Glass supply guarantee

Transparency in glass supply – and particularly supply of laminated glass – has been flagged by the industry as an area of concern. So how can glass suppliers and their customers guarantee what’s dispatched or fitted on site? By Bohle.

The integrity of your supply chain is key. And in glass it’s even more so, because the ramifications of incorrect, or out of specification supply, can be catastrophic.

The Glassworks Ireland case epitomises what can go wrong. Hitting the national headlines in summer 2016 as the defendant appeared in court, a rogue employee admitted passing off ordinary laminate glass as fire resistant safety glass for a three-year period between 2010 and 2013.

The glass was supplied to the construction industry and later used in buildings across Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and England. The presiding judge stating in court that it was only ‘by the grace of God’, that serious injury to the public had been avoided.

“It’s at the extreme end of the scale but the case highlights the importance of knowing exactly what you’re sourcing and supplying. As a glass processor, or ultimately contractor, you’re by definition accountable for what you supply, regardless of whether you’re acting in good faith or otherwise,” Dave Broxton, managing director Bohle, said.

“I don’t believe for a moment that criminality is widespread in our industry but there is growing industry discussion and concern, particularly surrounding IGUs, that what is being specified by fabricators, installers and glass processors, is in fact what is being delivered and installed.

“In my opinion, this is much more about robustness of process than it is about deliberate deceit but the point is that mistakes can and do happen. The question is how do you pick them up before they become a problem?”

Contractors and their supply chain have clear liabilities under building control to guarantee the that building materials perform to specification.

The consequences and ramifications of the supply of out of specification glass, however, go far beyond building regs, to fundamental issues of public safety. These come with their own set of financial penalties and could ultimately be much more severe including corporate manslaughter charges and potential imprisonment.

Given this, it makes sense to have an insurance policy. Bohle provides a solution in the Glass Buddy and Glass Buddy Plus, which eliminate the risk of inaccurate supply of product by providing an instant analysis of glass properties ahead of manufacture or installation.

Capable of analysis of single pane through to laminated or insulated glass units, Glass Buddy uses laser technology to deliver an instant analysis of glass properties. This includes thickness, the structure of the pane, the low-e coating, PVB interlayers, and their position to the accuracy of 0.1mm.

“Errors in labelling can occur and if they’re not picked up early, the cost of putting them right once a product has been installed or because of the legal liabilities that go with it, can be huge,” Dave said.

“Glass buddy eliminates doubt and, in doing so, eliminates risk and your potential liabilities as a manufacturer or supplier.”

Glassolutions is part of Saint-Gobain Building Glass UK&I – a large processor, distributor, installer and repairer of glass and glazing systems in the UK, with 1,100 employees operating from 22 locations across the country.

As part of its commitment to quality of supply, Glassolutions invested in Glass Buddy late in 2017 as part of a ‘belt and braces’ commitment to guarantee the integrity of product in the large-scale supply of manufactured laminate glass, including bullet-resistant glass.

Anita Dal Porto, its supply chain manager, said: “We were supplying 5-ply laminated glass to one of our key accounts in high volumes, using our supply chain businesses to manage the volumes required.

“Although we have processes in place to track each individual piece of glass and had no reason to suspect that what we were receiving wasn’t what it said it was, we wanted to ensure the consistency of product specification as well as the overall quality of glass.

“Our customer also wanted to be able to evidence complete traceability and transparency of its supply chain as well as product specification – an increasingly common practice from a compliance perspective.”

Already in use by its European technical team as part of its development programme, Glassolutions specified Glass Buddy to provide an additional check and the requisite documentation for its customer.

“We hold a huge amount of stock,” Anita said. “We supply IGUs to residential and commercial markets, fire and laminated glass for office partitioning, and balustrades plus stock for glass processors, merchants and IGU manufacturers. We stock more than 170 individual products for immediate delivery and if for any reason we need additional checks to ensure we are receiving or shipping the correct specification, Glass Buddy allows us to make them.

“It allows us to introduce additional quality control to our already robust processes.”