This year, Billco celebrates its 70th year of bringing innovation and quality to the glass fabrication industry. The company specializes in the design and manufacture of equipment for the flat glass and fenestration industries.
Well-known for its excellent customer care and industry-leading design, Billco’s portfolio is packed with powerful innovation. Its equipment delivers on stability, expertise and promise, giving fabricators the tools needed to deliver high quality glass products to the market. In this way, Billco contributes significantly to the capabilities of American architectural design.
Ethel Billinger started Billco in 1948 in Zelienople, Pennsylvania. She is remembered as ‘one fine lady’ and an astute businesswoman who genuinely cared about her employees. It is said that she knew every employee by name and that every Friday afternoon, the staff would line up for Ethel to hand each employee his pay packet in person.
Mrs. Billinger was very much ahead of her time. She started the business on her own, after splitting off from another family enterprise. In those days, there was some local competition, but Billco’s commitment to research and development allowed it to outpace the others. Ethel knew that she could do it better – and she did. Her grandson, Bill, inherited the business. He followed in her footsteps and continued her legacy of producing top-quality products and taking good care of Billco’s workforce. “To this day, the company is very employee-focused and generous with employee benefits,” says Danielle Blewitt, Marketing Manager.
The machine that ultimately built the company and secured its future as a leading equipment manufacturer was a simple circle-cutter. This was essentially a template cutting tool that was relatively straightforward to manage. An operator would move its adjustable handle in either a clockwise or counter-clockwise motion, which in turn would score circles onto the glass. With this development, Ethel and her team began supplying glass fabricators with the equipment needed to produce round automotive mirrors and other circular glass products. When rectangular mirrors came into vogue, Billco developed a template cutter that could render rectangles, art-glass and many other shapes. This was the bedrock of the company’s early innovation on which its successors built the Billco as we know it today.
The company’s next major growth spurt is ascribed to its automated glass washers. When one Googles ‘glass washer,’ an array of red herrings appear – everything from liquid soap to bartending staff. However, what Billco refers to as a glass washer is a thoughtfully engineered, high quality machine that clears huge sheets of flat glass of impurities. This eliminates the need for hand-washing prior to assembly. The machine constitutes a conveyor which runs large sheets of glass through a series of spray lines and scrubbing brushes. The process renders large volumes of clean, dry glass ready for downstream processing. Much of Billco’s reputation today is based on its developments in glass cleaning technology and Billco’s high quality glass washers.
One of Billco’s latest developments is its Z-Series washer, which won the 2017 DWM Readers Choice award for Best Equipment. This washer is a high-performance glass cleaning system that is focused on the bottom line. With unique maintenance features such as on-screen maintenance feedback prompts, the days of guessing these machines’ service status are over. It now notifies operators of maintenance or service requirements and also offers a superior level of automated process control, giving the system the ability to deliver consistent, high-quality results. Its more compact size, easy-access maintenance points and processing flexibility make it the top cleaning choice for all flat-glass fabricators.
Another popular model of Billco’s is its Ultra Series Cutting System. The Ultra Series offers a linear motor machine for the high-speed, high-volume glass cutting needs of large flatglass fabricators, as well as window and door manufacturers. Originally designed in 1995, the Ultra Series was recently revised. The new design incorporates a lighter and more rigid bridge frame, which means faster and more accurate processing. For those in the know, this is a pretty big deal. The technology used in the Ultra Series was developed by Hugh Trautman, a long time Billco engineer. To this day, it is still the leading cutting technology in the glass industry.
Another recent introduction is an improved version of Billco’s laminating assembly line. The new line is modular, allowing companies to set up laminating lines at decidedly lower capital cost. They can also expand capabilities, as their demand for higher output increases over time.
When it comes to challenges, most manufacturers agree that cheap imports cause the greatest frustration. Faced with the notoriously low production costs of offshore outfits, American producers have their work cut out in competing on price. As with most things, however, you get what you pay for, and buying knock-off machines can end up costing more than anticipated. Supporting innovation and quality is still the best way to go, and the price is worth it. Not only is Billco’s quality far superior to any Asian producer’s, but it also provides after-sales service that is second to none.
Jay Campbell, Billco’s Glass Solutions Specialist assures us that, “In the unfortunate event that anything goes wrong with your Billco machine, our expert service technicians can perform remote diagnostics. We have a multi-million dollar warehouse with spare parts. We are able to supply original components and our dedicated service team is ready to get on an airplane or in a car to fix machines that customers can’t get running.” In the end, the company estimates that buying quality machines result in lower maintenance costs over the long term. Proof of this fact is in the 160 machines across Malaysia, and many more worldwide, that Billco’s maintenance team keeps in top condition. “Our service guys are on the road nonstop keeping everything running smoothly,” says Danielle.
Billco’s innovation legacy matches its drive to do the right thing. “Sometimes it costs us money, but it’s the right thing to do. We do everything we can to take care of our customers. We support them at pretty much any cost,” says Jay. “That’s what sets us apart from our competitors – that, and our excellent sales support.”
To be sure, the company has always been known for its quality. Billco doesn’t cut corners, and its premium machinery and service make it an industry leader on every level, while its development team focuses on anticipating customers’ needs. “That’s been a major contributor to our longevity,” Jay says.
Billco also custom-builds. Clients can arrive with a wish list and the design team will make it happen. This type of flexibility is quite rare in this industry.
Certainly, Billco is dedicated to moving forward. Its future is mapped out with the same precision that it applies to everything else it does, and it has more new products in the pipeline now than ever before. With this expanding product line, employment opportunities are on the rise and a comprehensive revamp promises to refresh and revitalize the company at all levels. The shake-up started in 2017, when Billco rebranded from the bottom up. Everything is getting a makeover this year, including the company’s workspaces. Part of its projected marketing strategy is a greater media presence, which will firmly secure its market share in years to come.
Design-wise, customers can expect to see more automation, with a major reduction in manual glass contact as well as lowered operator intervention in glass transportation in and around plants. Billco’s new Remnant Storage system, which optimizes and reuses assorted offal, or reclaimed glass lites, will transform how the industry handles remnant. With all of this action, one thing is clear: Billco is Moving Glass Forward.