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Published: Friday, 5/7/2010

Libbey cites 'lean' work in rebound


Executives at Toledo-based Libbey Inc. celebrated their rebounding fortunes Thursday during the glassmaker's annual shareholder meeting and vowed to never forget what they learned during the economic shock of 2008 and 2009.

A year after seeing its share price fall so low that the company was delisted by the New York Stock Exchange, Libbey again finds itself a profitable company with a growing market share and a much-improved stock price.

"Much was learned as we went through the period of 2008 and 2009, and we have come through this storm as a better company," Chief Executive John Meier said.

A week ago, Libbey reported first-quarter profit of $55.4 million, compared with a loss of $27.9 million during the same period a year ago. The company said it had sales of $174 million, up 10 percent from 2009.

Mr. Meier and other top executives said comprehensive efforts to increase efficiency and reduce waste in its manufacturing facilities - known as lean manufacturing - had taken hold at Libbey.

The CEO cited workers at its factory in North Toledo for developing methods to change glass molds that dramatically reduced unproductive downtimes on their lines. "That's pivotal for us, and they've cut that time by 45 percent," Mr. Meier said, adding that a commitment from the company to its hourly work force was key to the productivity improvements.

"Our commitment to them was, 'As we go forward with [lean manufacturing], you will not lose a job at this company because of improvements from lean.

"•'We may find another position - you may not be the wide receiver, you may be the defensive end - but you'll be on the team.' "

- Larry P. Vellequette

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