At Anchor Glass Manufacturing, image and timing reign supreme every day. In the world of glass bottling, industry giants such as D.P.S.G, Heinz and Anheuser-Busch need the best packaging for their product and they need it yesterday. As a contract manufacturer for these and other well-known brands, Anchor Glass Container Corp. has been delivering the right image at the right time for the past 24 years.
“What really helps set us apart is our speed to market,” says Sam Wilson, vice president of product development. “Speed to market is everything once they decide to launch a product. It can take a while to make the decision, but once it’s made they want it today.”
As the third largest U.S. manufacturer of glass containers, Anchor Glass is big enough to take on large volume orders, but small enough to eliminate the red tape that can delay new design developments. “We’re pretty nimble and pretty quick on our feet,” Wilson explains. “We can change direction and take care of a variety of customer needs with very little bureaucracy.”
Anchor Glass maintains much repeat business, honoring contracts that can last from three to 10 years. It also deals with distributors who carry Anchor Glass’ stock product for the smaller upstart beverage, beer, distilleries and food companies. In Wilson’s product development division, which handles new designs for customers, his core team boasts 105 years of experience between them.
The product development division will work with companies to create a design and model. Then it will make sample bottles for a soft launch to test the market’s response, if necessary. Typical product requests include redesigns for mature products or a new product for an existing customer. While it develops new products, Anchor Glass is able to maintain production levels by leveraging its experiment and development (E&D) machine in Lawrenceburg, Ind.
“We own a machine that has the capabilities of every manufacturing process we have in the corporation,” Wilson explains. “So when we prototype a new design, we don’t have to take a machine out of production to assemble the prototype. We use our E&D machine which is devoted to that process, and we’ve been using it for the past 20 years.”
It frees up the company to work on several new products at once. Since last November, it’s been redesigning the Jose Cuervo tequila bottles. “We’ve been manufacturing Jose Cuervo bottles for some time, but the current design is about six to eight years old so they’ve decided to refresh it,” he says. “We started working with their design and marketing folks and the new package is in production and has been for about a month, so it should be rolling into the market place very shortly.”
Wilson says of all their client types, distilled spirits are seeing the most change as many seek designs that pack an aesthetic appeal. Anchor Glass is currently working with Beam Global Spirits & Wine to redesign the container for Jim Beam Black.
Jim Beam Black is the company’s premium eight-year-aged bourbon, and Wilson says Beam Global wanted a high-end look to match its high-end taste. “It used to be in the Jim Beam traditional bottle,” he says. “The new design is a little taller and thinner and we removed the plastic closure and incorporated a new metal roll with a skirt.”
Replacing plastic closures with metal is a current trend in the distilled spirits market, as is incorporating more glass embossments and less labeling. With its 10 manufacturing facilities distributed between nine states, Anchor Glass is able to adapt to those trends and any others that its clients think up. Anchor Glass also owns a 102,000-square-foot mould manufacturing facility in Zanesville, Ohio, and a facility in Streator, Ill., where the company makes its own manufacturing equipment. Its remaining eight facilities are specifically for glass manufacturing, and orders are allocated to the most geographically logical location. The distances between some facilities are considerable, but Wilson insists that the process at each remains the same.
Factors such as controlling furnace and forming temperatures during the glass making process along with machine and variable parts maintenance have helped Anchor Glass to develop a more standard manufacturing process. “Our senior vice president of operations, Gene Gavin, is very much a proponent of the homegrown process that we have developed, which is our process control,” Wilson explains. “We don’t have a fancy name hung on it like ‘lean’ or ‘Six Sigma Black Belt,’ but basically it’s our best practices carried from facility to facility. There are a lot of variables in the glass manufacturing process, and the more we can identify them and control them, the more efficient we can be.”