Pilkington is a world leader in glass manufacturing because of its unrivalled product quality, which is built on nearly 200 years of experience, alongside an unwavering commitment to cutting-edge innovation.
Testing and rigour sits at the heart of the Pilkington product development process. Indeed only by testing products to the highest standards of quality, resilience and performance can we be sure they will meet the needs of Pilkington customers.
Here, Sean Street, Pilkington UK & Ireland Customer Support Manager, explains how the business approach to testing and rigour helps to ensure the best possible customer experience in every situation.
Q.How does Pilkington set itself apart in its approach to testing and rigour?
I believe we go the extra mile when it comes to developing and releasing new products. Our testing process is second to none and we have procedures in place to ensure products are tested a number of times on a number of sites to ensure we get seamless and repeatable results.
In other words, we won’t just accept the test results from one site and say ‘everything’s ok’. We want to see repeatable results across different factories using different equipment so that when the product is released to the wider market, we can be sure that all of our customers get the same first-class experience.
Q.What unique processes or technology does Pilkington use to test its products?
We have a state-of-the-art offline coater at our Cowley Hill site in St Helens, which provides us with world leading technology. At the same time, our R&D team has its own small offline coater that is used to carry out initial small-scale tests on coatings. Once they’re satisfied with the results, they move up to the large industrial offline coater and look to repeat the same results there.
This close working relationship between R&D and manufacturing is central to how we approach testing, and often time will be allocated at the expense of production so that the R&D team can perfect the next generation of offline coating products. In addition, we listen closely to customer feedback and any improvement that customers would like to see implemented is taken on board and fed back to the relevant teams for development.
Q.Is there any difference in how Pilkington approaches testing for residential applications of its glass compared to commercial applications?
I think we put the same amount of rigour into everything we do – whether it’s for the commercial or domestic market, everything goes through the same rigorous release and development stages.
We don’t differentiate between the two. Even though there are different sides of the business, everything is treated with the same kind of diligence.
Q.Can you describe a Pilkington project that demanded new innovations from a testing and rigour perspective?
One example is with offline coatings where we’ve found that some customers don’t have the right equipment for processing the glass without damaging the coating. Faced with this issue, we aimed to make the coating more robust so that it would meet the requirements of customers with less agile equipment.
All areas of the business were involved in this process, from the commercial department who initially brought the customer feedback into the business, to the R&D team who set about testing samples on the coater. We then took the product back to the customers and trialled the glass– because although we could do lab tests to see how much we’d toughened up the coating, we could only be sure of the results by actually processing the glass in situ.
It was a very collaborative approach between us and the customer which enabled us to improve the robustness of the product and ensure the customer could use it effectively. We were also able to improve another product based on the process we’d developed, so ultimately we managed to improve the coating of two of our products and make them much easier for our customers to use.
Q. How does your role contribute to product testing and rigour at Pilkington?
In my role of Customer Support Manager for coatings, I directly interact with customers to understand the issues or improvements they may want to see with regards to coated glass. I then work across all of the departments in the business to help customers wherever we can.
Part of my role includes new product development – if we’ve put a new product on the market, I will go out to customers and we’ll carry out production trials to ensure it’s compatible with their process and help to optimise their equipment.
At other times, for products such as our Pilkington Suncool™
range where we need to certify customers for use, I will again go out to visit customers and we’ll carry out testing and trials on site to make sure all equipment has the correct capabilities to process the glass. If not we can help them get it to where it needs to be.