Steklarna Hrastnik – Crystal Clear Vision
Slovenia’s Steklarna Hrastnik, the manufacturer of premium glass packaging, has experienced a transformational decade to emerge as a smart, sustainable business.
A subsidiary of Switzerland-based GlobalGlass holding, Steklarna Hrastnik calls on a rich tradition of glassmaking expertise, dating back more than 160 years. The company, renowned for making one of the clearest glass in the world, offers a wide range of premium glass packaging solutions for the perfumery and spirits sectors, from traditional designs to innovative, award-winning solutions. The products are acclaimed for their perfect crystal shine and for being completely free of heavy metals.
“We are a company with a clear vision. This is why we strive to become the most inspiring, most sustainable, and most profitable high-end glass packaging company on the planet,” affirms the company’s CEO Peter Čas. “Our products are made of one of the purest types of glass in the world and our engineers are able to produce very demanding shapes in the highest quality in line with market trends of smart and sustainable glass packaging.”
The last few years have been a period of major change for the Slovenian glassmaker. First, the company, together with Siemens, developed a customised digitisation road map for the five years to 2023, an important step toward the company’s transformation to Industry 4.0.
Perhaps even more important has been the decision to refocus entirely on premium quality spirits and perfumery glass packaging manufacture, discontinuing tableware, its secondary line of business. And last but not least, on the environmental side, the company is on the way to achieving a breakthrough in the field of hydrogen technology, they were the first in the region to experimentally confirm the decarbonisation of glass melting with hydrogen obtained from renewable sources.
“With additional innovations within this project we will be also able to make unlimited adjustments of hydrogen content in the fuel. This gives us flexibility in terms of the availability of renewable resources,” says Mr Čas.
“Over the last few years, the digital transformation has been our strong focus. Together with our suppliers, we developed customised production technology solutions in order to meet the highest requirements for product quality, a very high level of versatility (range of portfolio), very demanding shapes as well as high demand for sustainability. Key outcomes included shorter time-to-market resulting from increased quality, productivity and efficiency,” says Peter Čas.
He further affirms that focusing on the premium glass packaging segment is believed to be the right path to securing long-term growth and further business development. “With this specialisation we have achieved two very important milestones – increased production capacity to 285 tonnes of glass per day; and increased supply security for our customers with two separate production units.”
In its new shape and form, the company is able to provide a fast response to emerging trends, such as smart packaging and the light-weight principle. “Smart packaging creates a direct contact between the customer and the brand and gives additional promotional possibilities to the brand with features like sounds and different colours.”
“An additional sustainable aspect of smart packaging is an electronic component on the bottle, which is attached to it with bio-based adhesive, that enables electronic component to be send back to the brand owner and the bottle could be recycled,” explains Mr Čas, adding that in terms of increased pressure for light-weight packaging, the company is able to reduce the weight without impacting the final product quality.
Within its business transformation, sustainability plays a pivotal role in Steklarna Hrastnik’s production. To this end the company is planning new low carbon projects on the glass furnaces in the next five years.
With these projects they will reduce CO2 emissions on an industrial scale by 20% over the next five years, replace the consumption of fossil fuels with green energy by one third, and increase its energy efficiency by 10 percent.
Enhanced business performance and growth can only be achieved with an engaged and committed workforce and the management strives to support its staff at all levels. “The motivation and satisfaction of our staff are extremely important to us. We have reward and motivation systems in place and support our employees with mentor/coach schemes as well as with training programmes.”
“We also encourage staff to find their work/life balance under the Family Friendly certificate and we organise an external one-week programme for our employees to learn techniques for healthy living,” says Mr Čas, adding that Steklarna Hrastnik also performs a wider social role, supporting various programmes and initiatives within the local community.
In the long term, the recent changes have positioned the business to be highly competitive in the global perfumery and spirits sectors. The French, Italian, UK, and US markets are key strategic targets, where the most important customers are high-end brand owners and glass packaging distributors.
The changes have also helped to increase the business’s resilience to unfavourable developments such as the Covid-19 pandemic. “We managed to adjust the operation of the whole of Steklarna Hrastnik almost overnight. Even more, we discovered ways to be even better, faster – we upgraded and optimized certain procedures and processes, in production, back office and management. It was an intense and strenuous experience, but we took it as an opportunity for internal enhancement,” affirms Mr Čas.
Despite the uncertainties of future market development, he remains optimistic about the company’s prospects. “We will continue to invest to support business growth and new pilot projects related to sustainability and business expansion are already on the agenda. In 2020 we completed a three-year cycle linked to 40 million EUR investments into product transformation. In the upcoming period our business goal is to take advantage of the recently increased capacity and strengthen our cooperation with brand owners.”