Following an official ground breaking ceremony in southern Georgia, USA last October, partners in the proposed Arglass Yamamura glass container project are targeting a November 2020 plant start up. Jose Arozamena, Chairman and CEO of Arglass Yamamura and Koji Yamamura, President and CEO of Japan’s Nihon Yamamura Glass share common goals for the ambitious initiative, involving flexibility, efficiency and sustainability, as John Wallis discovered.
Construction is underway for a $123 million glass container manufacturing plant that has been conceived with the ambitious goal of revolutionising the North American glass container industry. Arglass Yamamura has been created to deliver customer requirements for flexibility, efficiency and customisation, satisfying smaller volume requirements rather than concentrating on the US industry’s traditionally longer production runs. This is what the company has described as a ‘European model’, emphasising the difference in evolution of the US glass industry compared to that more commonly favoured throughout Europe. Potentially, the greenfield start-up in Valdosta, Georgia will use what is described as best-in-class technology to serve US customers, while also reducing imports.
A subsidiary of new holding company Arglass Yamamura, Arglass Yamamura South East will target the food and beverage, spirits and wine industries using the latest technology for efficient glassmaking in what is expected to become one of the world’s most modern plants.
Arglass Yamamura, a joint venture between the privately held merchant bank Cambium and leading Japanese glass container manufacturer Nihon Yamamura Glass Co Ltd (NYG), has invested heavily in putting the plant on the map. The site is on schedule to produce its first saleable bottles by November 2020. And by early 2021, its single furnace and three lines will be capable of producing up to five different products simultaneously in up to two different colours, for a total of more than 100,000 tonnes (265,000,000 units) per year.
The Arglass project is the brainchild of Jose de Diego Arozamena and was developed within his family’s New York-based investment vehicle Cambium, in association with Chief Financial Officer Jose Ruiz Luque. Together, they have worked full-time on the project for the past four years.
Jose Arozamena grew up in the glass packaging industry and has always been passionate about the material. “You could say I have glass in my veins” he suggests. After graduating in industrial and systems engineering from the University of Southern California, he worked in the early 1980s as General Manager and Vice President of Sales at the family glass business. Although the decision was taken to exit the industry some years later, Jose Arozamena maintained his fondness for glass. Subsequently, he has been involved in myriad private equity transactions, acting as Chief Executive Officer in various different industries and countries, covering such activities as branded consumer goods, beverages, shipping and media. More recently, he was an advisor to Apollo Global Management in the acquisition of Verallia, where he currently serves as a board member.
“There is an innate beauty in glass that no other packaging material possesses” says the Arglass Yamamura pioneer. “Being natural, safe, inert and endlessly recyclable, it is the perfect packaging material, especially now that we’re realising the health concerns and damage that plastics have caused – and continue to cause – to people and the environment.”
According to Mr Arozamena, a modern, efficient glass plant that uses a high percentage of cullet can produce the most environmentally-friendly packaging material available. “I believe that glass is back and that with improved flexibility, creativity, efficiency, fast product development time and a high sustainability score, glass will be the preferred packaging material for more health-conscious consumers.”
Strong customer support
Georgia, specifically Valdosta, was selected to site the company’s first greenfield glassworks investment after analysing and scoring various other states and locations. Valdosta scored highly in many of the rankings assessed, providing an excellent business environment and a good quality of life, as well as competitive costs. The city is also conveniently situated to serve the markets targeted. “The Valdosta Lowndes Economic Development Authority and many community leaders have played a key role in delivering their strong support for our project from the outset” Jose Arozamena confirms.
Customer support has also been instrumental in bringing the project to its current advanced state, providing valuable encouragement to move it forward. “Customers who are seeing the fast changing demands of consumers are excited finally to have a glass company that can be a real partner in helping them to meet their needs” Mr Arozamena adds. “The glass container industry has to adapt to the changes in consumer habits that have and will continue to occur. Gone are the days when consumers were monolithic and consumed the same products all the time. Younger consumers especially are constantly looking for new things, new products, new flavours and new formats etc.”
According to the Arglass Yamamura CEO, today’s successful products target specific niches and are replacing mass market items that are often considered too similar and boring. At the same time, he contends that consumers are now more environmentally aware and want to ensure that the products they consume have the smallest possible environmental footprint. “Our plant has been designed specifically to address these issues. It will be the most flexible glass plant in North America in terms of sizes, shapes, colours, minimum run sizes etc, while having an extremely high level of efficiency and implementing best-in-class environmental systems and controls.”
In Nihon Yamamura Glass, the business has attracted one of Asia’s most respected glass container manufacturers as a partner to help bring the project to fruition. Based on more than a century of expertise, Japan’s leading glass packaging producer has developed a strong reputation for quality, flexibility and innovation. “The creation of Arglass Yamamura brings together the experience, knowhow and excellent reputation of Yamamura with our intimate knowledge of the US market and business practices “ says Jose Arozamena. “We could not have asked for a better partner.”
Koji Yamamura, President and CEO of NYG echoes this sentiment, as his company looks to expand its platform to other parts of the world. “With favourable energy and labour costs, as well as the many business incentives provided by Georgia and Valdosta, we believe this location is the best choice for Arglass to maximise its potential and to grow rapidly” he confirms. “We are looking forward to starting production by late next year and providing our customers with quality products from this plant.”
Established in 1914, NYG achieved sales of $633 million in its last reported financial year and provides employment for some 2600 people across the group’s glass packaging, engineering, plastics and ‘New Glass’ companies. Its glass container division operates high productivity facilities in Harima, Saitama and Tokyo that satisfy 39% of Japan’s glass container demand. In addition, a pan-Asia production network has been created, involving manufacturing operations in China, the Philippines and Vietnam.
The company’s strengths are closely aligned with the vision proposed for the Arglass project. A diversity of standard and custom bottles is produced, with minimum orders as low as 20,000 units and in sizes from 30ml to 4000ml. More than 60 colours can be produced via the use of forehearth colouring or furnace colour changes. NYG’s flexible production scheduling system allows in excess of 1000 bottle types to be made via more than 3000 job changes annually. Furthermore, in-house research and development of manufacturing technologies helps the company to improve production efficiency and sustainability. In particular, NYG produces some of the world’s lightest bottles, while a series of decoration options are provided to enhance product individuality.
Low carbon footprint goals
From the outset, the Arglass Yamamura management team has been intent on creating the most environmentally-friendly glass container plant in North America. Jose Arozamena confirms that the latest and best available technology will be applied throughout, including the furnace design, emission control systems and closed loop industrial water system.
Separately, the company intends to be particularly active in the area of cullet recovery and processing and will be working closely with State and local authorities to maximise recycling opportunities. “We cannot simply stand by, hoping that others resolve this issue” Mr Arozamena suggests. “Recycling is our future and we’re committed to it. This is what we are conveying with our logo, which depicts a gob of glass and its endless life cycles.”
An extensive recruitment process is currently underway, as Arglass Yamamura looks to create a team with the best talent from the industry. “We want to attract people that are dynamic, performance-oriented and fully committed to the plant’s success” says Jose Arozamena. “We are offering very competitive compensation packages, good career development opportunities and the chance to be part of a team that changes the industry for the better.”
In total, 151 people will be employed at the site. Suitable candidates are being identified and selected with the help of specialist firms, as well as the Georgia Department of Labor.
Challenges and opportunities
“As with any start up and greenfield project, there will be many challenges but over the last four years, we have worked with our team to anticipate and address all foreseeable challenges” Jose Arozamena confirms. With the involvement of NYG, the management team at Arglass Yamamura is further confident in its ability to address any challenges that may be faced in building the plant on time, within budget and operating efficiently and that there could be opportunities to explore similar operations for other parts of the USA in the future.
“We believe there is a large, untapped potential in the US consumer market for glass” Mr Arozamena explains. “Other than substituting imports for glass made here, our goal is to help more producers choose glass as a healthy, safe and environmentally responsible material that, at the same time, can be customised, dynamic, colourful and cost-competitive.”
In the weeks since finalising this fast-developing feature, a series of additional important announcements have come to light, covering key aspects of equipment selection and management appointments.
Batch and cullet treatment systems specialist EME GmbH confirms that engineering work for the Arglass project near Valdosta, Georgia is nearing completion. Arglass emphasised the importance that the batch plant and cullet return system had to be designed with the best available technology and with a layout to provide for high quality, highly flexible and efficient production.
First shipments of the EME equipment are scheduled for early 2020. The furnace, supplied by EME’s sister company Nikolaus SORG, is set to start up at the end of 2020, with full operation expected by early 2021.
Luis Gonzalez Sada has joined Arglass as Vice President of Sales and Marketing. With significant experience in sales, marketing and new product development in the glass container industry, he reinforces the company’s commitment to provide customers with the best quality and service.
Mr Gonzales was VP Sales and Marketing for the Vitro Glass Containers Division in Mexico from 1997 to 2001, after which he spent two years as VP of Planning, Logistics and Marketing, before his appointment as CEO of Vitro America. He also served as Director of Sales and Marketing at Owens-Illinois Packaging Solutions in 2018-2019, based in Plano, Texas.
Jose de Diego Arozamena, founder and CEO at Arglass, commented: “Arglass is putting together the best team in the industry to bring a whole new level of capabilities, flexibility, innovation, creativity, quality and service to the US glass industry.”
Michael R Lane has been confirmed as Senior Operations Advisor at Arglass. Mr Lane has enjoyed a 30+ year career in the North American glass container industry, including spells as Vice President Operations for American Glass Containers in Pittsburgh and 11 years as Regional Director for Anchor Glass Container Corp, where he was based in northern Florida and enjoyed profit and loss responsibility, delivering customer service for major accounts.
Earlier in his career, Michael Lane spent five years as Plant Manager at Glenshaw Glass in Glenshaw, Pennsylvania, prior to which he was Operations Manager for the Anchor Glass Streator glassworks in Illinois and Plant Manager at the Dayville site in Connecticut for three and two years respectively. Further Information: