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    Approach to new product/process development

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    Use Harvard Business School Case "Pilkington Float Glass-1955" ID # 9-695-024

    Examines the development of the float glass process at Pilkington in the mid-1950s. Pilkington has pursued the development of a radically new process for flat glass production, but has experienced serious problems at each stage of development. The senior management must now decide whether to scale up to commercial production.

    1)Compare the float glass process with the established plate glass making method?
    2)What is your evaluation of Pilkington's approach to new product/process development?
    3)Would you recommend the Board of Pilkington Brothers approve Alastair's request for $1.96 million to modify a redundant plate glass furnace for a full scale production line?

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    Solution Preview

    HISTORY OF PILKINGTON FLOAT GLASS

    Pilkington plc originated in 1826 as the St. Helens Crown Glass Company founded with the technical knowledge and ability of John William Bell and capital from three of the most influential local families, the Bromilows, the Greenalls and the Pilkingtons. William Pilkington was one of the original shareholders, and his elder brother Richard later joined him.
    From its foundation in 1826 to sole British producer of flat glass It was renamed Greenall & Pilkington in 1829 and, after the withdrawal of Peter Greenall, the firm was retitled Pilkington Brothers in 1849.
    During the last quarter of the nineteenth century, strong competition continued to be experienced from the continental manufactures as their production capacity expanded. This competition was made much more severe by the growing self-sufficiency of the United States market, which had been one of the most important export outlets. The growth of industrialization in the United States, as well as causing the collapse of British exports, meant that British manufacturers had to contend with much heavier Belgian and French competition at home. One British company after another succumbed and by 1903, within 30 years of Pilkington's entry into this branch of the flat glass industry, it had become sole British producer. Pilkington bought the Ravenhead works in 1901.

    There were two main reasons for Pilkington's survival. After 1894, the year in which Pilkington became a limited company, it was the only plate glass manufacturer which also manufactured sheet, rolled, plate and cathedral glass, all of which continued to yield profits which balanced the difficulties in the plate market. However, Pilkington had also been able to achieve comparatively low manufacturing costs in plate glass, resulting from numerous innovations and improvements in manufacture since the introduction of the process. By 1935 the company had developed the 'twin' machine which ground both sides of the ribbon of glass ...

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    The solution discusses the approaches to new product/process development for Pilkington Float Glass.

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