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Carlex purchase revives old Ford Glass Plant

Post Time:Nov 12,2013Classify:Industry NewsView:74

Carlex, the U.S. subsidiary of the Japan-based Central Glass Co., recently bought the former Ford Glass Plant on Centennial Boulevard in Nashville from Michigan-based Zeledyne Corp., which had owned the facility since mid-2008.The company, which makes automotive glass for the original equipment manufacturers as well as the aftermarket, also has a factory in Vonore, Tenn., south of Knoxville.With the Nashville purchase, Carlex also bought Zeledyne’s automotive aftermarket glass distribution center in Lebanon.James E. “Jim” Shepherd is the new executive vice president of Carlex, leading the company’s sales, marketing, information-technology and business-planning functions at the company’s new Nashville headquarters, which is at the plant site.Shepherd, a Michigan native, is a graduate of Michigan State University and began his career in the glass industry with PPG Industries immediately after college.Tennessean business writer G. Chambers Williams III interviewed Shepherd about Carlex’s plans for the local plant, including an announced $100 million investment for renovations and expansion.What is your background in the glass business?I’ve been in the glass industry more than 30 years — my entire career. I was in the finance end of it the first 15 years, and since then, I’ve been on the general-management side of the business. I’ve been in virtually every part of the industry: flat glass, architectural glass, automotive glass, aircraft glass, distribution and manufacturing.Why did Carlex decide to take over the Nashville glass plant? How does it fit into the company’s overall strategy?Carlex already had the operation in Vonore, making automotive glass, and the plant was very full and looking for opportunities to grow the business. So, the timing was very gratuitous when this opportunity presented itself.It gave us the opportunity to expand our original-equipment glass business, and the opportunity to enter the aftermarket glass business. And it gave us a captive source of supply of float glass, which is used in our automotive glass products. Prior to this acquisition, we were purchasing all of our float glass.What products do you make here, and where are they used?We start with sand, and we end up with a piece of glass you can see through. It’s a pretty amazing process. There’s obviously a little bit more involved than just melting a bucket of sand, though, and it’s a very capital-intensive process. We run the glass furnace 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, for 10 to 12 years.What exactly is “float” glass?Today, the predominant way of making flat glass is the “float” process. After the glass is created from the sand in a big furnace, it flows onto a bed of molten tin. The density of the tin is greater than the density of the glass, so the glass literally floats on top of that bed of molten tin.It slowly cools as it moves through the bed of tin. It is cut into rectangles after it cools. We then move it into the manufacture of a windshield, back window, side window, whatever. Here in Nashville, we make windshields.The Vonore plant doesn’t make the glass; it takes our glass and makes windshields, back glass, side glass and sunroofs.What are the company’s plans for the Nashville plant?We have some fairly extensive repairs that have to be done — roof repair, for example; we have a lot of leaks. It’s an older plant, with a lot of buildings and unused space. We’re bringing the infrastructure up to where it needs to be. We will redo the offices as part of that.But more importantly, we will be putting in two new windshield lines and making some significant upgrades to the float line, as well. We have three float lines here, but only one of them is operating; the other two were decommissioned long before we came here.When we have all of the work completed by the summer of next year, we’ll have some very state-of-the-art equipment for manufacturing windshields and float glass. That will increase capacity significantly, and there will be some improvement in quality, as well.How many employees do you have in Nashville, and will the expansion create any new hires?The employee count will stay relatively stable out of the chute. We have 450 production workers now, but as we get new business we’ll be able to increase.Another thing we’re doing is establishing our headquarters here, and that will have a total of about 150 people. Zeledyne’s headquarters was in Michigan, and we’ll be moving a number of those positions into Nashville, and we will be providing support to our East Tennessee operation as well.Some people are moving from Michigan now, including me. I’ll be here in about two weeks.And we are actually staffing up for some positions now. We have a need right now for engineers and production supervisors, and we’ve been a little bit surprised that it’s been difficult finding people. The job market is tightening up, and we’re working pretty hard to identify the right candidates to join us, particularly in those areas.We have other jobs to fill, too, but right now we have a strong need for engineers and production supervisors, and we’re not seeing as many applications as we thought we’d see.Who are the main customers of the Nashville plant?Out of this plant, Ford is the primary customer. But as we go forward, we’ll be able to diversify the customer base. We’re not restricted to Ford in any way, shape or form. We’re the fifth owner of the plant in the past 10 or 12 years, but we have no ownership ties to Ford.What does the Lebanon facility do, and how many employees does it have?We have about 30 full-time employees and some seasonal. The Lebanon location houses our aftermarket distribution business. We have a fairly significant business in the aftermarket. Our customers typically are distributors or companies that actually install the glass in the vehicle. One name well known to consumers is Safelite, a company that installs automotive glass and also makes some of its own products.Just how strategic is your Nashville location, with so many auto plants located throughout the South?Many of those auto assembly plants are already (our) customers, and those that aren’t are potential customers. This plant is in a very good place. The geographic location is extremely attractive to us; it’s very close to our customers, close to our distribution center, and close enough to East Tennessee for us to get the glass to our location there.Where does the sand come from that you use to make the glass?The sand comes in by truck. Soda ash comes in by rail, so we have raw materials coming in by rail and truck. We have some rather significant silos where we store everything, and we produce 500 tons of glass daily.How do you feel personally about moving to Nashville?I’m looking forward to it. We’ve bought a house south of here, about 17 minutes from the plant. I lived in Pittsburgh for 15 years, and we really loved Pittsburgh. Nashville reminds me a lot of Pittsburgh. It’s what I call a large small city.People are super friendly, there are lots of things to do, and it’s a great place to live and raise a family. Of course, as a (Pittsburgh) Steelers fan, I’m going to have some issues in the fall. The weather will be a definite improvement, though. 20.06.2011, Carlex/glassinchina.com

Source: http://www.glassglobal.com/news/carlex_purchase_revives_old_ford_glass_plant-18042.htmlAuthor:

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