Phil Turley, glass products business manager at Kommerling UK, has been operating in the window sealants sector for over 30 years. In this month’s Hot Seat he discusses his time in the industry, plus the challenges his sector faces in an increasingly competitive and complex market place.
GGP: How did you get started in the glazing industry?
PT: Prior to entering the building industry I had a short spell with West Bromwich Albion FC but my dream career wasn’t to be! After a period with a plumbing organization I moved to UBM Hills Glass where I was soon put in charge of an ancient toughening plant. That was over 35 years ago and since then I’ve worked in a variety roles and companies, the last 12 of which have been with Kommerling UK.
GGP: How has the industry changed during that period?
PT: The most obvious change is the level of automation. Back in the ‘80s the glass industry was very much a manual industry, now every stage from sales orders processing, production scheduling, actual manufacturing and even elements of the final install are automated. The second noticeable difference is how the industry’s knowledge and understanding has developed. Glass is no longer just a pane that allows in the light and keeps out the rain. Both the glass industry and architects are now only just fully realizing the potential of this amazing material.
Depending on the treatment, coatings and how it is combined with other materials, glass can be a key construction component that can also offer UV protection, sound reduction, blast protection or even become a medium for communication, such as the latest development from companies like G-Smatt.
GGP: What are the challenges currently facing your sector?
PT: We need to educate the market so that the IGU (insulating glass unit) manufacturers start to understand that sealant is more than ‘just black sticky stuff’. If they use inferior product or silica that is not compatible to the IGU sealant the finished unit is likely to fail, as the silicon will attack the sealant. This failure may cost time and money to rectify and damages their brand and the reputation of the wider sector. Trade bodies such as the Glass & Glazing Federation (GGF) can help by using the expertise of its members to produce more technical information and guidance to help educate the industry.
GGP: In light of the recent referendum result and the UK leaving the EU, what changes can you foresee in your sector?
PT: It may not affect our company as directly as others because our manufacturing base is in mainland Europe, but we could see tax changes. Import tax may become a factor, but at the same time, the EU VAT system may no longer apply to the UK and the VAT on the products on our sector may remain the same or decrease. Obviously, fluctuations in the exchange rate may impact on our prices.
High quality sealant is a glazing component, manufactured to increase the energy efficiency of an IGU and it should really be on the EU list of energy saving products and be at a VAT rate of 5% and not 20%. We appreciate the GGF has been lobbying the UK Government on the issue of cutting the VAT for energy efficient windows but any changes currently have to go via the EU VAT process. I anticipate this changing when the UK comes out of the EU, however, I hope the GGF can start to include all energy efficient glazing products in any compaigns going forward to cut the VAT. It is important our sector is given the same consideration as all the other energy saving products, if not by the EU then by the UK Government.
GGP: Your product is fairly versatile, which other markets do you supply and how important is it for companies to diversify to grow their businesses?
PT: Whilst a large percentage of our UK business is in the glazing industry, other sectors are also important for the overall growth and success of Kommerling UK. We have developed and supply a number of specialist sealants and adhesives for the marine market where they are used in the construction and fit out of vessels ranging from luxury yachts to rubber ribs. Similar investment continues in the automotive market where vehicle designers are striving to reduce the weight of vehicles without compromising on performance and/or safety.
GGP: Your audience in the window industry is mainly IGU manufacturers but what other markets do you reach?
PT: The wider building and construction market is very complex and we need to reach the key decision makers and influencers and different stages of the design, specification and actual build stage. This includes commercial glazers, architects, specifiers, energy managers and designers.
GGP: What other plans do you have in the pipeline to educate and guide your customers on the benefits of your products?
PT: There are numerous options available to us that will help us to explain our products and their benefits to our customers, and we are currently working with RIBA to educate architects on the role of our products in structural glazing.
Our company strap line is ‘more than a sealant’ and this has never been more appropriate with our excellent customer service, solid technical support, premium products and first class delivery. This is evidenced by not just our repeat business and satisfied customers but also by the fact that we have very little after sales complaints or reports of our products failing a customer. I can only attribute that to the people who work for Kommerling both abroad and in the UK. We have very knowledgeable, helpful and productive staff.
GGP: What do you think the future holds for the glazing industry?
PT: I’m sure that there will be further automation that will make the manufacturing process even more efficient. Beyond that it is hard to know as no-one could have predicted the changes of the last 30 years. So even though I’m in the glass industry I don’t have a crystal ball to tell the future!