Alan Gardiner is President of Jushi Canada Fiberglass Co. Prior, worked in the QC labs at an Owens-Corning reinforcement plant in Canada. Gardiner also has experience in sales, marketing and later moved into the distribution business, the resins division and then was in charge of open mold resins for North America at Owens Corning. In 2011 Jushi bought Gibson USA and asked Gardiner if he would manage Jushi’s North American distribution in the U.S. and Canada. His current goal is to shift our focus from being a Chinese company that sells internationally to an international company that has facilities around the world.
From a supplier’s viewpoint, what is driving the industry now?
The conversion from other materials to fiberglass. There is a great deal of opportunity in all of transportation, whether it is truck, rail, shipping or automotive; because the cost of fuel is so high everywhere in the world. With a push to move over to more fuel efficient and electric cars, components have to be lighter and lighter so there is a big drive in technology to use plastic or lightweight materials. Often traditional plastics have shortcomings such as dimensional stability in high temperature and stiffness without some type of reinforcement; fiberglass has a role in enhancing those other materials.
What hurdle do you see that the industry has overcome?
Overall the industry is focused on getting into higher volume applications. It only takes seconds to stamp out a steel part compared to an hour that it takes to make many composite parts. However, as faster manufacturing processes came along and shortened cycle time to just a few minutes, it opened up more composite application opportunities. Once we learned how to be cost effective and make a Class A surface, the market spring boarded from there.
Where do you see the most growth in the industry?
The largest growth within the fiberglass industry is in reinforcing thermoplastics because it is a faster process than open mold thermosets, which traditionally meant marine applications, bathtubs and skylights; so that’s really where I see the growth.
Of course composites are gaining focus within the automotive industry but structural parts in renewable energy has the potential to be a dominate market for composites. We are talking about wind blades and related products. No one really knows how big that can be because it’s dependent on local government initiatives. Europe and China had the initial demand for wind energy. The U.S. should be a big market too because there is such a large energy demand in North America. Wind energy is still a bit pricier to build per kilowatt hour, so there has to be a real commitment to pay for “green energy.” It remains to be seen if the governments around the world will remain committed to this market sector when government support is required to supplement the higher installation costs of wind energy at this time.