When you have the opportunity to talk with someone who’s been in the glass business for 43 years—who, along with his company, has survived and thrived after the most recent recession? Well, you take it.

Jordan Scott, assistant editor for DWM’s sister publication, USGlass, had such an opportunity, when she interviewed Richard Beuke, president of Vitro Architectural Glass. I was lucky enough be part of that interview as well. Beuke is retiring from Vitro (formerly PPG) after 43 years of service. You can read the article here, and a more detailed version will also appear in a future issue of USGlass magazine. But there were a few things that really struck me from the conversation that I wanted to share.

Surviving the Recession

I’ve been in the industry for almost 21 years and if you asked me the biggest challenge during that time it was the recession following the housing boom of the 2000s. Yes, we are past that now, and the housing industry is in full recovery mode, but it was a really rough several years. It seemed like all we wrote about here at DWM were plant closings or bankruptcies and it was a pretty depressing time to be in the industry. Beuke also remembers it well.

“I wouldn’t wish that on anyone,” he said.

If you were a company who survived that time, you are somewhat of a success story, because many companies didn’t.

Witnessing the Rise of Low-E

The introduction of low-E coatings, and their subsequent penetration of the windows market, is the biggest technological advancement Beuke has seen.

“The advancement in low-E in the market happened faster than anyone anticipated,” he said.

Opining on the Complexity of the Glass Industry

A common theme throughout the interview included the complexity of the glass manufacturing business—a fact most people don’t realize.

“The glass business is difficult,” said Beuke. “No one gives the industry credit for the capital intensity that is involved.”

One of the reasons for this is the complexity of coatings, which will only continue to increase as technology evolves.

“It’s important to keep up with investing in these technologies,” he said.

Passing Along Advice

Another theme evident throughout the interview was one that many may not have seen coming.

“Have fun,” said Beuke.

It’s something he tried to ensure throughout his time at the company, he said. And in a challenging, complex industry like this one, it’s certainly something to strive for.

Congratulations to Beuke for an impressive career that any one of us would be lucky to replicate.

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