Last May, Georg Feith took up the reins as Chief Executive Officer at the Stölzle Glass Group, replacing Johannes Schick. One of Europe’s leading glass packaging specialists, Stölzle was not unknown to Mr Feith, however, having started his career at the Köflach plant in Austria during the early 1990s. He spoke exclusively to Glass Worldwide about his hopes for CAG-Holding’s diversified glassmaking subsidiary.
It was in 1993 that Georg Feith first joined the Stölzle Glass Group in Austria, as assistant to the CEO and responsible for special projects. His work included the finalisation of negotiations with UK-based Rockware Glass (now Ardagh Group) to take over and integrate the existing Bagleys cosmetics packaging plant in Knottingley, West Yorkshire, now known as Stölzle Flaconnage.
With an MSc in glass and refractory engineering, subsequently Mr Feith held a series of senior management roles within the diversified CAG-Holding, owned by Dr Cornelius Grupp, before returning to his glass industry roots. In 1994, he transferred to Neuman Aluminium, a major raw materials player for aerosol cans and collapsible tubes, as well as being a second and first tier supplier to the automotive sector. He was CEO of Neuman Aluminium, as well as being responsible for Glanzstoff Industries, before being named joint Managing Director of the entire CAG-Holding organisation in 2016, working alongside Dr Grupp. Mr Feith has also served on the Stölzle board of directors for several years.
Strong customer focus
With six production sites in Austria, the Czech Republic, France, Poland and the UK, along with specialist decoration facilities in France, Poland and the UK, the Stölzle Glass Group has strengthened its position as one of Europe’s leading suppliers of glass containers to the pharmaceutical, spirits, food, perfumery and cosmetics industries in recent decades. The group sets standards in terms of quality, knowhow and design and is a regular winner of important international packaging awards.
As Stölzle Glass Group CEO, Georg Feith is now responsible for defining its strategy in co-operation with the management team, as well as developing this team into an excellent, closely co-operating unit. He has taken over the role from Johannes Schick, who performed a key role in the group’s success over the previous 14 years. “The owner and I know each other very well, which helps us to make quick decisions, in an industry that is on a consolidation path” Mr Feith confirms.
A strong customer focus can be found at the heart of his strategic priorities, whether in the short-, medium- or long-term. This is combined with an emphasis on R&D, as well as a strict orientation towards energy saving and sustainability within the company’s factories.
The glassmaker’s strengths in prestige spirits, pharmaceutical, perfumery and personal care products, consumer food packaging and high end tableware will all be the subject of development in the future. “We believe that our various business units can and will cross-fertilise each other in terms of creativity and R&D and will continue to make Stölzle a unique player in the glass packaging industry” says the company’s CEO. Close co-operation is maintained between sales and manufacturing functions to enable fast and innovative service to customers. Furthermore, although the six production sites strategically manufacture items for defined business units, there is close collaboration between them, creating an important back-up network, if required.
Among the group’s latest product developments is the glass packaging for a new flavour launch within the Ciroc Vodka range. The entire Ciroc range, including the special edition Colada, has been manufactured and decorated by Stölzle. The Ciroc brand is developing strongly in the spirits market and Stölzle is confident that further appealing flavours will be introduced in the future.
Among Stölzle’s latest capital investment projects was a major furnace rebuild and plant refurbishment at the Knottingley site in the UK. Permitting the glassmaker to grow with its customers, this project increases the factory’s focus on forehearth colouring and the production of tall bottles, both of which are essential to be successful in the UK. “Our UK plant also has its own decoration site, with numerous state-of-the art decoration machines” Mr Feith confirms. “As well as manufacturing brilliant spirits bottles, we offer stunning decoration for the luxury sector. Our excellence in design and technical execution has been recognised several times in recent years, receiving the WorldStar Award in 2017 for the Isle of Harris Gin bottle, as one of the world’s best glass packaging projects.”
Within the next three years, Stölzle plants in France and Poland will be the subject of major modernisation projects. The group works closely with leading technology suppliers, Stölzle is interested in innovative solutions and competitiveness as part of its supplier selection process.
The glassmaker intends to follow a strict path of energy reduction, while increasing pack efficiency, without sacrificing quality. “Within CAG-Holding, we are operating biomass energy plants that produce energy (heat and electricity) that match our needs in all glass plants” says Georg Feith. “We are already balanced in green renewable energy production and energy consumption at all manufacturing sites.”
To realise continued success in the future, the glassmaker emphasises the importance of anticipating customer requirements, combined with the need for innovative R&D and the speedy delivery of new product developments. “Service orientation and long-term co-operation are critical elements of Stölzle’s offering, features that go hand-in-hand with the goals of our owners” Mr Feith explains. “The Grupp family of entrepreneurs is now in its sixth generation, with the seventh set to arrive in the family business… we are here for the long haul!”
Stölzle’s approach to R&D is focussed on everything that deals with the circular economy, as well as searching for the realisation of innovative glass surface characteristics. “We have state-of-the-art machines at all three decoration sites and are constantly developing new ways to create stunning finishes” the glassmaker suggests. “This includes the quali glass coat (a special powder coating) that offers many advantages compared to spraying, in terms of its visual appeal, mechanical resistance and eco-friendly application.”
Stölzle aspires to become the player with the highest entrepreneurial spirit in the industry. “Not only do we want to react to our customers’ needs but we strive to anticipate new developments and liaise with those who are the most advanced in their field” says Georg Feith, who also confirms that the company is currently running at full capacity. Stable market conditions are observed in the glassmaker’s main European markets, with good opportunities predicted for sales to North America and Asia.
Source: Glass Worldwide, Sep/Oct 2018