Newer technologies, faster production and more jobs.
SAGE has aggressively hired staff for its commercial and manufacturing operations for the past year, and that activity won’t stop now that its new facility is just months from going online.
And the facility isn’t just new. It’s more than five times the size of the neighboring SAGE facility, located at 1 Sage Way, that was moved into in late 2004. At 324,000 square feet — about 250,000 square feet of manufacturing space — the new facility will position SAGE to grow its customer base as well as its products.
In the existing plant, a glass panel was limited in size to 40 inches-by-60 inches. In the new plant, panel sizes will go up to 5 feet by 10 feet, according to CEO and founder John Van Dine. The new facility also allows the company to carry out new processes and technologies learned over the past few years, though Van Dine declined to go into specifics.
“The equipment, the technology, the layout, that all reflects that learning,” Van Dine said. “It’s very different, and much more advanced.”
And where the development team and production staff had to share space in the old facility, the two will be given their own work areas when the new facility is up and running. All development activities will remain in the old facility while the new plant will completely house the manufacturing and production processes.
“Right now we are so limited in our production capabilities, the amount, the volume we can produce is quite small,” Van Dine said. “The new facility will allow us to dramatically increase our volume capabilities.”
When SAGE began the construction project, it touted the ability to produce 3.2 million square feet of electrochromic glass annually, supporting the creation of 160 green technology jobs. Plans are still on track to hire nearly that many people, though Van Dine said some processes inside the plant have become much more automated, meaning less hands-on work and more supervisory needs.
The floor is lined with machines — laser systems, washers, coders, and robot arms transferring the glass from one place to another. And everything is lit by an array of sky lights, lending to SAGE some cost savings of its own.
The expansion comes at the perfect time as demand for products like SageGlass is growing, Van Dine said. More consumers — whether they’re architects, contractors or building owners — want the glass for three reasons: Energy savings, elimination of cost of shades and blinds (the glass has its own glare control), and preservation of the connection to the outdoors.
While the windows come at a higher cost compared to conventional glass, Van Dine insists SageGlass looks much more appealing when you factor in the cost of air conditioning, electricity and shades.
SAGE has yet to really enter the residential market for smart glass, but Van Dine said that expansion could happen in the next few years. At the same time, Van Dine said the company will look to build its brands internationally — hopefully laying the groundwork for additional manufacturing facilities outside of North America.
There are no plans, however, for SAGE corporate headquarters to ever move from Sage Way.
Reach reporter Rebecca Rodenborg at 333-3128, or follow her on Twitter.com @FDNRebecca