiscal penalties, which have been inflicted to a greater extent upon most other energy intensive sectors.

We have also maintained a key presence in Health and Safety matters, creating and managing a process of shared best practice and continuous improvement through our GLASS Charter - a model that has been warmly supported by the UK regulator - the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) - and now replicated across other industry sectors.

The Glass Academy

It is now necessary for a further change in emphasis. BG will broaden its approach by supporting manufacturing in the UK and champion the cause of improving competitiveness of our manufacturing industries through better relationships and the support of BIS.

We have identified the skills gap as a key priority area which now needs urgent action. We, like so many manufacturing sectors, have an ageing workforce and an image that does not entice new staff into the sector. To address this, we have conceived "The Glass Academy", an initiative through which we aim to attract the highest calibre of young and enthusiastic future leaders into engineering, technical and manufacturing careers with glass while also raising the public profile of this essential manufacturing sector.

We aim to change the image and the practice to drive manufacturing to the height of its capabilities by embracing a necessary cultural change. This will ensure the learning and development environment in glass manufacturing is conducive to training a highly capable and productive workforce, operating at the top of its game, and competitive against the best that exists elsewhere. The Glass Academy is a government sponsored pilot programme designed exactly to help deliver this change.

Through its pilot phase, a demonstration of the value and improvement in trading competitiveness will be aligned with the investment in training and development required to achieve it.

This radical change from intermediary sector skills councils to employer ownership is our main ambition; through this, it is believed we can attract, continuously train and maintain the best people, and perpetuate this through growth and repeat investment. It is hoped that the success of this project will lead to greatly improved global competiveness across the industry and a continual stream of new talent into our sector.

With these ambitions, a strong, growing industry, and the support of our technical wing - Glass Technology Services (GTS) - beside us, we look forward to a very exciting future ahead.

Reproduction of this published material is provided courtesy of Glass International - www.glass-international.com .

Published in Glass International November 2012.

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On average, every family in
the UK uses around 330 glass
bottles and jars each year.


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