From Mesopotamia to New Jersey, the manufacture of glass has enjoyed a history closely aligned with the advancement of the human race, beginning with early artifacts discovered in the “Cradle of Civilization” to the ornamental flourishes of the Venetians. Today’s glass can be utilitarian as well as decorative, and giving both areas its undivided attention is The Glass Group (GGI)(tm).
GGI, headquartered in Millville, N.J., was formed in September 2002 through the purchase of the glass-operating unit from Alcan Aluminum, but the company’s history extends to the 1880s. It was founded by T.C. Wheaton who, the story goes, started the business in conjunction with Eli Lily to package drugs (another story has it that Wheaton gave Estee Lauder a boost by supplying free jars for cosmetics). The company remained in the family until May of 1996.
GGI now manufactures bottles of varying shapes and sizes for cosmetics, pharmaceutical and container distributor markets; among these would be the tiny Smuckers jelly jars that you may see in restaurants such as Cracker Barrel, or cosmetics jars for firms such as Loreal, Estee Lauder, Revlon, and other containers for pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer and Schering-Plough. Says Vice President of Marketing Jim DeRuosi, “There’s probably no one we don’t sell to.”
DeRuosi describes the industry as competitive, with GGI the only American producer of small specialty containers. In the last 15 to 20 years, he adds, the introduction of high performance plastics has taken a part of business away from glass manufacturers. Nonetheless, glass is irreplaceable in some applications. “In the markets we’re typically involved with glass has a perceived value because of its weight and characteristics for uses in which plastic is not a good substitute,” DeRuosi explains. Glass, he adds, is often preferred over plastics in the pharmaceutical industry because of sensitive drugs needed for medicines – in such cases, the substance could be contaminated by plastic residue. Glass is more resistant to interaction with these substances, he explains.
GGI furthers its stance in the industry through acquisitions that complement its product base. One of these occurred in June, 2003 when GGI took over the manufacture and delivery of glass products supplied by Carr Lowrey Glass Company, which equally enjoyed a long history, being founded in 1889 to manufacture cosmetic and specialty glass products with annual sales of approximately $20 million.
Adds Vice President of Engineering Paul Weikel, GGI also has a 47 percent interest as a minority investment owner in the Beijing Wheaton Glass Company glass bottle production facility, which services the Far East and Chinese markets. Other business units include Flat River Molded Glass Operations, New Mold Manufacturing, Coated Products and Decora.
Looking at glass
In the general sense, explains Weikel, the composition of glass has remained relatively the same over the last half century or so, being comprised mostly of sand and other minerals added to create physical properties; GGI’s products typically are made in borosilicate, soda lime, flint, amber and color glass both in the tank and in feeders that modify the color characteristics. The company has two production facilities in the U.S., one in Millville, N.J. and the other in Park Hills, Mo. GGI has additional capability for secondary operations that include printing, with the ability to add colors on the external surface, and to etch the outer surface to create a frosted effect. The company also has the capability of producing colored glass for the cosmetics industry or for liquor and vitamin jars.
“We have leading edge technology in our secondary operations, we can even put precision metals in print copy for metallized print,” Weikel says. He adds that GGI specializes in smaller volumes for a customer’s specific program, which could amount to 200,000 pieces a year for a special fragrance. The product development department assists in creating the container that meets specific needs and the project manager coordinates the development of the product, beginning with the concept drawing through the creation of three-dimensional models of the design concept. This team oversees new mold manufacturing during the construction of the prototype molds to the final production tooling and manufacture of the glass container. “We’re fully integrated and have a group of individuals who work directly with the customer on new product campaigns. We also have our own tooling, mold shop and design center.”
In addition, capabilities include the combination of innovative technology in mix and melt, with five tanks in operation. Chemists and chemical engineers work to create the desired glass composition, physical properties, chemical durability and light transmission, needed for a product and they formulate the criteria for the correct color in either the tank or via frit in the forehearth. Manual and automated inspection occurs throughout the manufacturing process, beginning in the company’s quality lab through the hot and cold ends to packaging, using modern inspection equipment and hands on checking GGI’s coated products division enhances the durability of glass and affords a safety shield between the glass and the consumer with an outside coating. Coating options are unlimited, and can be created to present a decorative effect, such as glitter, gloss or an array of patterns. GGI also provides an internal sulfur coating to ensure product protection and avoid chemical breakdown.
In its Decora operation, GGI provides the largest variety of decorating capabilities in the U.S. These facilities use fully automated systems for organic and ceramic sprays, silk screening, ink transfer, precious metal application and pad printing.
These processes enable printing on a wide range of bottle sizes and any bottle shape. An ink transfer process places multi-colored ink or applies precious metals directly onto the glass. Pressure-sensitive labeling and acid frosting are also available to augment a company’s decorating options. Decora is fully integrated with a full color lab and graphics department assisting in the creation of an assortment of unique decorating and design concepts. As it furthers glass making in both form and function, GGI has future plans for new product design and deco creations, with plans to, among other things, publish periodical brochures and product updates. Studies conducted in its laboratory have enabled the company to overcome the unique complexity of working with glass; its chemists have aided in the development of more than 150 color creations. This commitment to generating quality ensures that GGI will continue to grow with customers as a complete group.