SCHOTT solutions no. 1/2009 > Company

Otto Schott (1851 – 1935), the pioneer of modern glass science and technology. Portrayed here in a painting by the German Impressionist Max Liebermann.

From a Glass Laboratory to a Technology Company

SCHOTT has been a partner
for 125 years for top technology.

Dr. Jürgen Steiner / Stefanie Dischner

When Otto Schott founded a glass technology laboratory in Jena in 1884, it was unforeseeable that this company would be globally active 125 years later. Today, the SCHOTT Group is present with its own production and sales units in close proximity to its customers in 43 countries. As an experienced and competent partner, the company develops, produces and sells special purpose materials, components and systems for the home appliance industry, pharmaceuticals, solar technology, electronics, optics, astronomy, architecture and the automotive industry. Some 17,000 employees generate global sales of 2.2 billion euros, 74  percent of which comes from outside Germany.

The collaboration between the innovative glass chemist Otto Schott and the ingenious physicist Ernst Abbe with the optician and fine mechanic Carl Zeiss (1816 – 1888) in the area of optical glass resulted in the founding of the “Schott & Associates Glass Technology Laboratory” in Jena in 1884. “With his glass developments and new manufacturing methods, Otto Schott laid the foundation for modern glass science and glass tech­nology,” says Prof. Dr.-Ing. Udo Ungeheuer, Chairman of the Board of ­Management of SCHOTT AG, in recognizing the “glass doctor” and his life’s work.
On the basis of his new scientific discoveries, Otto Schott manufactured specialized glasses with precisely defined and reproducible properties for the first time ever. These made it possible to mass produce powerful microscopes and other optical devices in consistently high quality and substantiated the international reputation of  Germany’s optical industry and the specialized glass industry. Borosilicate glass was yet another one of  Otto Schott’s monumental inventions. Stable with acids and bases, and extremely resistant to heat and severe temperature changes, this new glass was ideally suited for a wide variety of technological applications. At first, SCHOTT used it to produce thermometer glass, laboratory glassware and lamp cylinders. Later, flat glass products and tubes as a preliminary product for making pharmaceutical packaging were added, as were ampoules and syringes, and household glass marketed under the popular brand name Jenaer Glas®. Around 1895, borosilicate glass helped gas lighting to achieve its breakthrough. Within only a few years, mass production of lamp cylinders had transformed the glass technology laboratory into an industrial company.

Even today, borosilicate glass has remained the standard for quality in the pharmaceutical industry. It has been successfully on the market under the name Fiolax® since 1911 and is known for its extremely high chemical resistance, neutrality, density and rigidity. Year for year, SCHOTT produces well over seven billion syringes, cartridges, vials and ampoules at manufacturing sites all over the world.

Shortly after the company was founded, specialized glasses from SCHOTT were already in demand all over the world. By 1900, exports already accounted for 50 percent of sales.
Innovative since Otto Schott: SCHOTT set the standards early on with unique optical glasses for use in microscopes from Zeiss (in the middle left). Today, it continues to do so in solar technology with receivers for parabolic trough power plants (on bottom). This transition has resulted from focusing more closely on promising future ventures. Photos: SCHOTT, A. Renger-Patzsch, J. Meyer
In 1891, SCHOTT took on a special legal form. At that time, Ernst Abbe had made the Carl Zeiss Foundation that he had founded two years earlier the sole owner of the Zeiss plant and part owner of the SCHOTT plant. When Otto Schott transferred his shares in the glassworks to the foundation in 1919, the glassworks were also in the sole possession of the Carl Zeiss Foundation.

The foundation statute adopted in 1896 guaranteed employees certain social rights that were unique at the time and these later became part of the general social legislation and trade agreements on wages. The ideas of Otto Schott and Ernst Abbe helped form the basis for a unique corporate culture at SCHOTT that is characterized by technological expertise, as well as a broad consensus between the company’s management and its employees, in addition to taking on social responsibility.

This self-image also resulted in SCHOTT becoming a pioneer in the international glass industry with respect to environmental and climate protection already several years ago. For instance, the company has not only set standards for denitrification and removal of dust from melting tank exhaust fumes, but also for reducing the consumption of energy in manufacturing.

Erich Schott, the son of the company founder, took over leadership of the company in 1927. The end of World War II marked a decisive turning point for the business. Because Jena was to belong to the Soviet occupation zone, American troops took the company’s management and select specialists with them to West Germany to secure this know-how for themselves when they pulled back in the summer of 1945. This journey went down in the company’s history as the “Odyssey of 41 glassmakers” and finally brought the SCHOTT employees to Mainz in 1952. The reasons for this were that the main glass factory in Jena had been expropriated and converted into a state-owned enterprise in 1948, but also the political division of Germany through the creation of the Federal Republic in the West and the GDR in the East in the year 1949.

The “41 glassmakers” set up a new main plant in Mainz under the leadership of Erich Schott. In the years that followed, the history of SCHOTT became a mirror image of contemporary German history. Just as Germany was divided, so was SCHOTT. The state-owned enterprise in Jena had been integrated into the planned socialist economy of the GDR and became one of the most important specialized glass suppliers in Eastern Europe. In the West, SCHOTT expanded from its base in Mainz to become an international corporate group with manufacturing and sales sites in Europe, America and Asia. SCHOTT conquered world markets as one of the leading specialized glass producers with new products, such as glass components for televisions, glass fibers for transmitting light and images, the Zerodur® glass ceramic mirror substrate for space telescopes, and Ceran®  brand glass ceramic cooktop panels.

German Reunification gave the two SCHOTT companies in East and West the chance to form one company again. The old parent company in Jena was restructured and integrated into the SCHOTT Group as a modern site. Triggered by growing globalization in the world economy, SCHOTT has completed the largest modernization process in its company history in recent years. This included changing the foundation-owned company into a legally independent, non-public stock corporation in 2004, transforming a group of mid-size companies into a strategically managed corporation, expanding its worldwide presence with new manufacturing and sales sites in all key markets, and focusing on strong core businesses and promising future business fields. Today, SCHOTT is world class with many of its products. For instance, the group ranks among the world’s leading manufacturers of glass and glass ceramic components for the home appliance industry, but also as one of the leading companies in the area of primary pharmaceutical packaging.

“Three constants have continued to influence the development of SCHOTT: technological expertise and the power of innovation, continuation of internationalization and responsibility for employees and society.”

(Prof. Dr.-Ing. Udo Ungeheuer, Chairman of the Board of Management of SCHOTT AG)

New face made of glass: SCHOTT will complete modernization of the administrative wing of its group headquarters in Mainz, the head office since 1952, by the end of 2009. Photo: SCHOTT
The company’s activities in the field of solar energy are of particular importance. SCHOTT Solar AG, a subsidiary of SCHOTT AG, manufactures important components for photovoltaic applications and solar power plants. The company ranks among the few integrated manufacturers of multi-crystalline wafers (through the joint venture WACKER SCHOTT Solar), cells and modules in the photovoltaic industry. SCHOTT Solar is one of the trend-setting companies in the area of thin-film technology, as well. And when it comes to solar receivers, SCHOTT Solar considers itself to be the technology and market leader. Receivers are key components of large power plants that generate electricity centrally from solar energy on the basis of parabolic trough technology and are thus capable of supplying power to entire cities.

125 years of SCHOTT means 125 years of cutting edge ­technology: From researching the universe or packaging sensitive pharmaceutical products to futuristic solar technology – SCHOTT is a popular partner wherever innovative glass technologies are to be put to use. <|