Glass

SPECIAL SECTION/GLASS MANUFACTURING: Raise a Glass

February 1, 2009
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The Phoenix Award was recently presented to John Gallo of Gallo Glass Co.

John Gallo (left) receives the Phoenix Award from Phoenix Award Committee Chairman Paul Guttmann of U.S. Silica Co.


John Gallo, vice president of Gallo Glass Co., recently received the 2008 Phoenix Award, the glass industry’s most prestigious honor. He is the 38th recipient of the award, which is given in recognition of outstanding individuals who have made noteworthy contributions to the glass industry.

In 1958, after 25 years of making wine in California’s Central Valley, the Gallo family decided to make their own bottles for the E. & J. Gallo Winery. Getting enough bottles for their growing business was difficult, and they felt the quality of the glass containers was critical to the success of their wines. Gallo Glass is now celebrating its 50-year anniversary.

After being discharged from the Navy, Bob Gallo, son of co-founder Julio Gallo, joined the winery and became part of the team building a glass plant adjacent to the family’s winery in Modesto, Calif. His son, John, joined E. & J. Gallo Winery after graduating from the University of Santa Clara in 1983. In November 1998, John transferred to Gallo Glass Co. as vice president.

Employee Focus

Today, Gallo Glass reportedly operates the largest single glass container plant in the world. While the scale of Gallo Glass has grown dramatically, the company still operates on the belief that its success is grounded in each employee’s commitment to excellence.

Under John Gallo’s leadership, Gallo Glass has created extensive training and apprenticeship programs. Guided by the belief that human resources should be developed from within, Gallo Glass offers college degree programs to employees at every level. “The first thing my dad did was to look for the right people, the right team,” said John. “He believed in getting the right person in the right place, and giving them challenges.”

Employee retention is a hallmark of Gallo Glass, where one longtime employee says, “You’re considered a ‘flight risk’ until you’ve been here 20 years.” Vice President and General Manager Bill Holmes, who has been on duty since the day Gallo Glass opened its doors, has served as John Gallo’s mentor for nearly a decade. “Bill is the heart and soul of Gallo Glass,” John said. “He is an invaluable resource to me, as he was to my dad.”

Despite the scale of Gallo Glass, John Gallo remains in touch with every department. “We are pretty transparent,” he said. “We can see the contributions made by individuals, and we can help them develop their strengths. It’s a self-sustaining culture of committed and passionate individuals that generates a very ‘can-do’ attitude.”

John Gallo (center) with Gallo Glass personnel: (from left to right) Lance Leming, director of engineering; Ron Weltmer, senior quality manager; Martin Rhodes, senior forming manager; and Jorian Reed, senior human resources manager.

Technological Innovation

It was with Bill Holmes and the company’s management team that John traveled to Europe to learn more about the new technology and automation being used in glass plants there. Applying what they learned, the company went from manufacturing 60 million to 85 million cases with the same five furnaces. That increased capacity led them into the open marketplace to find and serve new customers, another big step for a family business whose only customer for 40 years was itself.

Along with its emphasis on the individual, Gallo Glass focuses on continual improvement in the technology of glass making. The dark green “Flavor Guard” wine bottle was an early indication that Gallo Glass would be an innovator in the industry. The company remains a leader in research and development, sharing information through organizations such as International Partners in Glass Research (IPGR).

“Innovation is what started the company…and today, that spirit of innovation remains strong in the people at Gallo Glass,” John said during his acceptance speech. “Long before regulations began forcing companies to invest in the next innovation, we partnered with our suppliers and built our own cryogenic oxygen plant, becoming the first in the world to run our furnaces on pure oxygen, significantly reducing NOX, and eliminating the precursor to smog. It was the equivalent of taking 130,000 cars off of the road every year. That started the ‘green’ movement at Gallo Glass.” The company went on to construct one of the first electric furnaces with zero emissions, to develop the three-mix cullet market in California, and to become certified under the environmental management guidelines of ISO 14001.

“We have people from other glass companies visit our plant regularly, and our people visit other plants as well,” said John. “It’s a free exchange of ideas, and when the industry prospers we all benefit through collaboration, beyond just being competitors. We all have a common interest: to maintain glass as the customer’s package of choice.”

John Gallo closed his speech, which was attended by leading industry suppliers, by saying, “I think the future of the glass packaging industry is very promising, as we all pull together to promote the advantages of glass. Glass is natural. Glass protects, endures, and is reborn…infinitely recycled!” At Gallo Glass, 50% of every bottle is made from recycled glass.

Flexible Future

At the age of 47, John Gallo has expanded Gallo Glass Co. beyond vertical integration within his family’s wine business into an operation that now provides glass containers to diverse customers on the open market. “Being family owned and operated gives us certain advantages. We have fewer layers to go through to make a decision and a better ability to invest in the future,” he said. “We can respond quickly and thoughtfully to customer requirements. And having met our own needs for so long really helps us understand the needs of others. We can go from an idea on the back of an envelope to full production in four weeks.”

John currently serves on the boards of the Glass Packaging Institute; International Partners in Glass Research; the Modesto Junior College, Great Valley Museum; and Central Catholic High School (Modesto).

For more information, visit www.gallo-glass.com.

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