There are few family-run companies that can boast the long, rich and varied history of Bavarian packaging and container company HEINZ-GLAS. “The company was founded in 1622, but my ancestors were already working as glassmakers for a century before,” Carletta Heinz tells The CEO Magazine.
As CEO, Carletta represents the 13th generation of a business that has grown into the name of reference in the manufacturing of glass bottles and plastic caps and closures for the perfume and cosmetic industry.
From the first company in Piesau in 1622 to the second in Kleintettau in 1661, Carletta’s forefathers could not have imagined what the business would evolve into. HEINZ-GLAS has grown to more than 3,200 employees and now has a presence in 17 locations in 13 countries around the world.
Along the way, it has witnessed global events (the Thirty Years’ War, the Great Depression, two World Wars) and survived local disasters, such as a 1904 fire that reduced the original glassworks to ashes, with a strength and unity that has become a hallmark of the company.
Carletta officially succeeded her father, CarlAugust Heinz, in the CEO role in July 2020, but she has always known that it was the job for her. “I was six years old when I first wrote down that I wanted to be the chief of the company,” she smiles.
She has a degree in Business Administration from FriedrichAlexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg and joined the company in 2013, initially as a management trainee before becoming CIO four years ago.
While generational change can be a challenge for many family-run companies, between father and daughter it has been smooth, although they have different approaches.
“We work very well together. We share the same goals and values, but have different ways of doing things,” she says. However, that doesn’t mean Carletta doesn’t feel the pressure to build upon the success of the previous generations, especially the growth her father drove.
“We are very proud of everything my father achieved during his 50 years with the company,” she beams. Carl-August’s legacy is an international footprint that stretches across the globe: outside of Europe (where it has a presence in eight countries), smart investments saw a sales office and warehouse established in the US, and operations in Peru, India and China.
“Not many other glass businesses in the world are so international,” Carletta says. In his daughter, Carl-August has been succeeded by an astute business leader who is picking up where he left off.
We work very well together. We share the same goals and values, but have different ways of doing things.
“Along with improvements to our existing production sites, we are about to start construction on a new glass factory in China,” she explains, adding that this project will be a particular area of focus until it is fully operational in the first quarter of 2022.
This new Chinese site will also serve as a regional centre for decoration – an important division in the company’s operations. Over the years, an array of techniques have been mastered, such as frosting, colour spraying, embossing, silkscreen and pad printing, digital printing and metallisation and, most recently, laser engraving to create the signature looks of perfume bottles the world over.
This variety and expertise in decoration, Carletta explains, is what separates HEINZ-GLAS from its competitors. “We are known in the market for the quality of our decoration,” she says.
“For glass production, we don’t need too many raw materials,” Carletta says, explaining that HEINZ-GLAS has longstanding relationships with around 20 key suppliers. “These are real, personal contacts.” As of 2021, the company will be introducing supplier awards.
“This is also an integral part of our innovations. In both glass and decoration, we are constantly working on new challenges and there are many of them. As a reliable and trustworthy partner, we always try to offer our customers a variety of options and are therefore also always ready to invest in our technology and our staff.”
If there’s one area of the business Carletta is particularly passionate about, it’s sustainability. “It’s one of my most important topics,” she reveals. Since her early days in the family business in 2013, she has promoted it as a company objective. In 2014, she was instrumental in setting sustainability as a strategic goal and in establishing a global sustainability team.
“We want to be the most sustainable company in the industry, and I believe we are. That’s why we have committed to CO₂ reduction at our Dzialdowo site in Poland and have already submitted a target, which is monitored by the Science Based Targets initiative.”
While awareness of and respect for the environment have been a hallmark of HEINZ-GLAS across the generations, more recent achievements include the use of renewable energy at all its German production sites since 2016 – the year the company also started to generate its own solar power.
“We are happy with the progress we have made with our reduction in CO₂ emission targets,” Carletta says. An important step has been building a second electric furnace in 2020 in Kleintettau (the first was built in 1976) for which the electricity is CO₂-free.
These electric furnaces can melt up to 45% post-consumer recycled glass, an increasingly important material in the manufacturing process.
Carletta has hardly had a chance to pause for breath during a 12-month period that has seen not just a generational change in the business, but also the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, despite the challenges of global lockdowns, she has a positive outlook.
“It was a hard situation, but the team and the company grew even closer and we learned a lot,” she says, especially in terms of digitisation efforts, which took weeks to implement rather than years. With the company on the cusp of celebrating its 400th anniversary in 2022, it’s safe to say Carletta has a lot to look forward to.
“I really like our business,” she enthuses, adding that the main advantages of a family operation are flexibility and speed of decisions. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s still fun for me.”
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