Congratulations to Oliver Wiegand, owner of German container glass manufacturer Wiegand-Glas.
Mr Wiegand is the Phoenix Award’s 2018 Glass Person of the Year, and was nominated for his commitment to innovation in glassmaking.
The Phoenix committee of suppliers and technologists to the industry recognised Mr Wiegand for his forward-thinking and willingness to embrace new technology.
He has worked with suppliers in the development of new technology and, importantly, allowed them to test new innovations in real time glass production at his four plants in Germany.
Mr Wiegand is to be applauded for this. When a new innovation works it is a step forward not only for a company but also, eventually, for the entire industry.
Wiegand-Glas will reap the initial benefits but other glassmakers will inevitably follow and embrace the technology as well. But while they may be on the same terms on a technology level, Wiegand-Glas will always be the thought leader, the company setting the example, or - to put it in social media terminology - the ‘Trending’ company.
Being a trendsetter isn’t without its risks. How many times have supposedly fantastic new ideas gone wrong? In the case of Wiegand-Glas, how much production time was lost as a result of an effort that failed? How many times have they, in collaboration with suppliers, suffered disappointment and had to go back to the drawing board?
We will never know. But the glassmaking industry has to continue taking these risks and to be prepared for failure in order to continue to innovate. It has to. Both customer and public pressure will ensure it.
The plastic industry may be on the end of plenty of negative coverage at the moment thanks to the publicity surrounding how it is discarded as waste, but this will not last. It has financial resources far beyond those of the glass sector and the fightback to promote it in the public arena will begin soon.
Glass has to continuously publicise itself as the material of choice to consumers and promote itself as the greenest, healthiest item to choose on the supermarket shelf.
The industry has made fantastic progress in lightweighting, in limiting emissions and in recycling. Every container made at Wiegand-Glas, for example, contains 80-95% of cullet generated at its facilities.
There are risks involved, but the glass industry has much to gain by following the example of Mr Wiegand’s open approach to glassmaking.
Pictured: Oliver Wiegand was praised by Phoenix award judges for his commitment to innovation in glassmaking.