The phantasmic Gerresheim experience Where automation re-creates the glassblower's art Manufacture of glass and its fashioning into bottles is an example of near-miraculous human ingenuity. The glass blower, with his distended cheeks and superb breath control that takes years to develop, is one of industry's most highly skilled craftsmen. But his art would be too slow to keep pace with today's commer cial demands. The endless require ments of beverage and other manufacturers has boosted the need for bottles and all kinds of glass containers to unprecedented proportions - a vast market that has caused a revolution in production methods. Perhaps even more highly developed than the craft of the glass blower himself is the skill that man has applied to mass production methods, in which the blowing and moulding of molten glass into bottles are reduced to a matter of seconds - a brief, intensely automated phase of a factory process that sees tons of raw materials converted into millions of bottles a day. CONTACT recently observed this fascinating and dramatic spectacle at the works of Gerresheimer Glas at Gerresheim, near Diisseldorf, West Germany, a major bottle supplier to Heineken. Gerresheimer Glas was founded more than a century ago. Its first bottle was blown in 1864. For more than 60 years the same technique was used, until in the early years of this century the first automatic machinery was installed. Today the Gerresheimer works at Diissel dorf is in terms of acreage the biggest glass factory in the world and one of a family of 13 Gerresheimer plants in various parts of Germany, all forming part of the American Owens group of Illinois, Ohio. Of its sister facilities, another six are engaged in glass manufacture, three are in the plastics business, two make cartons and one produces aluminium cans. The Owens group has a turnover of US 3 billion and the Gerresheimer Glas operation, representing about one third of Owen's international activities, is in scale. The Diisseldorf organisation has a total turnover of some DM 780 million and a payroll of 7,750 employees. These include a shop force which works four to five daily shifts to turn out annually 3 billion glass bottles and containers (for cosmetics, jams, pickles), representing about 900,000 tons of glass. It also produces sheet glass at fhe rate of 12,000 square metres a day - enough to cover a football pitch. A 1,000,000,000 bottles Heineken's relationship with the German glass giant dates from 1946. From that year until the start of the '50s bottle shipments to Amsterdam were of relative ly low volume and consisted mainly of 66 cl bottles. But over the past quarter century the flow of bottle supplies, though often fluctuating, has built up to a total of very nearly one thousand million. This becomes entirely credible to anyone who makes a tour of the Gerresheim works. Described and illustrated in Gerresheimer literature, bottle manufac ture is a perfectly logical and easily grasped sequence of processes. Principal materials are quartz-sand, soda and chalk. First they are mixed in the correct proportions - these are determined by weight - then heated to 1500°C to form glass in molton form. Glowing with heat this mix is fed to overhead or drop moulds - a term that needs explanation, since at this point 'moulding' is simply the preliminary process of shaping the material into circular form and releasing it in quantities of a given length to fall ten or twelve feet to machinery operating at bench height below. Here it is automati cally blown, shaped and cast in the form of glowing bottles which next pass through a cooling oven before being surface-hardened and subjected to rigorous quality control. Then they are packed in cartons - made in another of the group's German factories - and shipped in crates or shrink-foiled on pallets to the warehouse where they await loading onto lorries for onward despatch by road or rail Unimaginable heat After a visit to Gerresheim it is entirely One of Heineken's major bottle suppliers 8

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Heineken Contact | 1980 | | pagina 8