Stoelzle Glass's Anita Klöckl is an IS machine operator at its Koflach, Austria glass facility. She describes her passion for the role and why more women should consider a career in the industry.
"The fascination for glass has been passed on in my family from my grandpa to me.
He worked in the Stoelzle glass factory for years and glass was all around me as a small child.
Stoelzle is one of the largest employers in our region. Many teens - like myself - take the opportunity to work at the factory during the summer holidays, both to earn their own money and to acquire first insight in a professional, working life.
I was impressed as a child by the heavy, steaming IS machines and the stunning forming process, when the molten gob becomes a real bottle.
Today, I am machine operator and my job is to have these steaming machines under control. I am proud be one of the first link in this production chain, where our bottles are born.
After having worked as a welding technician in Austria and abroad, I started at Stoelzle as a machine operator trainee in December 2021. I had one year of intense training on various machines and a final exam to become machine operator.
I learned a lot from my senior colleagues, all males, who can partly look back on more than 30 years of duty in the glass industry.
When talking about glass production you need to understand that glass forming is a sophisticated process, which can be influenced by aspects such as changes in temperature and pulling air in the production hall for example.
Conditions may vary from one day to another or even within one shift and the machine operator has to adjust quickly to ensure that glass forming remains at a consistent quality level.
The levels of automation and digitization are constantly increasing in the production process, but at the end, our human expertise remains important.
Since I have finished my training and succeeded in the exam, I have been responsible for “my” IS machine.
I love the surroundings at the Hot End, even if most people might consider that working place rather to be not very appealing. Watching the glowing gobs falling down into the moulds is fascinating for me.
Working manually, creating something - such as pharma bottles - which is used and needed by millions of persons worldwide, is satisfying.
In addition, I love the technical aspects, taking care of mould changes or small repairs of the machine.
Women in glassmaking
It is unusual for women to be in this type of job. The number of female machine operators at the hot end has been rising recently in our Austrian plant.
Nevertheless, this work is still considered predominately suitable for men, if you ask for general opinions.
The role requires a good physical constitution, because moulds can be quite heavy, depending of the manufactured bottle size.
But I guess, that working in other technical field such as mechanical engineering, would not be less challenging.
In general, I think more women should go for traditionally male roles, break up these prejudices and show their capabilities. If we try, we will succeed. It is just a matter of mind-set.
I am feeling good with my colleagues and I enjoy working in a large team. We are about 90 hot end machine operators in our Austrian production site, working in 4 shifts 24/7.
Team spirit is great and my two female Hot End colleagues and me are well accepted.
Besides, Stoelzle offers many benefits/incentives for us employees in order to raise the work-life balance to all of the staff.
This includes a broad health and sports programme, leisure time activities, family days, sports excursions, shiatsu treatments...
Increased number of women
Generally speaking, there are many women in our Stoelzle team, in all departments.
We can see that the number of female apprentices in technical roles has also been increasing over the past few years.
Female teenagers start to be interested in becoming mechanical engineers, electricians, mechatronics engineers etc. I think that this is a good development, an important step in the right direction.
Stoelzle is doing quite a lot to promote jobs to women. We cooperate with schools and associations in order to motivate female teenagers to start in technical apprenticeship for example.
Our female colleagues - no matter what departments of the company - are often promoted as role models.
I think, women should become a bit more flexible and courageous and should face the challenge of tough roles like an HE machine operator."