Casinos, cruise ships and grand resort properties have them. And now Mumbai’s state-of-the-art new Airport Terminal 2 has them too. Dramatic moulded ceilings — with artistic patterns, skylights and columns — created by Canada’s Formglas Products Ltd.
“The sheer scale of the ceiling is difficult to appreciate unless you stand beneath it,” says Formglas president and CEO John Chettleburgh. The Ontario-based company, founded nearly 50 years ago, is North America’s largest manufacturer of custom moulded glass fiber reinforced gypsum and other composite materials for interior and exterior architecture.
The sheer scale of the Mumbai project towers over most other such works by this mid-sized company, with a project value of approximately $10 million. And the location, India, was a first for Formglas, which has worked extensively in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Latin America in addition to its core North American market.
“More than three quarters of our work is export driven,” says Chettleburgh. The company has representatives on nearly every continent and has built strong relationships with many global architectural firms and building contractors. One of those architects, New York’s Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP, turned to Formglas when it was hired to design the landmark Mumbai airport terminal, working with India’s GVK Power and Infrastructure Ltd.
Formglas: Scaling Down the Challenges
“It wasn’t working in India per se that was our biggest challenge,” says Chettleburgh, “it was managing the complexities and mitigating the risks of a project this size in a far-off country. Our international experience has taught us how to prepare for and reduce potential issues at the front end.”
For example, the company determined it would be shipping some 220 containers of material for the project. “What if something was damaged in transit and was needed right away?”
The answer: “We worked with the installation contractor to lease a 30 square-foot staging area near the port in Mumbai. There we were able to receive and inspect all parts and make any required touch-ups before they were delivered to the airport site,” says Chettleburgh. “This avoided tremendous costs and delays of having to ship new components if there was a problem or we needed to adjust the delivery sequence.”
“We also discovered that EDC was essential to keep our capital working for us. For example, we used its performance security guarantee to backstop our letter of credit with Scotiabank – otherwise we would have had to tie up capital that we needed for this project.
“We also used EDC’s advance payment guarantee, so that we wouldn’t have to forgo payments for work in progress. We are now using EDC on another project in Saudi Arabia.”
Export Success Tips
No matter the market, Chettleburgh adds: “When we work overseas, we leverage relationships on the ground. We operate as if we are a local company so that we can deal with issues as they come up — whether these require our technical know-how or relationship building to work things out.”
While Forgls’ facility in Toronto leads the design, engineering and marketing of its projects, it established a second manufacturing plant in Mexicali, Mexico, six years ago. “This helps us reduce costs while still keeping manufacturing relatively close to our primary market, the U.S., and helps us offer shorter lead times,” says Chettleburgh.
“Today, our strength is our technical depth and experience executing complex and unique projects around the globe. It’s a combination, we believe, that few of our competitors quite have.” All these traits helped Formglas achieve the impressive airport terminal ceiling project in Mumbai.