For more than 100 years, O-I has been innovating and transforming the glass packaging industry. In 1903, Michael J. Owens developed the Automatic Bottle Machine, which was considered the most important invention in glass in more than 2,000 years. Innovation is in our DNA, and we continue to reimagine how we approach every part of our business, from our glass-making technology and processes, to our customer approach, to how we support our people. We seek to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary. Just a century after Owens’ invention, O-I is again innovating with our groundbreaking MAGMA technology, which will again change the glass packaging industry. With this and other advancements pioneered in our dedicated R&D Innovation Center, O-I is taking transformative steps forward in our processes, products, and our interconnected relationships with our stakeholders. Our drive to invent, transform, and constantly raise the bar for glass manufacturing is what sets O-I apart. This is why innovation is found in everything we do, creating value for our stakeholders.
Our Unique Innovation Center
In 2013, O-I opened the one-of-a-kind Innovation Center dedicated to improving and transforming glass container manufacturing. This state-of-the-art facility brings together research and development, product design, engineering, and commercial expertise under one roof. Covering over 2,000 square meters in a separate facility on the campus of our Global Headquarters in Perrysburg, Ohio, the Innovation Center features a prototype MAGMA melter and a small traditional furnace (about a tenth of the full-scale) with two production lines. This smaller-scale configuration allows us to trial new processes and prototype new product designs without interrupting our production the factory lines. The Innovation Center is where we continue to test and refine this breakthrough technology.
“The Innovation Center unlocks the constraints of our commercial plants. It can take risks no plant can take, advancing rapid innovation.”
Creating a Circular Economy on the Perrysburg Campus
We love the circularity of glass and look for ways to maximize this potential. Our North America team decided to fully utilize this unique glass benefit by creating a returnable, refillable water bottle system for our Global Headquarters Campus. Tapping the skills of our New Product Design team, we created a unique bottle for the purpose and then manufactured it in our Innovation Center. Our team then combined the bottle with a system that include a purification system, a special dishwasher, capping equipment, and 100% recyclable caps. We installed dedicated refrigerators to hold up to 250 bottles. Volunteers wash, refill, re-cap and reload into the refrigerator, creating an ideal circularity for our bottled water—and a step toward our zero-waste aspiration.
The Innovation Center is more than just an R&D facility where we invent and trial new technology and processes. It is also a facility that gives us the ability to troubleshoot production issues occurring in commercial operations, evaluate and improve on product quality, or even test new raw materials. Our Innovation Center tools enable us to evaluate new material sources to quantify performance, confirm specifications, and identify any functional risks prior to commercial use. Recently, the Innovation Center explored the possible use of some raw material alternatives that have the potential to enhance the sustainability of our products. This proof-of-concept testing is a critical step to help establish commercial viability of these potential new materials. The Innovation Center will continue to be a valuable and versatile resource that allows us to be agile in testing, piloting, and developing ways to become the most sustainable manufacturer of the most sustainable product.
Discovering Material Alternatives
The Innovation Center enables us to run trials of new materials, prove viability, and solve material issues before they reach production. This ability to explore possibilities outside of the commercial production environment facilitates experiments and the opportunity to trial new materials. In pursuit of our goals of zero waste and 50% average recycled content by 2030, O-I is exploring alternative sources of cullet beyond post-consumer container glass, such as industrial cullet, to increase cullet availability. With each source, O-I works to develop creative solutions to varying challenges in transforming products, which have reached the end of their useful life, into reliable, high-quality cullet. Partnerships with other manufactures, where we collect their end-of-life or unusable glass and transform it into high-quality cullet to be used for our containers, is one way we are working to achieve sustainability balance together.
For example, solar panels are a significant growth industry, and solar panel manufacturers want to ensure retired or broken panels have more sustainable end-of-life than going to a landfill. We want to do our part to eliminate waste and create circularity by providing an end market for glass. Knowing the composition of solar panel glass is similar to other industrial glass and that we have had success turning that glass into useable cullet, we were optimistic about the prospect.
Working with a solar panel manufacturer, we conducted a series of trials in our Innovation Center’s pilot furnace. While our trials confirmed our hypothesis that solar panel glass could be a viable cullet source—and demonstrated it was ideal for flint glass manufacturing—we also encountered a challenge. Our experiments found issues created by the small quantity of copper found in the glass. By collaborating with our partner, we overcame this challenge together by using an innovative reclamation technology. We believe future volumes of glass from retired solar panels could yield millions of tons of the highly desired flint cullet, helping create recyclability for solar panel glass.
The Innovation Center also enables us to engage our customers with better speed and flexibility, particularly when it comes to sampling new designs or short runs. With an extremely flexible forming machine configuration, the facility can produce test runs for most of the products in our manufacturing portfolio and efficiently create prototypes for more custom designs.
As we continue to invest in our people, the Innovation Center also provides a unique environment for training. Despite its smaller scale, the facility replicates most of the key processes present in our commercial operations. Without the commercial pressures of a traditional plant, the Innovation Center can induce controlled operational issues and allow practical, hands-on experience to resolve them in a safe, controlled environment without negatively impacting production.
The opening of the Innovation Center in 2013 also marked a key milestone and kicked off our journey to develop our MAGMA technology—aligned with our vision to re-imagine and transform the industry. The opening of the Innovation Center unlocked our ability to design, construct, and test our first prototype MAGMA melter.
The MAGMA melter, and its footprint, are significantly smaller than a legacy glass furnace. A smaller system size and alternative materials used in its construction allow the MAGMA melter to reduce waste and construction materials needed. The melter also improves upon the reparability over legacy technologies. Because the on-off technology eliminates the requirement to continuously operate around the clock, MAGMA is a step-change improvement in the resiliency of the asset and the overall efficiency of the process—whether for color changes, quality adjustment, or to respond to an unexpected process interruption.
After we opened the Innovation Center, we constructed and tested our first MAGMA prototype over the next several years. It produced its first glass sample in 2015. Over the next two years, we tested and verified key MAGMA advancements, and to complement the new melting technology, our dedicated team & R&D experts developed and tested post-melting technologies. By 2017, the development work progressed to the point where we began constructing our MAGMA pilot production line in our Streator, Illinois plant. That line produced its first glass in October 2018 and by mid-2019, we were making and selling limited quantities of stock containers.
From the early days of our vision, passion, and dedication to progressing the glass container industry with the opening of the O-I Innovation Center in 2013, we have made paradigm-shifting progress in glass-making with MAGMA—including industry-leading technology and sustainability advancements. With the March 2021 start-up of our first full-scale MAGMA production line in our Holzminden, Germany plant, we have advanced MAGMA from a transformative vision into operational reality in eight years.
Developments like MAGMA demonstrate O-I’s ability to create transformative innovations to disrupt existing technology and the industry. MAGMA also builds on O-I’s history and heritage of innovation. It is an example of what we can achieve when we imagine the impossible and challenge the status quo each and every day. It is key to how we will become the most innovative, sustainable, and chosen maker of brand-building rigid packaging.
Our vision to be the most sustainable maker of rigid packaging compels us to identify and create customer-centric solutions that align with our stakeholder sustainability aspirations. With no compromise on aesthetics or functionality, we strive to “right weight” or optimize our containers.
One of our ongoing initiatives is to find ways to consistently create lighter-weight glass packaging and to do so in a way that does not compromise our high standards for strength and quality. Both right-weighting and light-weighting further enhance the sustainability of the glass package by reducing the amounts of raw materials needed, energy consumption, emissions, and transportation impacts. While O-I and the industry as a whole have made strides in recent decades, more progress is needed and we will continue to innovate our way to the best solutions.
Light Weight Slim Stubby
Bringing sustainability to all parts of our container design is important to O-I and our stakeholders. Our new “Slim Stubby” bottle is a great example of how we are doing just that. This innovative bottle combines the tradition of the nostalgic stubby design with sustainability. The new Slim Stubby is 14% lighter weight–that translates to an equivalent 14% CO2 reduction. The new bottle is the same diameter as the original, which facilitates compatibility with existing filling lines and has better cube efficiency with associated logistics savings (10% more units/pallet).
The Drinktainer™ is a category-defining new design and part of our new Catalyst Collection. It is a distinctive design that features a wide opening, which combines the convenience of a glass bottle with the sensory experience of a drinking glass. Drinktainer™ is a total package solution that disrupts the shelf and meets consumers’ preferred consumption experience. It is a container that provides the ultimate beverage-consuming experience. The Drinktainer™ technology unlocks deeper flavor, freshness, aroma, and more.
Beer connoisseurs prefer beer from a drinking glass. When glasses aren’t an option, they believe beer from a glass bottle tastes far better than drinking from a can. We challenged our packaging designers to create a container design with a new level of function that captures the flavor benefits of glass with the sensory experience that comes from consuming a beverage from a drinking glass. Drinktainer™ was the result. It removes the sensory barriers from traditional glass bottles to deliver the ultimate consumption experience, unlocking the beverage’s aromatic potential straight from the packaging – no extra drinking glass needed. And we believe this Drinktainer™ enhanced experience is by no means limited to beer!
Not all labels are created equal. In our search for a decorating technique that capitalizes on the latest technology, enhances sustainability, and provides distinctive brand-building characteristics, we created a decorating system called O-I : EXPRESSIONS. This system uses sustainable organic inks and O-I’s innovative decorating technology to transform a bottle into a customizable, multi-dimensional work of art. O-I : EXPRESSIONS enables us to quickly customize smaller volumes of products, add distinctive art and design, create limited editions, and include personalized or promotional branding. With no label waste and limitless design options, O-I : EXPRESSIONS allows us to empower brands to respond to trends faster, customize and go to market faster, and even enhance the sustainability profile of the world’s most sustainable rigid packaging.
We are proud of our award-winning innovation. In 2020, O-I : EXPRESSIONS received the “Silver Nut,” a prestigious packaging innovation award as part of the De Gouden Noot (The Golden Nut) contest. O-I : EXPRESSIONS also won the 2019 Ameristar Design Excellence Award, which recognizes the package best integrating bottle structure and graphic design. It claimed a gold award for engineering innovation from the Starpack Industry Awards, and Best Glass Bottle at the World Beverage Innovation Awards at Brau Beviale, the most important capital goods exhibition for the beverage sector worldwide. O-I : EXPRESSIONS was additionally awarded the Oscar de l’Emballage in France for the “Promising Launch”.
The ritual of uncorking a good bottle of wine and the “pop” heard as the cork is released are beloved parts of the wine-drinking experience. Our Helix™ innovation adds a unique twist to this timeless uncorking ritual. This distinctive closure combines all the benefits of cork and glass – quality, sustainability, and premium image – with user-friendly, re-sealable convenience. It is designed to be twisted off by hand—no corkscrew required. The bottle can be re-corked with the same convenience.
Biodegradable and recyclable, cork is 100% renewable and hand-harvested from trees that are never felled. It also has a hidden sustainability secret. Unlike manufactured closures, cork naturally absorbs CO2—up to 112g of CO2 per closure—burnishing further the sustainability credentials of any glass packaging that uses cork.
Helix™ is predominantly aimed at the popular premium and fast turnaround still wine segments. The concept can be easily implemented by wineries, requiring only minor adjustments to existing filling line equipment. Consumer research carried out in France, the United Kingdom, China, and the United States demonstrated an overwhelmingly positive response to Helix™ in all markets. Respondents described it as smart, aesthetic, convivial, interesting, and surprising.
Sustainability in Action
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