We’re celebrating our 80th Anniversary this week, with a full day of events on 3rd May. To mark the occasion, we’ve opened our blog up to some of our valued subscribers who have supported us over the decades, so that they can share their history with us.
This fourth post comes from Julia Berkin, Marketing Communications Manager of Pilkington UK Ltd. Over to Julia…
Pilkington has been represented at The Building Centre since it opened in 1932, first with Insulight Glass Masonry in the early days and moving through the decades with further examples of Pilkington float glass and Pilkington Insulight™. We are still represented to this day at the Information Centre and on specifinder.com.
Pilkington Group Limited originated in 1826 as the St. Helens Crown Glass Company, founded with the technical knowledge and ability of John William Bell and capital from three of the most influential local families, the Bromilows, the Greenalls and the Pilkingtons. William Pilkington was one of the original shareholders, and he was later joined by his elder brother Richard.
It became a private company in 1894 and remained so until 1970 when its shares were listed on the London Stock Exchange. Pilkington was de-listed from the London Stock Exchange in June 2006 on becoming a wholly-owned subsidiary of the NSG Group; itself, established in 1918.
The NSG Group has major market shares in most building and automotive product markets of the world, with a broad geographic reach, enabling it to respond to customers whose operations particularly in the case of Automotive OE (original equipment – glass car manufacturers) are increasingly global.
The invention of float glass and overseas growth
The 1950s were the most significant to Pilkington because of the invention of the float glass process. In 1952 Alastair Pilkington conceived the idea of forming a ribbon of glass by floating the melted raw materials at high temperature over a bath of molten tin. It took seven years and more than £7 million ( £80 million in today’s money ) to develop the process. Pilkington set out to replace the twin grinding and polishing process for making optically good plate glass. In the event, the float glass process superseded not only that process, but also the sheet glass process for making ordinary windows. It was to become the universal process for the manufacture of high quality flat glass.
Pilkington announced the float glass process in 1959 but further development work was necessary before the process could be fully exploited commercially. Pilkington decided on a policy of licensing the process to existing major glass manufacturers. At the same time the company encouraged its licensees to assist in the further development of float by granting them free use of any improvements they might make on condition these were also made available to Pilkington itself. The first float licence was granted, to PPG, in 1962. Others quickly followed. Pilkington stopped making polished plate glass in 1967 and others soon followed suit.
The company remained private, owned by the Pilkington family, until 1970. It was realised that in view of the company’s growth, the Pilkington family age profile and the high rate of death duties, it would be necessary to offer the shares to the public if the company was to continue growing. In January 1970, the decision was taken to make Pilkington a public company and in November about 10 per cent of the family’s shares were issued to the public. By then, the company had been reorganised into operating divisions, a new research and development complex had been built at Lathom, near St Helens, and a new headquarters had been occupied in St Helens.
Sir Alastair Pilkington, the inventor of the float glass process died in 1975. Recognised as one of the major industrial inventions of the twentieth century, the process had become the universal method for the manufacture of high quality flat glass for buildings and transport. It had transformed a major capital industry, revolutionised architecture and enabled new energy-saving and safety glass products to be developed. At the time of his death, the process had been licensed to 42 manufacturers in 30 countries and there were more than 170 plants in operation, under construction or planned.
Since the introduction of the float glass process and by combining our unrivalled expertise with true innovation, we have been able to develop a wide range of outstanding products. This includes high quality float glass, fire protection glass, high performance glass coatings to improve the energy efficiency of glazing, specialist glass and a comprehensive range of Insulating Glass Units.
The Group is now regarded internationally as a world leader in glass. The Pilkington brand remains a household name, with products such as thermally efficient Pilkington K Glass™ launched ahead of energy legislation remaining popular after 21 years.
Our building products glass portfolio has continued to grow and now includes a diverse range of products offering:
Solar control, Thermal insulation, Fire protection, Noise control, Self-cleaning, Decorative and Glass systems. For further information on our product range visit: www.pilkington.co.uk/productdirectory