Premium investment

Glass Times editor, Luke Wood, talks to Jody Hodgson, sales director at Firman Glass, who explains how a programme of continued investment is key to driving the business forward.

Established in 1975 and specialising in the production of high quality toughened and laminated glass and specialist sealed units, Essex based Firman Glass is one of the UK’s leading independent glass manufacturing firms.

The company, which can manufacture a complete range of processed toughened glass, including CNC shaping, to fire rated, anti-slip, electrically switchable and decorative glass and structural IGUs – and everything in between – supplies into all market sectors, from architectural, retail and leisure to domestic projects.

And in addition to a team of highly knowledgeable and skilled staff, it is a programme of continual investment in automation and machinery that is central to Firman’s ability to be able to keep on top of increasingly high demand for its premium product offer, as sales director, Jody Hodgson, explains.

“Our location means we supply into a lot of big projects in London and that includes plenty of high-end residential properties,” he says. “We’re still more than happy to sell standard 6mm glass to anyone that needs it, and we still do a lot of replacement IGU work, which over the years has been our bread and butter.

“Recently however, in the last six months or so, we’ve seen an upturn in interest for oversized IGUs and demand at the top end of the market – which will typically also include glass balustrades and glass staircases – remains strong, despite more challenging conditions generally post Covid.

“When you’re supplying into the premium residential sector, we need to ensure that our customers are getting the very highest standard of product and that’s not possible without the best machinery and production processes,” he continues.

“We continue to invest in our machinery, for instance we installed an additional Intermac CNC machine at the end of 2022 – we now have five of them – and we’ve just ordered a Schraml vertical TopDrill that is due to be installed during September this year.”

As the first of its type to be installed in the UK the new Schraml will include high pressure waterjet cutting, allowing drilling and notching to be carried out on the same machine. This technology will reduce glass handling between machines and represents an investment in excess of £200,000 that will introduce a new level of quality and finish to Firman Glass’ product range.’

Capable of cutting complicated shapes into glass that’s loaded vertically instead of horizontally, the Schraml is an impressive machine. Fully automated, it combines drilling and water jetting in an eight head rotary tool, which saves on time and means less movement of glass with better surface quality.

In addition to the Schraml CNC, Firman Glass has also recently ordered a new Adelio Lattuada washing machine, complete with a Reverse Osmosis system to supply demineralised water as well as a brand new Filtraglass DG365 water treatment plant.

Representing a six-figure investment, the Filtraglass plant is designed to dramatically reduce water consumption by filtering out the small glass particles created during manufacture, and then return the clean water back into a closed supply circuit.

As well as the clear environmental and cost benefits to Firman by using less water, the Filtraglass system helps to reduce wear and tear on machinery – increasing overall productivity – and also improves the quality of the end product.

“We continue to face challenges post Covid, including managing the cost of energy and how we communicate that to our customers, but where we can see the most opportunity is at the top end of the market and that means we are heavily reliant on having the best machinery and processes in place.

“With the addition of our new Filtraglass system we are running a more efficient and more sustainable business, but crucially, and when combined with machinery such as our Schraml CNC, we are also able to ensure our customers are able to take full advantage of demand for premium quality glass products.”