This is the eighth blog is a series on the practicalities of the characteristics of glass.
This characteristic is that glass can only be manufactured economically on a very large scale. Float lines cost from 70 million Euros to 200 million Euros to build and can be over half a kilometre long. There are around 370 float lines globally, each of which produces around 6000kms of glass sheets per year. They run non-stop for 15-18 years before they are stopped and rebuilt.
Because floatlines are so massive, they become distribution points for supply of flat glass to a large geographic foot print. Glass is costly to transport in bulk, so processors tend to source from the nearest float line. Distribution and transport costs account for 10-15% of the overall costs of the float line.
For those of us who live in a country or island where there are no float lines, we are completely dependent on containerised seafreight bulk glass supply. The transportation often involves land freight, sea freight, then land freight to the processor, so there are plenty of opportunities for delays, breakages and damage. The timeframes for seafreight means that damaged stock cannot be quickly replaced.
The Glass Racking Company trucks are used for transporting packs and cases of glass from a main processor or warehouse facility to the processor or smaller glass company. The external ledges of the trucks have slots to allow packlifter feet to get under the packs of glass for loading and unloading. The glide-top roof of the trucks is canvas and pulls forward to the front of the truck body to allow crane access into the main body of the vehicle. These are very specialised trucks.
The practicality for glass companies anywhere on the planet is that transportation of bulk glass to their facility is a major challenge and massive cost. Getting it right is vital to the efficient running of the facility. Oh how much easier this would be if glass could be manufactured in smaller factories (miniature float lines).