The NSG Group – manufacturers of Pilkington glass – is welcoming customers1 to view its new £36 million off-line coater facility, before it starts manufacture in November. The coater, at the Company’s Cowley Hill site in St Helens, is one of the most advanced facilities of its type in the world. It enables ultra-thin special coatings to be applied to glass, creating a range of high performance energy-saving glazing Pilkington products.
As the UK’s first jumbo off-line coating plant, it allows the NSG Group to manufacture a wider range of such products in the UK. This includes the new Pilkington K Glass™ S range and existing Pilkington Suncool™ and Pilkington Optitherm™ lines. Cowley Hill will be meeting demand from across Europe as well as serving the UK market.
With capacity in excess of 10 million sq metres a year, the line sets new standards in both scale and performance. Incorporating the latest technology from the world’s leading coater manufacturer, it has been built to a tailored design around the Pilkington range of products. The investment includes over £1 million of dedicated quality control facilities, including an on-site test laboratory and a mini-toughener. Other features include highly energy-efficient electric glass transporters and sensor-controlled lighting which, along with high quality water recycling and treatment processes, help minimise the carbon footprint of the glass being produced.
Construction of the facility was supported by a £5 million grant from the government’s Regional Growth Fund, allowing the creation of 50 new, full-time skilled jobs on site. With the team now in place, over 16,000 man-hours have already been invested to date in training, ensuring that the new employees are all set for the start of commissioning.
Andy McDowell, Commercial Director, Pilkington United Kingdom, explains: “The new off-line coater enables us to produce Pilkington K Glass™ S here to the UK. This is of great importance in enabling us to meet growing demand from our customers for this new range. But it is also a key step forward for us to have the future capability to produce the full range of our high performance Architectural glass products in the UK, from right here in St Helens.”
Mike Sharples, Coatings Plant Manager, adds: “Customers visiting the new coater have all been impressed. It’s undoubtedly a significant investment and one of which the Company and the wider St Helens community can certainly be proud. It will help secure the long-term future of both St Helens and Pilkington as names that remain synonymous with UK glazing innovation.”
Dating back to the 1870s, the Cowley Hill site has been at the heart of some significant developments in Pilkington glass technology. The completion of the new, cutting edge, off-line coating facility – built by local building contractors Barnfield Construction – marks the latest of these and the start of a whole new era of high-tech manufacturing for the Company. Tours of the new facility for customers have included a focus on this heritage, with an emphasis on the capabilities of the new coater. The visit programmes have included time at the Company’s Technical Centre at Lathom, showcasing the exciting R&D activity undertaken to support the Group’s Architectural, Automotive and Technical Glass businesses.