Guardian Glass Company: From humble beginnings to a global presence
Guardian Glass Company was founded in Detroit, Michigan in 1932. The company’s 20 employees produced roughly 100 laminated windshields a day in a plant on Detroit’s Lower East Side. Its only equipment was a press used for laminating glass to the interlayer; all other work was done manually. Sales during the company’s first year totaled $130,000.
Guardian adopted the logo incorporating a big G surrounding a knight on a horse. The logo represented security and protection against wind, weather and debris that Guardian windshields gave to drivers and passengers of vehicles.
During World War II, Guardian was producing millions of square feet of laminated glass for windshields in trucks, jeeps and other military vehicles. In the early 1950s, Guardian began production of curved, laminated windshields and in 1970, Guardian became the first company to enter the U.S. primary glass industry in nearly 50 years when production started at a new plant in Carleton, Mich.
Guardian’s history of progressive management, innovative thinking and steady growth continued. Today, Guardian operates plants on five continents and our products and systems grace vehicles, homes and construction projects all over the world. Our vision is to create long-term value for our customers, shareholders and society more efficiently and faster than our competitors through commercial and operational excellence and the application of Market-Based Management®.
First float glass plant begins operations in Carleton, Michigan
Guardian’s defining moment. With no experience building a float glass plant and many obstacles ahead, William Davidson called on his team of engineers to defy the odds and build a modern, state-of-the-art facility in Carleton, Michigan. The plant totaled 275,000 square feet with a pull of 350 tons per day.
Heat up of the furnace started in August 1970, and the first Guardian glass was pulled later that month. At the official dedication on October 26, Davidson told the assembled industry, community, civic and government leaders that, “It is Guardian’s intention to truly be a glass company of the future, matching the properties of the product to the needs of the people, and it is with that in mind that we are entering the glass manufacturing field.”
Guardian expands into Europe with launch of float glass plant in Bascharage, Luxembourg
The Bascharage, Luxembourg float glass plant was Guardian’s first in Europe and set the stage for worldwide expansion.
Luxembourg’s central location between Belgium, France and Germany gave the company ready access to Europe’s most important glass regions.
A small number of U.S. trained managers and technicians moved to Luxembourg to assume leadership roles within the plant. Guardian wanted to show its European employees the possibilities of working in a new and exciting environment, for a company that intended to lead the way in Europe as it had in the U.S. In a careful process of give-and-take, Guardian learned how to function as a European company while a European workforce learned how to function as part of the Guardian team.
Guardian’s move shook up the glass establishment and the company was later dubbed the "raging bull" in Europe by the Financial Times.
Guardian adds low-emissivity (low-E) glass to product portfolio
Low-Emissivity, or low-E, glass has microscopically thin, transparent metal coatings that reflect long-wave radiation, and helps make homes and buildings more energy efficient in both warm and cold climates.
Low-E glass was first manufactured in Europe and then introduced in the early 1980s to North America. In 1983, Guardian was one of the first companies in the United States to manufacture low-E glass after adding sputter coating technology at its Corsicana, Texas float glass plant.
Today's low-E coatings are multilayered, complex designs engineered to provide high visible light transmission, low visible light reflection and reduce heat transfer.
Many building projects today incorporate low-E glass to significantly reduce energy use and costs, thereby reducing a building's carbon footprint.
Guardian Glass manufactures advanced low-E coatings for residential and commercial applications to meet the needs of its customers around the world.
New companywide HealthGuard program focuses on employee wellness
In 1985, Guardian introduced HealthGuard -- an ambitious and focused effort to elevate the well-being of its employees and control health-care costs. This global health program was an extension of William Davidson’s longtime belief both in the virtues of competition and in the proposition that Guardian should support its employees in every possible way.
“I believe HealthGuard is one of the best programs we’ve ever offered Guardian employees,” said Davidson. “Encouraging people to take charge of their health and reduce health-care costs is a worthy objective. I have personally believed in the value of physical fitness for many years. HealthGuard does not tell employees how to live. It encourages them to consider the effects of lifestyle on their well-being. The decision to accept those recommendations and to act on them is up to each person.”
Company health programs would become more common in the coming years, and Guardian was a recognized leader in the arena. The company’s innovative approach was featured in a CNN News special.
HealthGuard helps Guardian employees and their family members improve their lives through educational initiatives, physical activity, health screenings and community outreach.
Science & Technology Center opens in Carleton, Michigan
In 2000, Guardian opened its Science & Technology Center, one of the most sophisticated and comprehensive glass laboratories in the world. Since that time, STC has launched scores of new products and received hundreds of new patents.
President and CEO William Davidson had the vision to direct and lead this change. In a view of the future to employees he said, “For the last 20 years, Guardian has been in a capital expenditure phase, building float plants at a rate of nearly one every year. We need to begin looking at the plants we have and finding ways to make them more profitable. We can only become more profitable through change, and that is the direction in which this company is headed. Therefore, I have two challenges for each of you. First, continue to be the low-cost producer of your products. Second, pursue the development of further downstream operations and more new products. As a company, we need to exploit our current capabilities and competitive advantage, while at the same time, develop new capabilities. It is these new capabilities that will see Guardian through the inevitable moment when our old capabilities no longer provide an advantage. We must either evolve as a company or fall behind.”
The cornerstone of Guardian’s new direction was the establishment of the Science & Technology Center to unify and coordinate critical aspects of product and process innovation. The location across the street from a float glass plant was selected so the company did not grow out of touch with the realities of day-to-day operations. The Science & Technology Center had two overriding objectives: provide Guardian innovated products to offer its customers and develop efficient manufacturing processes that increase quality by reducing customer costs.
Guardian launches SRG Global: New auto supplier is industry leader
In 2009, SRG Global Inc. was born, combining the automotive trim operations of Guardian Automotive and Siegel-Robert to form one of the world's largest manufacturers of chrome-plated plastics for the automotive, commercial truck and consumer goods industries. The company’s evolution began one year earlier when Guardian Automotive acquired Siegel-Robert Automotive.
Headquartered near Detroit, Michigan, today the company has a manufacturing presence in major world regions including North America, Europe and Asia. Through its Advanced Development Centers, SRG Global works to enhance manufacturing processes and accelerate development and delivery of the next generation of materials, coating technologies and sub-systems. SRG Global engineers solutions globally for greater surface durability, structural integrity, enhanced functionality, vehicle efficiency and optimal design flexibility. The result is the development of innovative exterior and interior products and processes that create value for our customers and consumers, and create a positive impact in our environment and society. Beyond the finish™.
Guardian Industries Corp. expands Science and Technology Center
In 2015, Guardian completed expansion of its Science and Technology Center (STC) in Carleton, Michigan.
The STC is one of the driving forces behind Guardian's commitment to innovation that creates value for its customers and delivers products that improve people’s lives.
With this 27,000-square-foot addition, the STC is able to accelerate the rate of product design and development. Highlights include a full-size vacuum coater; a glass product showcase wall; an electrically wired, full-scale demonstration wall for advanced glazing technologies; and upgraded and expanded laboratory space.
Of particular note is the addition of a cutting-edge curtain wall designed to achieve net zero energy results using Guardian’s high performance commercial glass products, SunGuard SNX 51/23 and SunGuard Spandrel HT, and building-integrated photovoltaic panels.
“This high-performance building is a working demonstration of Guardian’s commitment to advancing glass technology,” says Sheldon Davis, Vice President, Research and Development.
To learn more about the STC, its sister facility SRG Global’s Advanced Development Center and Guardian’s commitment to continuous improvement in product and process innovation, watch our video.
Koch Industries, Inc. completes the acquisition of Guardian Industries Corp.
Koch Industries, Inc. announced that it completed the acquisition of Guardian Industries Corp. following the receipt of all regulatory approvals. Koch initially invested in Guardian in 2012, acquiring a 44.5 percent minority interest in the company at the time.
Guardian brings new capabilities and expertise to Koch in several highly technical manufacturing and distribution industries. In addition to being one of the world’s largest producers of float, value‐added and fabricated glass products, Guardian is also a leader both in high‐value coatings on plastics for the automotive industry and the distribution of specialty building products.
“Guardian began in 1932 as a small windshield company in Detroit and has since become an established leader, proudly serving a global customer base in multiple industries,” said Ron Vaupel, president and CEO of Guardian. “The combination of Guardian’s expertise and Koch’s existing capabilities and infrastructure provides a tremendous opportunity for all of us to create more value for our customers and the communitiesin which we operate.”
“Koch Industries’ philosophy is to invest in companies where there is mutual benefit for both entities as well as their customers,” said Charles Koch, chairman and CEO of Koch Industries. “Our capabilities will help Guardian better serve their customers, while their industry‐specific experience and expertise will bolster Koch’s operations. Although we’ve worked with Guardian since 2012, I believe our progress together has just scratched the surface.”
With the addition of Guardian, Koch companies now employ more than 120,000 people worldwide, with about 70,000 of those in the United States. Guardian companies have nearly 150 locations in more than 25 countries. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.