来源In Toledo, the ‘Glass City,’ New Label: Made in China

The Toledo Museum of Art’s $30 million Glass Pavilion is a symbol of America’s “Glass City,” and reflects the legacy of its local glassmakers.


A smudge on the image: The pavilion glass was imported from China, the new global powerhouse of the glass industry.


No one in the U.S. had the capability to satisfy cutting-edge architectural specifications for the curving pavilion, even though the 2006 job involved techniques advanced decades ago by Toledo inventors: bending and laminating glass. The pavilion features 360 thick glass panels, each up to 13.5 feet tall, eight feet wide and weighing over 1,300 pounds.


For years, the West focused on the threat from China’s low-tech exporters like clothing and furniture makers. Glass represents how an even more potent challenge has arrived: sophisticated, capital-intensive businesses that boast high-tech expertise.


In industries where global demand has shifted to China, the pattern is repeated, from steel to locomotives and turbines to specialized glassworks. Chinese companies that have gorged on growth in the domestic market have managed in just a few years to close the gap on decades of technological innovation in the industrialized West.


Shenzhen, China-based Avic Sanxin Co. got the Toledo Glass Pavilion job because of its willingness to invest in technology necessary for complex glass, including a $500,000 piece of equipment, says deputy general manager Bruce Tsin, who wears jeans and reads architectural magazines in English. U.S. companies, he says, are too cautious, preferring standardized processes and “easy money.”


中国深圳的中航三鑫股份有限公司取得了托莱多的玻璃展厅工作,原因是它愿意在复杂玻璃制造工艺上投资,包括价值五十万的设备。公司的副总经理Bruce Tsin,穿着牛仔并且读着英文建筑杂志,这样说道。美国公司太过于谨慎,想要标准化的过程和“容易赚到的钱”。

But China also has secured important technology from foreign glassmakers eager for a foothold in the world’s biggest market. Foreign companies often play a balancing act in China, trying to protect selected manufacturing secrets and products.


Owens-Illinois Inc., an Ohio bottle-maker, intends to pump possibly hundreds of millions of dollars into Chinese acquisitions and joint ventures in the coming years. “It’s the biggest glass market in the world and we feel underrepresented,” says L. Richard Crawford, president of global glass operations. “What we bring the market is know-how.”

欧文斯伊利诺斯有限公司,俄亥俄州的一家瓶子制造商,打算投入近几亿美元进行与中国公司的并购和合资。“这是世上最大的玻璃市场,我们觉得我们不足以代表这个市场”,国际玻璃运营商的董事理查德克劳福(Richard Crawford)说:“我们带给市场的是知识。”

Yet each deal will require approvals from Chinese authorities who have a reputation for pressuring foreign investors to introduce their latest proprietary technology, but a weak track record for protecting it.


Owens-Illinois says it will hold back key trade secrets locked in its suburban Toledo labs, like how to make jet black glass and 30% lighter wine bottles. Mr. Crawford says his company can succeed in China by introducing “the basic stuff.”


Japan’s Nippon Sheet Glass Co. this month said it would issue over $570 million in new shares in part to fund $53 million in planned spending on production lines that make energy-saving glass in the northern city Tianjin. Apple Inc.’s first Shanghai store opened in July featuring a tubular dome of glass panels 41 feet tall, all of it China made.

日本Nippon Sheet玻璃制造公司这个月称,他们将会发售超过57亿的新股票,其中一部分将提供五千三百万的资金,计划用在天津的制造节能型玻璃生产线上。苹果公司在上海的第一家商店六月开张,商店的试管状玻璃屋顶有41英尺高,而这,来源于中国制造。

Northwest Ohio was aggressive about luring the glass industry in its early days, too. In the late 1880s, the area convinced East Coast glassmakers like Edward Drummond Libbey to relocate with cheap natural gas, cheap land and cheap labor—including workers as young as eight years old. Washington blocked European glass with tariffs. By 1900, the Toledo area had around 100 glassmakers. Mr. Libbey, who died in 1925, endowed the Toledo Museum of Art.

俄亥俄州的西北部早先积极地吸引玻璃工业。在19世纪80年代后期,该地区以廉价的天然气、土地和劳动力(甚至包括八岁的儿童)吸引东海岸的玻璃制造商如爱德华德拉蒙德利比( Edward Drummond Libbey)移区到此。华盛顿市用关税阻挡来自欧洲的玻璃。到了1990年,托莱多该地已经拥有近100家玻璃制造商。于1925年去世的利比,捐赠了这座托莱多艺术博物馆。

“China is the America of the 1880s, 1890s,” says Quentin R. Skrabec Jr., an industrial historian at Ohio’s University of Findlay. “Pittsburgh was the steel; Akron was the rubber; Toledo was the glass city.”

“中国是1880年,1890年代的美国”,俄亥俄州芬德利大学工业历史学家Quentin R. Skrabec Jr.说,“匹兹堡是钢铁城,阿克隆是橡胶城,托莱多是玻璃城。”

Ohio companies like Owens-Illinois, Libbey-Owens-Ford Co., Owens Corning and Libbey Inc. automated production of light bulbs, bottles and flat glass, supplied the Empire State Building with windows and commercialized fiberglass.


For decades, a major focus of Toledo was supplying glass to the rapidly expanding car industry of nearby Detroit. In the 1920s, the predecessor company to Libbey-Owens-Ford helped perfect the process of lamination to make windshields that didn’t shatter into pieces. As the U.S. auto makers lost share in the 1980s to Japanese car makers, Toledo’s glassmakers felt the pain.


Most of the world’s flat glass comes from float lines, a tricky energy-intensive process in which molten glass flattens above a bed of hot tin and then is conveyed hundreds of feet in an unbroken ribbon while it cools. Float plants typically run 24 hours a day for years at a time.


There are 33 float lines in the U.S., according to Glass Magazine. Toledo has two of them, run by Nippon Sheet’s Pilkington unit.

据玻璃杂志报道,美国有33条浮法生产线。托莱多有2条,由Nippon Sheet的皮尔金顿联合体运作。

China has at least 150 float lines today. As recently as the early 1970s, the country was a tiny player in the glass industry. But the rapid growth in the Chinese construction and automotive industries since then has created surging demand for local glass.


The basic ingredients in glass, including silica sand and soda ash, are found almost everywhere. Because glass is heavy and difficult to transport, it is typically produced close to where it is used. China makes 45% of the world’s glass, but it consumes virtually all of that amount. Every 15 minutes, its production is enough to clad a 100-story skyscraper.


Crowding a single Chinese city, Shahe, are 44 float lines. The Hebei Province city, 265 miles southwest of Beijing, makes around a fifth of the nation’s flat glass.


In Shahe, Liu Jujun, owner of Hebei DaGuangMing Industry Group Co., recently inaugurated an 820-foot-long float glass line—adjacent to an identical one he opened last July.


“Whenever I go to other parts of the country, I see new buildings being built,” says Mr. Liu, who is also a Shahe government adviser. “The more glass here, the more easily we can sell glass.”


China’s “Glass City” features a skyline of concrete cooling towers characteristic of nuclear power plants, not the expensive equipment Western glassmakers use to reduce pollutants like nitrogen oxide. Mr. Liu says 10% of his capital expenditure goes into pollution controls, that he meets all national standards and is switching to cleaner natural gas.


But Mr. Liu’s plant features construction that looks slapdash by Western standards. It is run by engineers seated on wooden benches. A nearby silica sand producer spits mucky water onto the parched land. And trucks ply Shahe roads loaded with bags of synthetic soda ash, the product of a chemical process environmentalists forced out of the U.S. in 1985.


Most of China’s glass output is such low quality, it has no market other than China. And much of the Chinese glass now hitting U.S. shores is chiseling into market extremities where profit margins are thinnest: the cheapest salt shakers, table tops and replacement windshields.


But China also is beginning to supply more sophisticated glass. Blast-resistant lower-floor windows for New York’s One World Trade Center building under construction will come from northeast China’s Shandong Jin Jing Technology Co. The U.S. company that is fabricating glass for the upper floors says it didn’t have ability to make the large windows, which are nearly an inch thick and have V-shaped ridges in them.



“We try to hit the sweet spots in terms of volumes,” explains Don McCann, architectural design manager at Viracon Inc. in Owatonna, Minn. “Our business model is geared toward the common sizes.”


It was a similar story for the Toledo Museum of Art. Only a Chinese company and Spanish and Italian companies could produce the oversize curving panels needed for the futuristic design of its Glass Pavilion. Sanxin says it was paid under $1 million; people involved in the project said it would have cost up to 50% more in Europe.


“We did get some grief about the fabrication until we explained we didn’t have a choice,” says Carol Bintz, an officer of the Toledo Museum of Art who led the project. “We couldn’t find anyone in the United States that could do both the size and make the curvature.”

“我们知道一些人对此感到悲痛,知道我们解释说我们没有别的选择。”负责托莱多艺术博物馆的工作人员卡罗(Carol Bintz)说,“我们在美国不能找到谁能做出又有大小又有曲率的这种玻璃。”

To win prestige work, Sanxin spends money. For the Toledo museum, it put $500,000 into the world’s largest “autoclave,” a giant blue cylinder that works like a pressure cooker to stick, or laminate, glass plates together.


“We were also quite proud to supply glass to a project like this,” said Mr. Tsin, the general manager. “We believed after this project we had a chance to do similar things [elsewhere].”

“我们为能够在这样一个项目上提供玻璃感到骄傲,”总经理钱先生(Bruce Tsin)说,“我们相信在这个项目之后,我们有机会在其他地方做类似的项目。”

Not everything went smoothly for Sanxin in Toledo. At least one piece of glass arrived broken, and replacement glass had to be air-freighted to Toledo at high cost.


Still, the Toledo museum job helped win Sanxin recognition as one of the few companies anywhere able to take on certain highly specialized jobs involving curving or manipulating glass. It has worked on glass for a Paris airport, an Austrian subway, Tokyo storefronts and is supplying a museum in Anchorage, Alaska.


It has purchased equipment in hopes of fabricating glass for Apple’s China expansion, but concedes it hasn’t yet met the client’s quality specifications.


Sanxin was founded as a private company in the 1990s and was listed on the Shenzen Stock Exchange. Its biggest shareholder is Aviation Industry Corp. of China, a government-owned company that is a leading plane maker and military contractor. Among its biggest contracts in recent years have been Beijing and Shanghai airports.


Mr. Tsin rejects the notion that Sanxin has an unfair advantage because of its government links. Instead, he says Sanxin has developed a niche business in architectural glass because the world’s established glassmakers want stable, high-volume production, not the risks of one-off jobs like the Toledo Museum of Art.



Toledo glass fabricators, machinists, artisans and retailers understand that China is reordering the glass industry. “It hasn’t really been felt yet except in isolated instances,” says Paul Pellioni, vice president of Toledo Mirror & Glass Co., a major installer who worked on the museum. “It would be naive to say it’s not a factor. It’s going to be a factor.”

托莱多玻璃制造商,机械师,技工和零售商都明白中国正在重塑玻璃工业的秩序。“除了在单独的事件上,这一点还没有为人所察,”托莱多镜子和玻璃公司的前董事、托莱多艺术博物馆的主要负责人保罗(Paul Pellioni)说,“说这不是事实很天真。它将成为事实。”

But Toledo’s main problem remains the big drop in Big Three auto sales. Toledo’s glass industry currently employs just 2,500 workers. That is down from nearly 10,000 workers in 1973, according to Moody’s Economy.com.


No one at the Source, a crowded Toledo job bank and training center, sees the glass industry as an elixir for 11%-plus joblessness. “Manufacturing is fizzling out here,” says Ken Nutter, a laid-off 54-year-old who worked as a glass cutter in the 1970s but not since.

没有人在Source,托莱多这个拥挤的工作银行的训练中心,认为玻璃工业能永远保持11%的事业情况。“生产业逐渐在这里失败”,被结解雇的肯(Ken Nutter)说道。54岁的他70年代就开始当一个玻璃裁剪师,但是现在不再是了。

When President Barack Obama last September bowed to union demands to levy tariffs on China-made tires, and later on steel pipe, he stirred hope in the U.S. glass industry, and its labor unions, that their sector might also get relief. It hasn’t happened so far.


Last October, eight Democratic U.S. senators wrote to the Obama Administration asking it to challenge “Chinese subsidization” of its glass sector. Separately, lawyers say a movement is building for a World Trade Organization case that would challenge Beijing to prove that production surges in sectors including glassmaking are commercially oriented, not government policy.


China’s Ministry of Commerce warns any action to restrict its glass industry would backfire. Any U.S. glass industry woes, the ministry said in a statement, reflect weak domestic economic conditions.


For U.S. glass companies willing to deploy technology, the ministry added, China is “a rare opportunity and wide market to explore.”


Near the Pilkington plant on Dixie Highway outside Toledo, patrons at “Moe’s Place” refer to “Glass City” in the past tense. “We used to be a glass capital,” they say, pointing to boarded-up houses. The plant, which makes windshields for farm equipment and big-rig trucks, now employs 300.

在托莱多外部的Pilkington工厂附近的Dixie高速公路上,“Moe’s Place”的赞助商说”玻璃城“已经是过去式。”我们曾经是玻璃工业的中心,“,他们指着被封闭的房子说。这个为农业设备和大型卡车制造挡风玻璃的工厂,现在拥有300名员工。

Next door to the plant, bulldozers are readying Toledo’s post-glass gambit: “Hollywood Casino.” Designed with an Art Deco facade of concrete on a spot where glass was first made in 1898, it promises 3,200 construction and casino jobs, or 260 more than the glassmaking plant had in 1970.

工厂隔壁,推土机已经开始了托莱多后玻璃时代的第一步:”好莱坞赌场“。用Art Deco(一种现代装饰方式)设计的混凝土建筑物在1898年制造出第一块玻璃的土地上开始建造,并允诺提供3200个建筑和赌场的工作——比1970年建造玻璃厂的时候,多了260个。