With 75 years of experience, Guardian is a leading manufacturer of float glass and special glass products that supplies the automotive, architecture and interior design sectors with cutting-edge solutions. Helen Larkin explores how the Brazilian branch of this international float glass and mirror pioneer has spanned across all sectors of industry for decades.
A widely recognized pioneer in specialized glass products, Detroit-based Guardian opened for business in Brazil over 20 years ago, and quickly became Brazil’s leader in the field. With a strong investment in research and design, Guardian sets its sights
on responding to market needs with rigor and groundbreaking innovation at every turn.
Whether it is windshields, rearview mirrors, automotive plastic parts, solar-controlled-glass, or specialized mirrors, Guardian’s product line is top of the line. With a Brazilian manufacturing plant in the city of Porto Real in the famous state of Rio de Janeiro, Guardian is strategically located to respond efficiently to Brazil’s specialized market needs in float glass and mirrors. Guardian is a model company, whose success stems from its focus on customer needs, and a special formula of local autonomy combined with global commitment, all driven by constant technological innovation.
Guardian’s workforce of 19,000 worldwide forms a team committed to success, innovation, and social responsibility. Each plant has autonomy to ensure that market needs can be responded to quickly and accurately. This allows for constant technological innovation and intensive investment in the Guardian team, which combined leads to innovative and unique products that are suited for a diverse range of markets. Guardian does it all.
A SHINING HISTORY
“Guardian was founded in 1932 as a small windshield producer in Detroit,” explains Ubirata Lima, president of Guardian Brasil. “During those early stages, we were a private company, with many corporate partners. Step by step, we began to grow in size and in productive capacity.” Called Guardian Glass Company at the time,
the small company was focused only on buying glass and producing just windshields.
“Over time,” Lima continues, “we learned that it would really be to our benefit to produce our own glass.” In 1970, Guardian began to do just that. “1970 was a big year for Guardian,” says Lima. “We opened our first float glass company, in Carleton, Mich., which was strategically located to our base in Detroit, as well as to our long- time client base of giants such as Ford and GM.“ Thus began the production of float glass, or glass that is obtained by floating molten glass on a bath of liquid tin.
“Guardian was really taking off at this point,” continues Lima. “Following the opening of this plant in Carleton, we soon opened six new plants around the U.S. We were, at that time, the biggest producer of float glass in the country.”
In the 1970s, the company began to diversify by opening production in a number of different areas. Guardian then reached a point in which it needed increased capital if it were to keep growing at the rate it had become accustomed to. “We then strategically
opened up in the stock market,” explains Lima. “Following that, Guardian’s president bought 100 percent of our shares and then closed again. At this point, we were ready to continue with our plans of further expansion and diversification.”
Lima continues, “We were then able to produce float glass for windows and tables, windshields, and safety glass, and were on quite a roll. We then began a long period of research and negotiation to buy new technology.”
In the 1980s, Guardian inaugurated several plants dedicated to the production of insulation fiberglass. During the 1990s, Guardian acquired several companies in the U.S., moves that secured the company a steady and increasing presence in the production and distribution of building materials throughout North America.
“In 1998,” recounts Lima, “Guardian was ready for international expansion, and began to look outside of the U.S. for opportunities. Our first international plant was opened in Luxemburg, and following that, we purchased a company in Spain, the first Guardian location to be purchased rather than constructed from the ground up.”
“In the late 1990s, Guardian traveled to South America for further expansion. Our first location down here was in Venezuela, where we bought a company by the name of Vimosa. Our involvement here in Brazil was incremental. In 1995 we opened a warehouse in the Guarulhos section of Sao Paulo, an industrial area near a small national airport. Two years later, in 1997, we began construction of our first Brazilian plant.”
“In 2001,” Lima continues, “we began producing mirrors in Brazil. Just last month, we opened a new plant in the city of Tatui, state of Sao Paulo, which will be the biggest plant in South America, and will produce 800 pounds per day. So, Guardian is very active here in Brazil.”
“In May, we began a new process called Coater here in the Porto Real plant,” explains Lima. “This is a special glass production process that renders glass 10 times more resistant to risk. It is mainly used in boats, as well as for solar control.”
“We now own 27 companies in 18 countries, on all continents of the world,” says Lima. “We are the biggest producer of fiberglass for construction in the world. We also produce plastic, and are proud to say that we are able to produce 100 percent of the glass and plastic used for cars. We are also the biggest mirror producer in the world.”
GUARDIAN FLOAT GLASS
Guardian float glass is manufactured using the latest advances in glass-making technology that results in a differentiated light transmission and optical quality. The Brazilian product line includes clear, green, gray and bronze varieties, with thicknesses ranging from 2 mm to 19 mm. Glass sheet dimensions vary according to customer orders, ranging from 1,605 by 2,200mm to 3,210 by 6,000mm.
Guardian float glass can be cut and fitted directly to frames or custom tabletops, or used as raw material in processes including glass tempering, lamination, insulation and manufacturing of mirrors.
The traditional Guardian Mirror was the first Guardian interior design product to be launched in the Brazilian market. Today, it is a benchmark in mirrors and is synonymous with premium quality. Guardian Mirror offers perfect image reflection and is resistant to oxidation and black spots – which, once present, tends to worsen, since the process is irreversible.
The traditional Guardian Mirror silver coating is protected by a layer of inert material that does not react with oxygen, thus offering true permanent protection to the mirror. In conventional mirrors, this silver coating is protected by one layer of galvanic copper and one layer of paint. Since galvanic copper is also subject to oxidation, the imminent appearance of black spots is only delayed.
The traditional Guardian Mirror is eco-friendly, in that its production does not involve heavy metals harmful to human health and the environment. However, the company’s environmental concerns begin long before the manufacturing process starts. Even during the glass-polishing stage, the silver coating process is performed using
a closed system so as to minimize the formation of residues. Polluting metals such as copper and zinc are not employed by Guardian Mirror, avoiding harmful discharge in the environment.
The lead content of the paint protecting and identifying the product is a fraction of that used for the galvanic process in the manufacture of ordinary mirrors. All water used in the Guardian Mirror manufacturing process goes to water treatment stations to be rendered drinkable before being released into the company’s fish farming lake.
Extra-clear, transparent, scratch-resistant crystal was the first of its kind to be launched on the market, spawning a product family incorporating the innovative and exclusive DiamondGuard technology. Available in a range of thicknesses (6mm, 8mm, 10mm, 12mm, 15mm and 19mm), DiamondGuard Crystal provides lightness
and a sense of spaciousness to any setting, allowing freedom of use and keeping them looking like new for years. The product is ideal for architectural and interior applications, in residential or office projects, as well as furniture such as tabletops, sideboards, and shelves.
DiamondGuard Mirror combines the benefits of traditional, stain resistant Guardian Mirror with those of the revolutionary DiamondGuard technology, which is 10 times more resistant to scratches. Available in 6mm, 12mm and 15mm thicknesses,
DiamondGuard Mirror is ideal for interior design applications, as surface covering or to complement furniture, where beauty and sophistication together with freedom of use is necessary. DiamondGuard Mirror retains its flawless mirrored surfaces, where even a tiny scratch can be easily noticeable from image reflection.
DiamondGuard Ebony is a black crystal, which does away with the need for any painting or serigraphic processes, with permanent scratch protection, which is 10 times more resistant. Even the pane edges are blacked, in contrast to ordinary tinted glass panes. Available in 10mm, 12mm and 15mm thicknesses, DiamondGuard
Ebony crystal is marketed for interior design applications used as wall covering, or in making furniture items, imbuing them with elegance and personality, while providing freedom of use.
THE GUARDIAN DIFFERENTIAL
“We are more flexible than most companies competing at our level,” says Lima. “We are always looking for new opportunities in product development, research and design, and have little red tape or bureaucracy that would only act to stifle the creative process. If one of our workers or researchers comes to us with an idea, with the feeling that something needs to be done, we say, ‘If you think it will help us improve, go get the research, show us the evidence, and we will move forward with it’.”
“We are extremely decentralized,” says Lima. “This makes us faster than our competition. We are always looking to respond to genuine market needs by creative new, innovative, and cost friendly products.”
A HEALTHY RESPECT FOR THE ENVIRONMENT
Guardian industries worldwide maintain a strict environmental policy, wherein the company commits itself to “conduct our operations across the world in full compliance with all of the key environmental laws and regulations; perform our tasks in such a way
that protects the health and safety of our customers, employees and neighbors; and thoroughly pursue our businesses as a means to achieve our economic goals at the same time that we address the environmental objectives.”
This policy is carried out through adherence to a strict set of principles, which includes ensuring that all products are produced and disposed of in a safe and environmentally sound manner, reducing the negative environmental impact of operations, minimizing waste, supplying rigorous environmental training to employees, and restraining as much as possible the negative impact of all operations.
Guardian Brasil values participation in community life, whether regionally or in-house among its own employees. The company strongly believes that the partnerships and investments in social programs can promote both human and economic development.
“We are extremely community-oriented here in Brazil,” explains Lima. “We are very focused on social causes and events. We have a program titled Guardian Angels, in which our employees volunteer time working on projects around Brazil. This has involved changing and updating glass in churches and schools, or any number of projects needed by communities. We are happy to say that 50 percent of our Brazilian employees take part in these projects, and astounding rate for busy professionals with families.”
“We are invested in education as well, and have many learning and apprentice programs for young Brazilians,” says Lima. “One program in particular is for 16-18 year olds, and acts as a sort of no-cost technical school.”
“We also have a program we call Fusion,” explains Lima, “wherein we provide glass to schools, and they find different ways of using the glass, and we create workshops to teach different skills. One such program will take place in September, where 16 students will have the opportunity to make things such as picture frames and cheese platters, using 100 percent of the raw materials.”
Guardian Brasil dedicates itself to support social projects in the community on a regular basis. “There is a tax law here in Brazil that allows you to invest 4 percent of your tax returns in a social project,” says Lima. “We at Guardian use this money to invest in cultural events such as a huge musical festival for the region.” With continued appreciation and involvement in the community and environment, Guardian Brasil is making a healthy contribution to its surroundings while continuing to lead the way in industry.