GTS Reshapes to Meet the Challenges of Industry
Technical Director Dr Nick Kirk, outlines how British Glass’ independent testing facility, Glass Technology Services, has been reshaping to meet the current challenges facing the industry.
If there is one constant in the world of glass, it is that there is no constant.
Product innovation, quality standards, legislation, sustainability credentials….it is an industry which never stops changing and developing across the whole glass supply chain.
It presents as many challenges as it does opportunities and for the Glass Technology Services team it has meant a continuous programme of investment in plant, equipment and people, in order to remain at the forefront of quality standards and brand guardianship on behalf of the highly innovative glass manufacturers and suppliers we serve across the world.
In the last two years alone we have invested over £500K in staff, equipment, infrastructure and training and grown our team of specialists by more than 25%.
One change on the horizon, which will particularly impact on the flat glass industry, is the replacement of the Construction Products Directive (CPD) with the Construction Products Regulation (CPR), effectively limiting the ability of manufacturers of building products from CE marking their own products.
After July 1 st 2013 all glass used in construction and road markings must be performance assessed (initial type tested) by a legally and technically independent notified body.
GTS will hold Notified Testing Laboratory status early next year, so manufacturers will be able to use our test results to contribute towards the CE Marking of their construction products, enabling us to hit the ground running for major clients, including one of the world’s leading manufacturers of glass and glazing systems in the construction sector.
We have recruited material sciences, physics, chemistry and mechanical engineering graduates as well as apprentices to work alongside our leading technical experts to provide a wide range of bespoke solutions covering all aspects of glass including new product development, melting, fitness for purpose, failure assessment, analysis and testing, environmental monitoring and legal expert witness services.
Working in partnership with our clients we’ve been able to design, manufacture and bring to market some highly innovative glass products across the glass packaging, glazing, fibre insulation, continuous fibre and technical glass sectors.
At the same time, we’re supporting their quality and performance credentials, through chemical analysis, durability testing, mechanical performance testing, fitness for purpose assessment, product conformity testing, foreign fragment identification and process troubleshooting.
Seeing our laboratories and test facilities in operation is a great reminder of just how extensively used and valuable a commodity glass is. At any one time, we could be testing shop windows, car windscreens, pharmaceutical containers, food jars, drink bottles, furniture, shower screens, lighting, jewellery, ornaments and a whole range of other glass products.
Some of our most highly-recognised food and drink brands and beauty and perfume products, rely on glass to create vital consumer engagement. Not only does it need to be fit for purpose, it needs to fulfill exacting brand and design requirements.
The GTS philosophy is simple: provide knowledge and expertise in a flexible and proactive way that helps our clients to gain a competitive edge. We also recognise that for many clients, speed is of the essence and most of the services we provide can be offered on the same or next day.
Rather than simply presenting the analysis or identifying a failure, whether we’re assessing product quality and fitness for purpose, analyzing fracture and failure or examining colour and light transmission, for example, we provide vital solutions to manufacturing issues and make recommendations on how to improve the product’s performance as well as to meet any legislative standards.
We aim to be far more than a testing laboratory and with a 50-year history of helping companies to design, manufacture and bring glass products to market, we’re increasingly being commissioned to undertake long-term consultancy contracts as well as one-off projects.
Working across the glass supply chain for manufacturers and manipulators, fillers, brand owners and retailers, architects, building contractors and consulting engineers and across a wide range of markets including food and drink, automotive and architectural, pharmaceutical and technical, defence, photonics and biomedical, we have a comprehensive programme of research and development under way to help our clients innovate and grow.
In collaboration with leading universities and businesses, we are developing new coatings for glass products, bio materials, photonics and optical devices. Some of these activities are supported under the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) and the UK Government’s Technology Strategy Board (TSB) – both of which aim to boost research and innovation across Europe and the UK.
We’re also working with global manufacturers and retailers in the Middle East, America, China, Australia and South Africa, to ensure their products meet all the required and pending standards for export across the world.
We regularly undertake audits of glass production and filling lines on behalf of glass manufacturer customers such as international pharmaceutical companies and spirit and beer brand owners, to ensure that the product is manufactured to their requirements. Our specialists are also being commissioned as Expert Witnesses, in both criminal and civil cases, giving independent advice and findings on all aspects of glass quality and performance.
Clients are increasingly using our training services, both here in Sheffield and through bespoke courses run at their own premises. Webinars and online consultancy are in increasing demand, particularly for global suppliers, who want individuals and teams in many different locations to tap into the latest knowledge, best practice and industry developments.
It is, of course, client demand which has dictated the continued growth of GTS’s technical support and consultancy portfolio and in future articles I’ll be looking in detail at some of the key developments in glass technology which are meeting those demands, across the construction, food and drink, pharmaceutical, retail and other specialist sectors.
Reproduction of this published material is provided courtesy of Glass International. Published in Glass International December 2012.