North Geelong-based Solos Glass boasts one of the world’s most advanced architectural glass processing facilities and wants to get word out that the team is always seeking talented Geelong locals to join the business.
Solos has customers through-out Metropolitan Melbourne, Country Victoria, New South Wales and the ACT and has supplied a number of large developments multi-storey developments. These projects tend to be interstate, and are a good example of bringing work back onshore.
“Finding skills is difficult. We are always looking for good people and always welcome people if they are interested,” Solos Executive GM Neil Lynch tells the Geelong Manufacturing Council.
“One of the things that we’re trying to do is localise work and actually do that onshore rather than have it imported from overseas. We have the ability to do that work.”
The plant currently operates on a two-shift pattern and has scope to increase capacity by a further 50% when construction volumes pick up.
Solos, part of MHG Group and counting around 75 employees, was born after Toyota approached MHG to acquire CSR Viridian’s automotive glass manufacturing operation in North Geelong in 2009. MHG acquired the business from CSR and initially established MHG Glass for the auto sector, winning multiple industry awards.
When Ford announced closure of its manufacturing operations in 2016 and General Motors and Toyota ceased operations in late 2017, MHG decided to target the Architectural Glass Sector and “apply 40 years of automotive manufacturing expertise to a supply chain that was highly fragmented”.
“You have got a choice to make – you can close down and walk away or transition the business into something that will retain the jobs and will provide opportunities for everybody involved going forward,” Mr Lynch says.
“That is what we decided to do. Effectively we came up with an architectural glass business which is the same substance we used to produce previously in automotive but with a much different application & service level – products that go into commercial or residential developments, residential houses, public developments such as schools. Anywhere where there is glass both externally or internally, we will provide that.”
The group acquired architectural glass maker Flat Glass Industries in mid-2016, with facilities in Moorebank in New South Wales and Dandenong, with a vision to add a third manufacturing site by transitioning its own existing facility in North Geelong.
The group decommissioned its entire Geelong automotive glass processing facility — over 21,000 sqm of plant and equipment. They then installed plant services and the new Architectural Glass equipment.
“Effectively we had to take out all of the automotive equipment, and put in new equipment, before commissioning the plant. We retained all of our employees in the process and have re-trained them in the new processes and now we are producing architectural glass products for that market,” Mr Lynch says.
“We received some support from the Federal & Victorian government. That certainly did help, especially when we were in the installation phase and not generating any revenue from producing and selling products.”
The facility was completed in 2018, securing the future of glass manufacturing on the Mackey Street site which was established by Pilkington in 1936.
“The breadth of capability and level of automation and sophistication is unparalleled,” MHG says. “Now a second-generation privately-owned family business and after significant transformation, the group is now poised for the next 50 years as a leading local manufacturer.”
Solos describes itself as a “dynamic new leader in the market prepared to use every last drop of our knowledge and skill to deliver stunning glass solutions” .
Solos works with its customers and product specifiers such as architects, to provide products that focus energy efficiency, safety, noise reduction, security and aesthetic design elements.
“The market we are now in requires a different level of service and focus on quality from where we were in high volume, repetitive automotive manufacturing. Our make to order process can be described as industrial retail, whereby each unit in an order may have a different size or material that makes it unique. ,” Mr Lynch says.
“The investment we have made in the facility provides us with the opportunity to produce products that give us a competitive advantage. The people in our business give us the ability to realise this potential and make a service difference in the process.”
Image: Solos’ Chroma™ features in the Marian College Science Centre in Sunshine