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GGP January 2015

G L A S S & G L A S S P R O C E S S I N G Kommerling’s Kodak Moment Phil Turley, glass products business manager at Kommerling, talks to GGP about what lessons the glass and glazing industry can learn from the rise and fall of Kodak. George Eastman launched the first Kodak camera in 1888 and rapidly established a dominant market share for his company. At that time, his products were truly innovative and their uptake followed the now well recognised pattern of early adopters, followed by a gradual wider acceptance until, nearly a century after their introduction, a huge proportion of the US population viewed cameras as a fairly everyday item. By the ‘70s, 90% of the US market for camera film products were made by Kodak. Everyone has had that treasured ‘Kodak Moment’. Then came the advent of digital cameras, closely followed by mobile phones, and their rate of development and wide acceptance has been far more rapid than the first generation of cameras. The established monolith, Kodak, could not keep pace with the new nimble competitors and by 2012 the once dominant market leader had filed for bankruptcy. But what does this have to do with the glass and glazing industry and what does this tell us about our market? And more importantly what lessons can we learn? There are two old adages to consider; firstly, ‘if it ain't broke don’t try to fix it’, but secondly, and maybe more importantly, is ‘you can’t stand still in business.’ Let’s consider each of these in turn. There are products in our own range, and probably those of some of our competitors, that have changed little or not at all for over 40 years. Polysulphide IG sealants (GD116) are still the market leader to this day. Other Kommerling products for IG lead the field in hot melt, polyurethane and silicone technology. With this proven success behind it, it would be easy for the IG producer to go for a tried and trusted product rather than the newer, less proven products that are starting to appear in the market. A good business choice,' if it aint broke……' Then why do we have R&D labs if our products are proven, high quality offerings? Well, as I said earlier, that is the other side of the coin and in any business, 'you can’t stand still'. One example of this is the development of hot melts. When the market demanded a lower cost product (as it always does) we invested time and money to develop an alternative to our ever popular Isomelt. This meant taking the product back to its component parts and reconfiguring the chemistry as well as the production methods employed. This was no mean feat and had our sales team more than a little concerned, (even though it was the feedback from their customers that had prompted this reappraisal “Most of the companies in the IG component sector that are doing well are in the first place!). After all, Isomelt has given years of trouble free IG production and continues to do so to this day. Kodimelt was the outcome and in tests at the leading European test house, gave results that in some areas surpassed Isomelt. Proof that technology is always moving forward and of the value of our R&D facilities. Kodak developed a product and then developed the market so that people suddenly realised that they needed a camera. However, sometimes the development of a new product is not a result of the manufacturer’s initiative but is driven by external forces such as the end user. This is the situation facing much of the glazing market in the early stages of the 21st century. Architects and designers are pushing the boundaries for the use of glass, and this is combined with a far greater understanding of how light affects our well being and productivity. On the down side, increasing threats make occupant safety an even more important factor for building owners. When these are combined, you can clearly see the drivers behind the development of a range of composite products for glass lamination. We, like others, have recently redeveloped a whole range so that we now have a solution for every situation from ballistic use, protection from UV light damage, enhanced acoustic properties and these are being installed in some of the country’s most prestigious building designs. If George Eastman were alive now I wonder what message he would take from how the camera business has evolved in the last 100 years and how it might change in the remainder of the 21st century. Kommerling first opened for business in 1897, not long after Kodak, but because of investment in continuous innovation we are still pushing forward. Most of the companies in the IG component sector that are doing well are the innovators, they are the people who change the way the industry thinks and acts. We cannot stand still, but neither should we forget what got us here in the first place, products that work and keep on working. 38 www.ggp.com January 2015 the innovators”


GGP January 2015
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