The manufacturing world has always been a source of innovation, creativity, and technological advancement. As the world was undergoing rapid transformation due to globalization, manufacturing automation, and supply chain sophistication, glass manufacturing was not left behind.
Starting from humble beginnings in Lancaster, Ohio, Anchor Hocking was at the forefront of machine-made glass forming technology. The organization quickly became a leader in glass tableware, extending its distribution around the world. Anchor Hocking was founded by I.J. Collins in 1905. The company’s focus was simple- manufacture everyday glass tableware products at prices people could afford.
With a vision to reach every household, the company is producing and distributing glassware to multiple industries. From retail and hospitality industries to floral and candle sectors, Anchor Hocking has a glassware presence everywhere. Continuing this legacy of growth is its current CEO, Mark Eichhorn. With almost 25 years of enriched experience in the glass manufacturing industry, Mark continues to ensure that the company adapts to the changing tide of the technology revolution in glass manufacturing and stays true to its “American Made” roots.
Synonymizing “World’s Best” with “American Made”
Since its launch in 1905, Anchor Hocking has been one of the leading U.S. manufacturers of consumer glass tableware. It manufactures and distributes glassware from its facilities in Lancaster, Ohio, employing over 900 dedicated associates. Its main glass product categories include bakeware, food storage, drinkware, pantry storage, serving, mix & measure/food prep, candle, and floral.
Noting additional company markets, Mark expresses, “Anchor Hocking is also a leading producer of glassware for restaurants and hotels, jars for the fragrant candle industry, and vases for the floral industry.”
Today, Anchor Hocking continues to be recognized as a leader in the manufacturing and marketing of glass bakeware, food prep, and food storage glassware. It is also the industry leader in supplying glass containers found in pantries and countertops across America. Its Heritage Hill and Montana-style jars have been in production since the ’70s (Heritage Hill) and ’90s (Montana), respectively.
Mark says, “You will find these products on countertops in homes across America…including as seen in most home kitchen renovation reveals. We are the second-largest producer of glass bakeware in the U.S. and the leading supplier of measuring cups and mixing bowls. We pride ourselves on providing durable glassware at a great consumer value.”
The marvels of such a consumer-centric focus have brought the company and the organization’s leadership into the spotlight.
Band-wagoning with Unified Leadership
As said, “success comes to those who dare and act,” so is the case with Anchor Hocking’s success. Blessed with a unified leadership, the company’s executive team of Mark Eichhorn, CEO, and Bert Filice, President, have worked together for over 20 years.
Overseeing the Manufacturing, Engineering, and Distribution segments are V.P.’s Chris Norris and Brent Rock. Leading the financial group and sprouting an age of modern entrepreneurs are Jamie Keller, CFO; Marc Yoder, CIO; and Michelle Manning, VP of Merchandising.
Walking down memory lane and revisiting his journey of almost 25 years, Mark notes, “Both our President and I entered Anchor Hocking in the Finance department back in the 1980s. Through the years, we were both promoted into more challenging positions. Although at one point, both of us left the business for a period of time, we both returned and have worked together at Anchor for more than 20 years. Jamie, Chris and Brent have been with Anchor for over 14, 15 and 20 years, respectively. Marc and Michelle are relative newcomers, both joining the company in 2019. I believe I can speak for the group when I say we find the glassware business to be challenging, captivating, and rewarding.”
Sculpting the Creativity
Glass manufacturing processes are way outside the “norm” for producing consumer products, or any products for that matter. While other glass manufacturing operations use similar processes, the production of glass tableware requires a much greater investment in people. Each piece of glass produced is hand-selected, inspected, and packed.
During the manufacturing process, each piece is inspected to its quality specifications before being packed for shipment. Mark mentions that other glass industries can produce at much higher speeds because the inspection and packing processes can be automated. But while those factories may produce a handful of different items, Anchor Hocking produces over 500 unique mold shapes. Therefore, the selection, inspection, and packaging processes cannot be easily automated.
Advancing with Technology
Keeping pace with creativity and technology, Anchor Hocking’s glass engineers and production leaders have introduced more advanced forming techniques and upgraded the process equipment to increase the speeds and yields of the company’s glass-forming operations; improve safety and glass quality.
“We have benefited from technological advances in refractory production, which are used in furnace construction, that has substantially increased the useful lives of our furnaces. The same goes for improvements in the software controls for running our furnaces, contributing to significant reductions in natural gas consumption, improved glass quality, and clarity,” notes Mr. Eichhorn.
Weathering the Storms
Anchor faced many of the same challenges that other companies faced during the recent pandemic: repeatedly forecasting sales volumes downward; seeking ways to conserve cash, followed by a rapid adjustment to an unexpected surge in demand from a consumer population forced to work at home for many months.
Speaking about the challenges, Mark shares, “Some of the more unique challenges we faced at Anchor Hocking included: re-engineering each of the production lines to achieve safe social distancing while still staffing the lines with the required number of people; operating in a high-heat environment wearing masks…and the potential personal safety risks they presented; and keeping the production lines running 24/7 despite the increased daily call-offs as our associates tried to understand and contend with the disease.”
He mentions that, while demand has stayed strong, Anchor continued to struggle to staff the plant at the levels required. In 2021, the company had 80 to 100 open positions. More recently, it has reduced the labor shortages to 50-60.
“With an additional capacity expansion planned in 2023, our staffing needs will grow by another 100 positions,” says Mark.
Envisioning the Future
With its extreme pride and focus on its “Made in America” roots, the company has continued to invest significantly in growth in 2022 and 2023.
Anchor’s investments include increasing the organization’s melting capacity by 40%, adding three new glass forming machines, and additional investments in its people and facility. The company has expanded its apprenticeship programs, increased wages, and invested in improved training methods. At the Inspired Home and Housewares Show in March, the leadership team introduced an extensive assortment of exciting new products and designs that will become the basis for much of Anchor’s sales growth in 2023 and beyond.
Words of Wisdom
Mark has been around the glass manufacturing industry for almost 25 years, and he believes that the industry has a wide spectrum of opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs.
Extending his wise words to the aspiring business leaders, he notes, “Gain an in-depth understanding of the costs and cash requirements of the business. Specifically costs of production and maintenance in a 24/7/350 days a year operation.”
Mentioning his journey of pursuing knowledge, he shares, “To this end, I started in the company as Cost Accounting Manager. There was no better place to learn and understand the details of the costs of production, cash/capex requirements, and product and customer profitability.”
Leadership Strategies that Scaled Anchor’s Success
Inclusive leadership has always been one of the basic tenets of Anchor Hocking. Mark believes in respecting the workforce. Sharing the organizational practices that facilitate necessary honor and respect to the workforce, he mentions that Glass tableware manufacturing is a 24 hours per day, seven days a week production operation that requires exceptional commitment from operations managers, supervisors, and factory associates.
He says, “While our customers have no idea what it takes to make a quality piece of glass tableware that may sell for less than a greeting card: multiple furnaces melting 200+ tons of molten glass daily at temperatures reaching 2800 degrees; 14 production lines, each producing 20,000 to 80,000 pieces of glass a day; our 900 associates do.”
“Every day they enter through the gates, they demonstrate their commitment to making the most durable household glass at a great value delivered on time to our customers. Associates here at Anchor Hocking and the leadership team understand the daily challenges, and we’re honored to be part of it! Anchor Hocking’s greatest resource is its dedicated associates. They deserve management’s respect every day,” notes Mark.
Concluding his wise words for the aspiring leaders, Mark shared his advice for the potential investors considering entering into manufacturing Glass Tableware. He puts, “Glass Tableware manufacturing is a relatively small segment of the glass industry. The high fixed cost of running a glassware plant 24/7/350 requires high plant capacity utilization to absorb the elevated fixed cost structure. Greenfield plant investments easily exceed $100 MM. As a result, I do not anticipate seeing any new entrants manufacturing glass tableware in the U.S. anytime soon.”
Awards and Accolades
Anchor Hocking has set industry standards and is consistently hustling to improve the U.S. glass manufacturing industry. Acknowledging such efforts, Anchor has been at the edge of receiving many awards and recognition.
Most recently, the company has been honored by HSN as their New Supplier of the Year for F.Y. 2020.
Customer accolades are challenging to achieve. Anchor Hocking competes with all consumer goods suppliers for customer recognition. Within the various housewares departments, Anchor competes with suppliers of dinnerware, cookware, gadgets, kitchenware, silverware, plastic, and glass storage, metal bakeware, and the list goes on.
“Internally, we are focused on providing quality glass tableware products at a great value; on-time and complete shipments, earning a greater share of the retailers’ shelf, gaining new customers, four and 5-star online product reviews, and maintaining open communications with our retail partners. These are the key determinants of our success and manifest in improved earnings and cash flows,” concludes Mark.