Interview with flaconnage glass technical expert, Alan Haigh,
October 2021 will be an important date for Cetie, with the last participation or Alan Haigh to Cetie activities after 30 years of strong involvement in chairing major Cetie working groups in the glass sector. Before he leaves, he has accepted to be interviewed by Josquin Peyceré, now Cetie Director for 2 years.
Josquin Peyceré: How did you initially come to participate in Cetie?
I was first invited to participate in Cetie works in 1992, to contribute to the working groups Glass 2 (Flaconnage) and Glass 3 (Neck Finishes). I was heading the design office of Beatson Clark, which included product design (jars and bottles) and mould design. In this position, I was used to dealing with technical issues, and meeting customers to help them find solutions and to understand manufacturing constraints.
In 1991, I had begun contributing to the British Standard Institute (BSI), and I was naturally part of the British Glass Manufacturers Confederation, as one of the experts in neck finish geometry and child-resistant packaging solutions, so the participation to the European working groups of Cetie was a logical evolution.
After 4 years of participation in the Cetie Working Groups, the members of the flaconnage group asked me to chair their working group, which I accepted. In 2017 I was elected to the role of Glass Plenary chair.
JP: Did it change your role inside Beatson Clark?
Not directly, on one hand, some colleagues used to joke about the “jolly” times in Paris. Initially, I was in Paris 6 to 8 times a year for technical meetings. But on the other hand, the top management and the Sales Directors knew the value of the participation to Cetie, they always wanted to be informed of the impact of each decision for their company, and this work was really part of my normal job. If contacts were required by Beatson Clark colleagues to their “opposite number” at a particular company, I would normally be able to get them introduced through my Cetie contacts.
JP: Do you have an example of a situation in which a Cetie document brought decisive help?
In the 1990s, a massive recall of products affected a major beer company. It was proven that the geometrical definition of the crown neck finish was not precise enough and that glassmakers could provide “unsafe” finishes yet inside the specification. The Cetie working group Glass 3 worked on a more precise specification, especially of the crimping point geometry, but also on the sealing surface specification, and defined the GME 13.01 and GME 13.02. These documents were then given to ISO to become ISO12821 and ISO12822, but the geometry defined at this moment is still applicable. The bulbous outer profile also still helps to identify this standard.
JP: What are the differences between the work in working groups in 1992, and now?
In 1992, the organisation was very classical, naturally all the work done outside of the meeting was done by phone, by fax and with much paper mail. The development of a new document used to take more or less the same time as today, but much fewer documents were developed at the same time, the meeting agendas were much shorter. So, the rhythm is now more intensive, and there is also more flexibility to speed up a specific item if necessary. Most of all, the Website did not exist, and every need of a standard document or working document was required to take the phone and to request a document by fax or by post.
All the modern tools along with the strict organisation of Cetie brings it now to the level of a standardisation body... with more flexibility.
In recent years, the systematic review of Cetie documents, to check if they need to be updated, has really led to a continuous improvement system, that was missing in the previous decades.
JP: Was it complicated to work in parallel for BSI, British Glass, CEN and Cetie?
The main activity is done in Cetie, which then transmits some documents to CEN for “official” standardisation, so the work in CEN is only a complementary work, to bring the document in the CEN format and rules. The activity specific to UK (in BG and BSI) became less and less frequent, the last standards they developed were related to a Pharmaceutical dispensing bottle series and to a milk bottle, both specific to the UK market. The most recent were Standards for cork remover and crown bottle opener, written urgently based on safety needs since adopted by CEN.
The logic of working at a European level has become so obvious, that I encouraged British Glass two years ago to transfer their technical documents “TEC3” to Cetie for managing them at this level.
JP: Which relations with the competitors does the regular collaboration inside a working group imply?
The technical discussions within a group of different glassmakers and with Users and Capmakers have always been very open and simple. The level of detail given by each one on their activities is precise enough to allow an efficient participative collaboration, without risking any infringement of the anti-trust rules. In Cetie, already in the early 90s, the discussion was always rather informal, everybody was called by their first name, and this was helped by the tradition of having a common dinner or lunch before the meetings. Technical discussions and sometimes hard negotiations are always more efficient when you know each other well!
Thank you, Alan, for these words! We wish you a wonderful ‘after-Cetie’ time! And I personally thank you again for the job done and the pleasure it was to work with you. You prove that conscientiousness and efficiency can also be thrilling and pleasant!
For french magazine Liquides & Conditionnement N°414
- Article in FR