Bob Thompson, MD of PFG Building Glass, part of the PG group, tells Engineering News that the new production line forms part of a three-year R1-billion expansion programme, which includes a R300-million repair of the existing float line and a R45-million upgrade of the company’s Shatterprufe automotive plants, situated in Port Elizabeth and GaRankuwa.
Once constructed, the one-kilometre high-quality tinted float-glass production line will double the company’s manufacturing capacity of 140 000 t of flat glass a year.
Currently, the existing float line manufactures both clear and green-tinted float glass, which results in change-over losses twice a year, when the company changes between colours.
Once the new line is commissioned, the existing float line will manufacture only clear float glass.
The upgrade of the existing production line, which has been operating continuously for the last 12-and-a-half years, will take about three months, after which it will operate without stopping for another 15 years.
“The dedicated lines will help us reduce our stocks,” says Thompson.
The challenge is to reduce the overall cost per ton.
However, Thompson says that the company is confident about its decision, as it has been researching this concept for the last three years.
Significant thought and consideration regarding the location of the new line and the choice of technology was taken.
Initially, the company had considered establishing the float line in a neighbouring country; however, after careful evaluation, it decided to locate the line at the 54-ha site in Springs, where there is existing infrastructure and distribution.
Being the only manufacturer of float and patterned glass in Southern Africa, PFG Building Glass supplies the building industry – which is currently booming – with 70% of its production, while the remaining 30% is dedicated to the automotive industry.
By 2008, South Africa aims to build 800 000 cars; two years ago, it was manufacturing half that number.
“If we do not lay down the auto-quality float-glass capacity, we will become a constraint to the local market,” Thompson explains.
“We have to be on board for the local car market, especially since the automotive industry is selling 30% more year-on-year.” It is clear that South Africa is aspiring to a first-world lifestyle; consequently, PG contracted Guardian Industries, one of the world’s largest glass manufacturers, to oversee the construction of a state-of-the-art glass manu-facturing facility.