AGC North America's Leader Discusses the U.S. Market and the Future
September 12, 2012

by Penny Stacey,

Marehisa "Mark" Ishiko
Marehisa "Mark" Ishiko, who was named president and CEO of AGC Glass Company North America in June 2010, recently took the time to sit down for an exclusive interview with™/AGRR™ magazine about his long history in the company's automotive business and his hopes for the future.

GB: Can you tell me a little bit about where you grew up?
MI: I was born in Nagoya, the fourth largest city in Japan. My mother's house is around 20 miles from Nagoya. I graduated from Yokahama National University in 1982, where I had specialized in chemical engineering. After graduating, I joined AGC the same year—30 years ago. I first worked as an engineer for the automotive glass division in Japan. I supported the new technology process and advanced process and quality improvement group. I moved to Europe in 1991. AGC was constructing a new automotive glass plant in Belgium, and I was the chief engineer over this project. We stayed in Belgium for five years where I continued to supervise production, technology and operations.
I then returned to Japan in 1996 and in 2000, I moved to the AGC headquarters in Tokyo as director of our Japan/Asia-Pacific automotive business. In 2007, I became the regional president of automotive business in Japan/Asia-Pacific. Just three years ago, I moved to the flat glass division. And in the middle of 2009, I took over both auto and flat glass when I became the regional president of the glass business in Japan/Asia-Pacific. In 2010, I came here to the United States and I became president and CEO of AGC Glass Company North America. I also serve as a senior executive for the global AGC Group. I have a long, long history in at AGC from 1982 to now, so this is my career [chuckles].

GB: What differences have you seen since moving from automotive to flat glass?
MI: In automotive, the customer is very demanding. The demands of the automakers in Japan are very exact. They want quality, they want service—they want everything. The challenge to meet or exceed these demands also provides great opportunity.

GB: You took over in the midst of an economic downturn in the United States. Has this affected the way you lead the company?
MI: I understand the economic situation in the United States is very tough but we can see the market recovery. I expect further growth in the U.S. market. The population of America is around 300 million people. The population increases by approximately 3 million people every year and three million people is a huge number … This is a very big opportunity for us. That's the reason why I expect very big growth and faster growth of the market in the U.S. in the coming years. This is my expectation and, at the same time, we have to meet our customers' requirements—capacity, quality and also products.
For the past five or six years we've had the same strategy in order to meet the market situation and customer requirements. The peak of glass consumption was 2007. After that, we had to shrink our operations in order to match market demands. In 2007, we had eight float furnaces in North America. Now, just three furnaces remain in North America. It is expected that the market will grow, so we have to expand capacity and we have to upgrade our equipment in order to meet customers' requirements. We have changed our strategy completely toward growth. This is now our challenge for North America.

GB: What are your specific goals for AGC in the North American market?

MI: We are changing to become a solution provider, by not only providing glass but also by providing solutions for customers. This is a very big change for us and this is the basis of our "Beyond Glass" approach. We have very advanced integration for environmental issues, C02, emission reductions and energy savings so we can provide a solution to the customer. This will be our focus for our future business.

GB: What do you see as the biggest problems facing your customers?
MI: Clearly the economy and where the market is heading is a challenge for customers across the industry. Even though we see the market recovering, if the economy stalls it's a concern that is very visible to our customers. There is a big opportunity in the North American market to focus on more value-added products ...

GB: What are your thoughts on the economic recovery? What do you think is ahead for 2013?
: If you look at previous cycles of recession and recovery, it follows the same order. That's what we are seeing today as well. The recovery in automotive comes first, residential second and commercial third …

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