Sometimes, reaching an agreement is more important than the details of the agreement itself.
When working on the harmonisation of a practice or a specification, everyone has to be prepared to make concessions, so that the whole group can reach the best compromise.
Even if the agreement does not fully satisfy one member, they will be more willing to adopt the new rule because their competitors adopt it too, thereby providing bottlers and consumers with a guarantee that practices and rules are uniform.
This common objective was behind the creation of Cetie in 1960, when brewers realised that it was necessary to harmonise the “crown” cap closure system for beer bottles.
This process required dialogue between the glass and closure manufacturing technicians and, more importantly, agreement within each profession (e.g. agreement between closure manufacturers, etc.).
Cetie was born of this emerging awareness that certain technical subjects cannot be satisfactorily resolved between a customer and its supplier, nor within a federation representing only one activity, and that the interests of the entire profession require everyone to come to the table. In the field of glass containers, every “expert” takes part in the working groups, according to their expertise and the scope of activity of their company.
Certain groups bring glass manufacturers together with their partners (glass decorators, glass recyclers, closure or stopper manufacturers, suppliers of packaging machines), and their bottler customers, to finalise documents demanding different skills.
This is the case of the “Flaconnage Decoration” committee, for example, comprising glass manufacturers, decorators and leading brands of perfume, which defines the tests and the permissible values applying to the decoration of bottles.
Discourse is both “horizontal”, between colleagues or within a profession, and “vertical” or inter-professional, between customers and suppliers. On the other hand, some groups may operate “horizontally”, within a single profession. This is the case of the glass manufacturers committee “3”, which works on the definition of finishes and their specifications, and in particular on the revision of the European standards on the BVS or BVP type glass finishes.
It is also the case of the glass manufacturers committee “1+4”, which works on regulatory and quality aspects, such as the glossary of critical defects, the straightness of label bearing surfaces on bottles, or the permissible surface treatments. These various groups are independent from one another, even if certain experts are members of several groups.
An annual “Glass manufacturers plenary meeting” is held at the start of autumn in a different country to allow all the glass manufacturing experts to interact with the various groups and to gain an overview of the work done by Cetie. This year’s two-day event took place in Amsterdam, after Barcelona last year and Leipzig the year before. The working sessions are an opportunity to summarise the work completed (standards published, etc.) and the work in progress.
The event is also an opportunity to consider the work programme for the year to come, by proposing new subjects raised by the latest regulatory developments, the market and innovations, or at the request of the participants or bottlers.
Also, the oldest documents are reviewed in order to select those in need of a revision, on the basis of the date of the latest update and the number of downloads from the Cetie web site www.cetie.org, which is used to establish priorities according to users’ needs. Finally, an overview of the non-permanent glass manufacturing groups is presented, so that everyone can gain an insight into the situation of their activity.
These non-permanent, or ad hoc, groups work on a specific subject for two to three years. By way of example, the “Labels and recycling” committee is currently looking into the choice of labels that optimise the quantity of glass recovered in glass recycling centres, the “Laser coding” committee is on the verge of reaching a consensus on a unique and individual code for each one of the hundreds of billions of bottles produced worldwide, while the “Filling volume” committee is attempting to reconcile compliance with the European Directive on this subject and the everyday reality of bottlers.
During the glass manufacturers plenary meetings, the glass manufacturers from the host country work together to organise an evening’s entertainment for their guests, where they can get to know one another and reinforce the adhesion and trustful relationships that help the working groups to operate smoothly. This year, Ardagh organised a gourmet tour of the Dutch capital that took in its famous canals and emblematic sights.
While Cetie’s work on harmonisation requires rigorous methods and structures, it is also based on a network of individuals who enjoy working together and making tangible progress in practices and rules, to the complete satisfaction of end customers and consumers.