O-I Bowling Green interview

Scott Lachmiller, Business Leader for O-I Glass’ new greenfield glass container plant in Kentucky, USA, spoke to Glass Worldwide about designing a facility purpose-built for the company’s revolutionary MAGMA technology, and how this complete re-invention of the production processes will benefit local customers as well as furthering O-I’s vision for a sustainable future. The full version of this article appears in the Sept/Oct 2023 issue that has been mailed globally and is also now available free of charge in the digital archive*.

O-I Bowling Green interview

GW: Why was Kentucky, and specifically Bowling Green, selected as the site for O-I’s greenfield glassworks investment?

This location is perfectly situated for us to serve the many premium distillers and other key customers that are eager to leverage the vast benefits of glass packaging – such as the premium appeal it lends to the brands, its pureness and sustainability. Bowling Green is also a perfect location because our customers will benefit from several of the intrinsic benefits and opportunities provided by MAGMA, such as superior flexibility, agility, sustainability and all while being near-located.

GW: What is the construction and implementation timetable for the project?

The first phase of construction for this facility is expected to be complete in mid-2024 and could grow to include two additional production lines and up to 140 new jobs in the region. We have an ambitious roadmap for this plant, and we have already begun hiring highly talented and motivated teammates from the Bowling Green region. And we’re excited to do more of that in the near future.

GW: What will be the main features of the new plant, in terms of proposed melting capacity, production lines and other USPs?

This facility will be enabled by O-I’s revolutionary MAGMA technology, that redefines glass production and will enable us to support multiple product categories and expand in today’s highly differentiated product segments. MAGMA is a complete re-invention of the production processes, offering a more convenient, sustainable product & production process, and unlocking new business models and value to customers. Over time, MAGMA will allow us to bring glass packaging to our customers when they need it, where they need it, in a more sustainable manner. In terms of MAGMA, features include:

• Size: A MAGMA melter is less than a third of the size of a heritage furnace. Its smaller melter easily allows the addition of more MAGMA lines as markets grow, or to enter new markets.

• Flexibility: It allows greater flexibility for smaller production runs, including frequent job and colour changes thanks to on-off capability, and can support multiple product categories.

• Deployment: Deploying directly where the demand is – in the future, it may be near- or co-located with customers’ filling lines, thus improving surety of supply, reducing shipping distances and reducing the environmental footprint.

• Speed: Faster deployment – a MAGMA line is modular, prefabricated, and can be deployed in about half the time of heritage technology.

• Mobility: Unlike a traditional furnace, a MAGMA melter can be moved and redeployed.

GW: So, as the first O-I greenfield project to be built in North America for many years, MAGMA will be central to the plant’s utilisation of environmentally friendly melting and production technologies?

MAGMA complements our heritage production network and optimises the glass production process from start to finish. It will enable new business models and partnerships with customers. With the Bowling Green facility, we are challenging and re-thinking conventional approaches, and we plan to implement upgrades, advanced technologies, innovative processes and new engineering solutions to enable new working models and improve sustainability.

GW: And are your plans to build further glass factories using similar technology in the future and if so, in which regions and in what timescale?

Following the MAGMA Generation 1 full production in Holzminden, Germany, and the Generation 2, which was validated in our pilot plant in Streator, Illinois, the Bowling Green facility will be the first full-scale MAGMA Generation 2 line – with the potential to pilot the next and most advanced generation of MAGMA, Generation 3 in 2025. For competitive reasons, however, we are not disclosing plans for potential other locations in the future.

GW: In general, how important will new technologies like MAGMA be to O-I achieving its long-term sustainability goals?

At O-I, our vision is to be the most innovative, sustainable and chosen supplier of brand-building packaging solutions. This state-of-the-art facility embodies our commitment to innovation and technology. It represents the next step in transforming our processes and our products towards our vision for a sustainable future.

GW: What products will be produced in Bowling Green and in which markets will your priorities lie?

The Bowling Green plant will serve the premium distillers in Bourbon country and other key customers that are eager to leverage the vast benefits of glass packaging.

GW: How can organisations such as the Glass Packaging Institute (GPI) and Glass Recycling Foundation (GRF) support your goals at the new plant?

At O-I, we see tremendous opportunity to positively impact the planet and communities where we operate. Our ambition is for glass containers to stay in the value chain, rather than end up in landfills or the environment. We also aspire to make glass containers for our customers that have a significantly smaller environmental footprint. We are innovating to build sophisticated ecosystems that drive glass recycling and increase recycled content in our products. This is not something we can do alone. O-I is proactively collaborating with customers, associations, suppliers and local leaders to make glass recycling available in 100% of the communities where we operate.

GW: After the initial construction, will the Bowling Green site lend itself to the possibility of future expansion?

This facility marks the beginning of a multi-phase investment of up to $240 million to enable the continued development of the company’s revolutionary MAGMA technology, while providing an unprecedented level of service to our customers and local market.

GW: In addition to MAGMA, how important will it be to adopt the latest technology into the manufacturing line in Bowling Green?

Innovation and Technology have been a driver of O-I’s success for more than 120 years. They fuel our company’s growth plans and enable us to meet our customers’ growing needs, bringing glass packaging where they need it and when they need it in a sustainable manner. Our proprietary MAGMA glass-making technology, and the new plant in Bowling Green built around this technology, will continue our journey to transform the future of glass container production. Bowling Green will showcase our next-generation capabilities, from a new modular batch system, the MAGMA melter, and a new forming technology to sustainability advancements and the look and feel of the factory itself.

GW: Has the local community been welcoming so far?

O-I has worked closely with the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce and stakeholders in the government that have provided great co-operation and support – and we are looking forward to continuing the trusted relationship well into the future.

GW: How many jobs will be created in Bowling Green?

Up to 140 new jobs will be created as part of this development.

GW: To date, what have been the greatest challenges faced in getting the Bowling Green project off the ground?

Kentucky is home to many manufacturing companies. As we join the manufacturing ecosystem in the state, we plan on working with local educators, elected officials and the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce to facilitate the recruitment process for the in-demand skills we will need for this new facility.

GW: And the greatest opportunities for the project?

This state-of-the-art facility will demonstrate the value of near-location and will be a key hub for future customer collaboration. With the Bowling Green facility, we are challenging and re-thinking conventional approaches, and we plan to implement upgrades, advanced technologies, innovative processes and new engineering solutions to enable new working models and improve sustainability. Glass is not only beautiful, it’s also pure, healthy and completely recyclable, making it the most sustainable rigid packaging material. MAGMA and the new O-I plant in Bowling Green will make glass even more accessible to customers and consumers alike and contribute to making the world a better place.


Image: (L–R): Hon. Todd Alcott, Mayor, City of Bowling Green; Hon. Doug Gorman, Warren County Judge Executive; Brett Guthrie, United States Congressman; Jaqueline Coleman, Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky; Andres Lopez, CEO, O-I Glass, Inc.; Scott Lachmiller, Business Leader Bowling Green Facility, O-I Glass, Inc; Brian Mefford, Chairman, Intermodal Transportation Authority.

Further Information: 

O-I, Perrysburg, Ohio, USA
tel: +1 567 336 5000
email: glass@o-i.com
web: www.o-i.com

* The full version of this article appears in the bumper Sept/Oct issue that has been mailed globally. The digital version of this issue can also currently be read free of charge in its entirety in the Digital Archive (sponsored by FIC) of over 65 issues of Glass Worldwide at https://www.glassworldwide.co.uk/Digital-Issues. To receive the paper copy, all future issues and a free copy of the Who’s Who / Annual Review 2023-24 yearbook, subscribe now at https://www.glassworldwide.co.uk/subscription-choice