Protector Glass Shatters Client Expectations
In the business world, finding a niche is always a recipe for success. When that niche is something that you do better than anyone and you consistently strive to improve upon that standard, then it is safe to say you have achieved staying power. That is precisely the position Protector Glass Industries occupies in the current marketplace at this juncture. To current clients, of whom there are many, Protector Glass is a brand that represents not only a reputation for highly functional excellence, but dependable products and services as well. With friendly, tireless, hard-working staff and a very high client services standard, it is no coincidence they enjoy the current market position they possess.
The company was founded in 1976 by a Finnish entrepreneur and diplomat who facilitated the introduction of Finland’s laminated windscreen technology to Australia. At the time, the Australian government was aggressively pursuing new manufacturing to the country and, with some government assistance; the business was established in Sydney. Several years later, during the early 1980s economy slump, Queensland’s state government stimulated the economy by adding incentives to companies willing to migrate. This prompted Protector Glass to move its head office and their manufacturing capabilities to South East Queensland where they continue to be today. Aside from this home locale they also have distribution centres in Western Australia, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria, and in Northern Territory. “In its peak, Protector Glass was the predominant manufacturer of automobile windscreens in Australia, producing upwards of 250,000 units annually,” says Managing Director, Michael Shields.
Unfortunately, since then the Chinese manufacturing machine has developed parallel technology and began to export competing product to Australia. “The entire market is driven by price because it is a commoditized product, so the influx of overseas manufacturing flooding the Australian market has shut many Australian companies down,” he says. This caused Protector to scale back on its manufacturing volumes during the 1990s but they cleverly hedged that downturn with an ingenious strategy. “The company at that time decided it also needed a partner in China to supply it with windscreens, and Protector began to source and sell screens from China which we continue to do today,” he says. The old adage about joining those whom you cannot beat comes to mind and it seems Protector has put it to use brilliantly in this case. Even more admirable is the fact that their manufacturing capabilities are still online and producing upwards of 50,000 screens per year for niche markets such as slower-moving, large vehicles and rare model automobiles.
Today Michael Shields comfortably sits atop a medium-sized company with a two-tiered influence in both the manufacturing and distribution spheres. Protector Glass also custom develops windscreens for a whole host of automobiles from trucks, and buses to more industrial grade rigs with higher durability demands. This has opened up additional areas of the market for the company and one particularly sizeable project is a partnership with Kenworth Trucks, the renowned truck manufacturer. Protector Glass is Kenworth’s primary glass provider, and this partnership has paid dividends for Protector – it is one of the major factors behind the continuation of their manufacturing capability. “Previously, Protector was a manufacturer, a wholesaler and a retailer of automotive glass and this created large logistical issues with the glass fitting side of the business,” Shields muses. When glass is manufactured, or “cut”, for a particular automobile it then needs to be installed and this requires skilled labour, fitting shops and special equipment. They decided to get out of the fitting side of the business, which also requires the retail outlets, and focus on the manufacturing and wholesale aspects of the industry. “In order to do this well it is imperative that you have a whole range of product available at every warehouse – to suit the diversity of automobiles on the market – which is near impossible. Our success, I believe, has been in efficiently sourcing the stock and creating first rate inventory management systems,” Shields says. Whether it is at their locations in Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane or anywhere in between, this efficient product management network can ensure that the right quantity of stock is at the right place, at the right time.
“Without a customer you ultimately do not have a business,” says Shields and continues, “You can produce the best goods and services but without a willing market to accept those products you have nothing. So my philosophy has always been to show respect to the customer and get close to the customer so you can find out what their needs are and fulfil them to the very best of your ability.” This approach is one many professionals in all spheres of industry can and should follow, especially in businesses that are client-services heavy. With Protector Glass Industries’ rapidly increasing market share as well as their core, long term clients, they are perfectly situated to continue being Australia’s most experienced and trusted automotive windscreen provider. Despite the overseas competition, or indeed in unison with them through clever strategic partnerships, they have weathered some of the most challenging economic slumps and continue to thrive in their market sector. Their ‘client first’ philosophy will undoubtedly see them through any more challenges and continue to strengthen their performance.
Shields concludes, “Our hope is to continue enhancing our customer base through other niche markets such as the mining and heavy industry sectors with our extreme-durability products lines as well as maintaining our reputation and performance on behalf of our existing clients.” If the momentum Protector Glass Industries has been gaining under Michael Shields and the rest of the team continues to build, it is by no stretch of the imagination that these targets are not only possible, but highly probable.