Glass curtain wall on new Rutgers Business School building reflects tale of globalization

Friday, June 14, 2013

For months, the steel skeleton of the new Rutgers Business School building stood wrapped in a giant white sheath, providing workers inside with a buffer from the winter cold and blustery winds.

With the tight wrapping gone and work underway to install large panels of glass, the outside walls look more like puzzles, slowly taking form as individual pieces are put into place.

Earlier this month, workers were completing an exterior wall of the new Rutgers business  school building.

Workers are installing more than 600 glass panels – at a pace of about 20 per day – in a time-consuming process of inserting the panels into clips and anchors to form the exterior walls of the six-story building.

One of the most dramatic features of the new building on the university’s Livingston Campus, the glass curtain wall also provides an up close look at globalization, the complexities it creates for businesses and the reasons supply chain management is growing more important to companies.   

The Beijing Jangho Curtain Wall Company, the world’s second largest manufacturer of curtain wall coverings, was awarded the bid early last year by Rutgers to produce the glass panels for the business school building. The panels were made in Jangho’s plant in Guangzhou, a hub of manufacturing along China’s Pearl River over 8,000 miles away.

Barry Mauriello, a senior project manager with Structure Tone which is overseeing the construction, described the curtain wall as “the most challenging” aspect of the project.  That’s not only because of the painstaking nature of the installation, he said, but also the timing of the deliveries for such an integral part of the construction.      

The arrival of the glass was essential – and caused its share of nail-biting – for the project to remain on schedule, but getting it here wasn’t a simple trip. Pieces of the curtain wall were transported from Guangzhou by at least 10 different container ships that traveled along all-water routes, passing through the Panama Canal and along the East Coast of the U.S. to Port Elizabeth. Mauriello said each delivery took an average of 30 days to reach New Jersey. The first arrived in March.

Guangzhou is considered one of China's key manufacturing hubs.

Rutgers Business School professor Donald Klock, who teaches about supply chain processes and global sourcing, said globalization isn’t new, but it has intensified dramatically during the past decade.  “Things are made everywhere,” he said.

It is common for lots of products, whether it’s a cellphone, an airplane – or a building, to be assembled from parts that are manufactured in different places of the world.

And the decisions by businesses to do that, he said, are not based exclusively on cost of labor alone. “When people look at global sourcing,’’ he said, “they have to make a lot of choices.”

In the case of the Rutgers Business School building, the project required not only a specialty kind of glass but a manufacturer that could demonstrate they would be able to supply a large volume of it without delaying the progress of the building. The building is still on schedule to be completed and open for the fall semester.

“The contractors,” Klock said, “would not want to hold up construction.”

Jangho, which had to meet certain requirements in order to bid on a public project, had numerous examples of buildings to demonstrate its experience and track record, including the spectacular, twisting Infinity Tower in Dubai.

As it becomes more prevasive, globalization is also making business more complex. There are things such as tariffs and customs brokers’ fees that have to be considered as well as the logistics of getting products from one point in the world to another. (The growing complexity of business logistics is creating a surge of interest in Supply Chain Management programs like ones offered to MBA students as well as undergraduates at Rutgers Business School. The trend was the subject of a recent Wall Street Journal story.)   

Each shipment of glass panels used to erect the curtain wall took approximately 30 days to reach New Jersey.

In an effort to make sure the glass panels for the business school building arrived on time, managers overseeing the project found themselves reconsidering the route they would travel to reach New Jersey. Originally, the glass was scheduled to go to California and then transferred to rail cars that would carry it to the East Coast. But Mauriello said there was some concern that crossing the Great Plains, particularly the Rocky Mountains, during the winter months created the potential for delays.

Shipping the glass directly to the Port of New York and New Jersey also eliminated an additional customs charge that Homeland Security would have tacked on the glass panels if they had arrived at the port by train, Mauriello said.       

It's an example of what Klock refers to as the "nitty-gritty” A former chief procurement officer at Colgate Palmolive, Klock said to ensure the logistics are smooth and efficient, “you have to know a multitude of things.”

“The point is, it truly is a global economy,” he said. “That’s why supply chains are so complex.”

The installation of the outer glass wall of the Rutgers Business School building represents a critical part of the construction project. Here’s a look at some of the details. 

By the Numbers:

Total number of glass panels installed on exterior of new building: 615

30 - Number of days it took container ships to transport glass from China to New Jersey

Panels installed per day: 15

Approximate value of the glass curtain wall: $3.9 million

Size of curtain wall manufacturing plant in China: More than 1 million square feet

-Susan Todd

TAGS: City of New Brunswick Donald Klock Livingston Campus Supply Chain Management