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Local Feature

There's no glass ceiling for employees here!

words by Jolene Polyack
mage by Frankie Leal

hen Marty Bergman graduated from Lindsay High School twenty years ago, never in his wildest dreams would he have guessed his future. Bergman joined Guardian Industries in Kingsburg, CA shortly after graduating from college with a B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from Cal Poly Pomona. Since then, he has worked in four countries and at six different plants. He has worked in both production and in engineering and is currently the Engineer Manager for the Kingsburg facility as well as the entire West Coast. He and his wife adopted a seven year old child while Marty worked in Thailand. The child learned English at his next assignment in India. From India the family moved to Saudi Arabia and then on to Michigan. They eventually ended up back in California. According to Bergman, “If anyone told me 20 years ago of the opportunities that I would have, I wouldn’t have believed them. I grew up in Lindsay and went to Lindsay High – someone from that background working all over the world? No one would have believed it.”

Steve Curwick, a Guardian accountant, decided to try his hand in the production area as a Shift Manager. He then tried sales for two years. Later, he tried customer service, then scheduling production and finally decided to go back into the Guardian accounting department. He is now the head Controller for the West Coast.

Don Tullman, a school teacher and coach, joined the Guardian team loading trucks and moved up from there. He was asked to go to Detroit and eventually he took over the entire Midwest. But he missed California and later transferred back. He is now the General Manager of the Western United States.

There are countless Guardian employee stories just like Marty’s, Steve’s and Don’s. Employees can start at the bottom of the Guardian career ladder and climb their way up to be world travelers and upper management. Dreams can come true here.

According to Tullman, “Anyone who comes in, works hard and is willing to work shifts will receive a good buck and good benefits. People can go from packing glass to loading glass on up to a plant manager, a general manager or even a vice president. We pride ourselves on our career advancement opportunities. It shows employees that a person with a GED (General Educational Development) credential can really rise up to the very top of our company. Some employees want to work in the glass plant for 20 years and that’s OK too. Where else can you start in Kingsburg and wind up anywhere in the world? It provides opportunities way above what a single plant might provide.”

Tullman continues, “Employees will receive a promotion if they do the thing they’re currently doing well. Here’s a good example: A production employee wants to be a supervisor. We find out he’s got good maintenance skills; we place him in a maintenance training program and provide him with some schooling that we pay for. We give him a test and offer on-the-job training. He does well so he is promoted to a Top Grade Maintenance Mechanic that can do technical and mechanic repairs. Maybe he now wants to be considered for a supervisory position. We make him back-up supervisor to see how he does. If he’s successful, we interview him and offer a supervisory position. He can then go from Supervisor to Maintenance Manager and then to running a shift or running a plant. It’s happened many times. The President of the company started out as a First Level Engineer. In fact, his first Plant Manager assignment was here at the Kingsburg facility.”

But travel and career advancement opportunities are not the only elements of the company’s personality. Another is their genuine concern for employee safety. Employees must undergo training sessions because it’s a high priority. According to Bergman, “We have hot molten, moving glass which can easily burn and cut if you’re not careful, but Guardian takes every single precaution to avoid that. We can t prevent everything, but we try. Safety is absolutely first. We live that, so much so that in 8 years and 5 million hours of production time we have not had even one lost-time injury. We take pride that we work for a company that cares about our people and how we treat them. Providing safety, providing good jobs, good benefits and good opportunity, we provide a pretty good package with all of that.”

Guardian Industries began as the Guardian Glass Company in 1932. They started by making windshields for the automotive industry.

In 1970, the privately held company expanded into the float glass industry, a product achieved by floating molten glass on a bath of liquid tin. Since then, they’ve added 23 new float lines around the world and have built or acquired more than 21 glass fabrication plants.
Headquartered in Auburn Hills, Michigan, $7 billion Guardian Industries now has over 22,000 employees worldwide in 25 countries, with 100 plants on 5 continents. The company has three divisions; glass, building products and automotive.

The Kingsburg facility employs 300 people. This facility alone has been a Guardian career starting point for one president, two vice presidents, five international plant managers (in Asia & Africa) and four U.S. plant and regional managers. The Kingsburg facility was the company’s second float plant, which started in 1978. They are now celebrating their 30th year in Kingsburg and are proud of the fact they have never had a layoff.
The Kingsburg facility recently underwent a big repair. During these scheduled events employees are transferred to the facility receiving the repair from all over the world to help. In the Kingsburg repair project employees were flown in from at least ten countries in Europe, Asia, and South America as well as employees from sister United States plants.

The Kingsburg Guardian plant can also boast that they are the only nanotechnology facility in the Central Valley. Nanotechnology allows for thin film coatings, which are 1/1000 thickness of a human hair to be placed on glass to change its properties. It’s used in energy efficient windows. Stores such as Lowes carry this type of glass. Even though the glass has 12 layers, it still has high transmission, with no color change yet possesses good insulation properties. This glass is packaged and shipped all over the world.

Guardian Industries made the glass for the World Trade Center. They recently got the contract for the new Freedom Tower in New York, which is 1776 feet tall. The glass will be produced in Michigan, then nanotechnology coated in Kingsburg, then shipped to New York. According to Tullman, “Our people are proud to be honored to do the Freedom Tower. It will consist of 10,000 to 12,000 tons of glass. We’ll be making the glass at the end of this year.” Guardian also has a facility in Reedley with 50 to 60 employees. The Reedley facility takes glass from Kingsburg and makes it into mirrors or laminated safety glass (2 sheets of glass w/ film in middle). Reedley’s mirrors are usually gray on the back and are considered high quality because the materials they use don’t allow the mirror to degrade. Other companies will purchase the Reedley glass and cut it into smaller pieces, and embellish it with edging, holes, etc.

Employee travel, career opportunities, corporate responsibility, local economic enhancements, quality and innovation are all assets that can be included when describing Guardian Industries. With all of the negative stories in the media regarding large, multi-national corporations, it is refreshing to know there is still plenty of good out there. It’s even better to know it’s in our backyard.





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