The appearance of a mirror’s simplicity aside, the manufacture of silvered glass is not easy. Joe Gaske, plant manager for GTC International – one of the largest designers and manufacturers of mirrored products – describes the process as chemistry in action.
“We silver the glass on what is basically a chemical plating line. We apply three different metal coatings to the glass, and that turns it into a mirror. The first one is tin. Then we put silver, and then copper to protect the silver. Finally we put on a backing paint, which actually causes the silver to reflect through the glass. Along the way we wash the glass in deionized water that has very, very low resistance, so the silver ions are attracted to the water and they plate the glass.”
Approximately 175 employees are involved in GTC’s manufacturing process, which runs three shifts at the company’s facility in Bedford Park, Ill. In addition to mirrors, the product line includes tempered glass cutting boards, decorative glass wall tiles and point-of-purchase mirrored displays that bear the logos of major corporations and products.
GTC’s automated operations reflect the company’s commitment to product quality and efficient distribution to customers. “We keep our process in motion by using fully integrated manufacturing computer support software,” says Gaske. Our manufacturing software incorporates all the software modules from customer order processing, all accounting functions, bills of material, shop floor control, MRP and inventory control.
Gaske names glass, corrugated paper packing, chemicals, and frame molding as the top four materials used by GTC and notes that the company has long-term relationships with its suppliers. Further, he says, “Most of our vendors have supply management, so they stock our products on their floor and release them per our direction based on a demand forecast or a purchase order we’ve issued.”
With about 60 items in its portfolio, GTC has clearly defined its product attributes and identified its markets. An overview of the product line shows its main elements.
Mirrors represent 90 percent of sales, with the bulk sold to mass marketers such as Wal-Mart and Kmart and to retailers such as Bed Bath and Beyond and Meijer. Gaske says this product line has seasonal peaks, with the high point between May and September. “Right now I’m building up on a promotional (for) 12-inch by 48-inch door mirrors. Wal-Mart is one of our biggest customers, so we run a back-to-college promotion and put 120 mirrors into a point-of-purchase (POP) display. We’re also vertically integrated to extrude the plastic frame for this mirror too.”
Tempered glass cutting boards account for 5 percent of GTC’s sales; the company is the number one supplier of these products to the retail trade. Marketed with the name COUNTERmatch™, the heat-resistant, scratch-resistant boards carry distinctive designs. Custom designs licensed products by Miller and Corona, and other proprietary logo designs are produced for a number of corporate customers. “We silkscreen designs behind the glass,” Gaske explains, “and they really look good.” Tempered glass is much stronger than regular glass, and is non-porous, eliminating scratching and odor retention usually associated with wood cutting boards.
Glass tile, a new product category, is made by silk screening or roll coating colors onto glass to add color and texture. Marketed through Sears Great Indoors, the decorative tiles are used on walls and ceilings.
Point-of-purchase mirrored displays that feature well-known products and corporate logos represent a growing product line that currently brings in 3 to 5 percent of GTC’s sales. Gaske says, “We’re one of the only POP manufacturers that can silkscreen four-color process right on glass. These are the mirrors you see with logos like Miller Brewing Company and Anheuser-Busch. We’re developing a division to double or triple sales of these products.”
GTC International is now part of GTC International Holdings, Inc. Within that corporate structure, GTC International is one of four companies involved in the manufacture of mirror, glass and art products. The three sister companies are Stratton Picture Company, maker of hotel artwork and mirrors; Timothy’s Fine Art, marketer of art to the furniture and residential markets, and Art Wholesalers, producer of framed artwork and mirrors sold through mass marketers and specialty stores.
Discussing the future of GTC, Gaske comments on the company’s growth both in volume and in product offering. “Five years from now, I see our sales up probably 30 to 40 percent. We’ll also be one of the leaders in point-of-purchase products and in high-volume, low-cost door mirrors as well as upscale designer mirrors, and framed art running the gamut, from purchase prices of $29 to $299.”
In pursuing its craft, GTC has the distinction of producing products that were first made during the Bronze Age – about 3500 BC. Glass mirrors were first created around 1,300 by the glass blowers, known as gaffers, in Venice, Italy. Smooth glass mirrors appeared in the late 1600s.
GTC has shown that modern technology continues to expand the potential for producing and decorating mirror and glass products. However, the company’s mission statement clearly shows that the concept of quality is the most important part of its image: to strive to be the most responsive value-added supplier of mirrored glass, glass tile, framed art and cutting boards in the retail, specialty and hospitality channels of distribution.
GTC International Holdings – image conscious in the most positive way.