Schott Glas


I already know Mary Frances Scott from corporate public relations will be my contact person at glassmaker Schott Glas due to the E-mail received several weeks ago. I also know the head office will be at one of Schott's factories because in the same E-mail Scott said the security guards at the various entry gates have been notified of my pending arrival.

Leaving Wiesbaden, which lies on one side of the Rhine River, I now need to cross over the river to Mainz, a similar size city of over 300,000 inhabitants. This section of the Rhine River is quite wide (maybe a quarter mile to half mile) and bridges aren't plentiful so I start to pedal the six miles to the bridge. About a quarter mile down the road I pass an elevated railroad track bridge and slow down to give it the once over. My eyes jump for joy as I spot a pedestrian walkway on the bridge. Though lugging my bike up and down the steep steps isn't easy, I save an hour in travel time AND almost end up on the front doorstep of Schott Glas.

Though the guard at the entry gate speaks only German, it isn't a problem, as he immediately knows whom to call. A few minutes later Mary Frances Scott (no connection to the man who wrote the Star Spangled Banner) greets me. Later on her boss, Dieter Kappler, Director-Corporate Public Relations, drops by and joins in answering questions.

In 1884, Otto Schott, Carl Zeiss and Roderich Zeiss founded Glastechnische Laboratorium in Jena, Germany. Over the years the name of the company changes several times. In 1997 it's reduced to the short and sweet, Schott Glas. How did the Schott Glas end up in Mainz (the western part of Germany) after being founded in Jena (the eastern part of Germany)? After World War II, the company found itself in the Soviet zone of occupation and thanks to the Marshall Plan (it encompassed more than the US airlifting food and supplies around the clock to boxed-in Berlin) was re-established in Mainz.

Located in a heavy industrial area near the river, over 4,400 employees work onsite. Yet, downtown Mainz lies less than a mile away. Probably the most unusual sight here are the five huge smokestacks lined up in a straight line through the property.
How's the food in the cafeteria? I have a chicken burger patty, noodles in white sauce, salad and a Coke. It gets two thumbs up from me.

One of Scott's jobs besides corporate public relations includes writing speeches for the top guy, Leopold von Heimendahl, Chairman-Board of Management. Jeez, that's got to be a stressful job.

I'm given a tour of the company's glass museum and then we wander over to the six-story building housing the executives. Built in 1952, the head honchos work in a "listed" (protected) building and boy is it a blah-looking brick structure. I can't see Heimendahl's top floor corner office because "he's working".

Around the corner from the head office is a company store. Employees receive a small discount plus, it's open to the public. Walking around the store I'm amazed at the diverse variety of glass products made by Schott. Lucky me gets presented with a set of wineglasses and lucky for me Scott agrees to mail them home.

I'm most appreciative of the warm reception extended by Scott and Kappler, especially since I caught Scott on a hectic day. Her office was being rearranged and today a carpenter was scheduled to come by. Those carpenter guys are hard to get hold of and she had put the request in weeks ago. Well wouldn't you know it, the carpenter shows up just when I arrive and I feel really bad when she tells him it will have to be rescheduled.

Schott Glas, with $1.8 billion in revenues and over 17,000 employees, has a related company, Carl Zeiss. Based in Oberkochen, Germany, Carl Zeiss has over 6,000 employees and revenues in 1997 of $1.5 billion. The two sister companies have the same parent: Carl-Zeiss-Stiftung. It's a foundation set up in 1889 and operates as a profit making business. An unusual feature of this foundation is that there's no ownership. Carl-Zeiss-Stiftung has neither private nor government shareholders. The upshot to this arrangement being the companies can pursue their corporate objectives unrestricted by owners' interests. The downside? The foundation is not permitted access to the stock market to raise capital by issuing shares.