Many factors came into play to make PPG’s glass business a fit for Vitro, which purchased the division last week. One of them was the Mexican manufacturer’s desire to bolster its research branch.

PPG vice president of flat glass Dick Beuke told DWM in an exclusive interview that “the biggest thing” that attracted Vitro to the business was PPG’s research operations. The company has a large research and development center in Harmar, Pa.

“Research drives value for our customers,” he said, adding that success in that department depends on this question: “How will the research going on now play out in the next two to five years, to expand our market and opportunities?”

Beuke said Vitro is “really excited to get into the coatings business.” PPG’s operations will add low-E capability to Vitro’s offerings, and Beuke is particularly excited about the potential for research geared toward the automotive industry. PPG divested its automotive business in 2008 and sold its share in Pittsburgh Glass Works earlier this year.

“Vitro is a very big automotive supplier, so our research capability should be able to help there,” Beuke said.

PPG’s research facility currently houses its architectural paint business, and Beuke said the segment of PPG will continue to operate there as a tenant. “It’s not competitive at all—it’s a collaborative environment,” he said. “There’s not a lot of overlap between coatings on glass and coatings on buildings.”

Vitro will take over the glass manufacturing and glass coatings operations in Fresno, Calif.; Salem, Ore.; Carlisle, Pa.; and Wichita Falls, Texas, as well as four distribution/fabrication facilities in Canada, and the research-and-development center near Pittsburgh. PPG’s flat glass business includes approximately 1,200 employees, all of whom Vitro will retain.

Beuke said the executive team hasn’t yet discussed potential for expansion in North America, but Vitro has committed to adding capacity in Monterrey, Mexico.

Looking forward, Beuke is optimistic and believes PPG’s 133-year-old glass business is in good hands with the 107-year-old Mexico-based manufacturer.

“We’re going to have fun with this,” he said. “One thing I noticed with the Vitro guys is they like to have fun. So we’re going to have fun.”

This is the third in a series of stories covering the aftermath of PPG’s glass business sale to Vitro. Click here to read the first part, and click here to read the second part.

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