Glass Industry: Around 1900, when automation processes were first introduced in the glass industry, Austria played a leading role in world glass production, with glassware exports 11 times as large as imports ( Glass). While this predominance came to an end on account of the First World War, the manufacturer of custom jewellery stones, Swarovski, who had moved his production from Gablonz (now Jablonec nad Nisou, Czech Republic) to Wattens, Tirol, in 1895, was able to expand external relations owing to the company's sophisticated technology. In all other fields of production supraregional arrangements during the years of crisis sought to ensure the viability of Austria's glass industry and its adaptation to technological improvements. During the Second World War, the industry maintained at least part of its independent standing and even introduced automated processes (though limited to technological developments in Germany). During the war, many glass factories were destroyed, so that the post-war period was characterised by a considerable shortage of glass products. After the war, new factories were founded, some of them in the course of the take-over of glass factories by the USIA Administration as former German assets; only few of the new enterprises survived. On account of the political situation, glass-makers from Gablonz settled in Upper Austria, assisted by the Swarovski company. The crystal jewellery stone industry, which had seen a major upswing after 1918, saw a new flowering and became the most important sector of Austrian glass production. At the same time, immigrants from Bohemia who founded firms in Austria boosted production of high-quality commercial glass. Thus, the Riedel family founded a factory at Kufstein (1956), which not only continued the glass-making tradition in that town, but with sophisticated technological advances and outstanding designs won numerous international awards and greatly contributed to the reputation of Austria's hollow-glass industry.
After the conclusion of the Austrian State Treaty in 1955, reconstruction of the industry proceeded rapidly, and the years that followed were the industry's most successful period. By 1962 total production had increased by 52%, and the industry's trade surplus was on the rise. The advent of self-service in commercial enterprises boosted demand for container glass and triggered large-scale investments. Despite further automation the number of employees continued to increase.
The petroleum crisis of 1973 caused production costs to rise rapidly in this energy-intensive industry, which had in the meantime largely converted its plants to petroleum and natural gas; as a consequence, low-energy processes and improvements in tank construction had to be introduced.
Around 1980, the recession, growing international competition and belated adjustments of the industry's workforce caused considerable problems. Stoelzle-Oberglas, which had been formed in 1978 by a merger of Austria's largest hollow glass manufacturers, had to be sold in stages in the course of the 1980s, including Europe's most modern container glass factory at Poechlarn.
Today, the structure of Austria's glass industry differs greatly from organisation patterns in other countries. The branch with the largest output and highest export ratio is glass jewellery, glass for lighting fixtures and gifts. Container glass production covers the entire product range, while other branches concentrate on niche products; window glass production was discontinued in 1977.
Owing to its specific structure, Austria's glass industry generates a trade surplus: in 1992 its exports came to approx. 70% of production and exports exceeded imports by ATS 2.37 billion. The total workforce was 8000. Total production was valued at approx. ATS 9 billion (1992), to which the individual branches contributed the following percentages: Crystal jewellery stones and bijouterie articles 39 %, sheet, plate and insulating glass 21 %, container glass 18 %, glass for lighting fixtures 11 %, commercial glass and refining 4 %, other products 7 %.
Chief locations of the Austrian glass industry: Tirol: Wattens, Swarovski & Co; Kufstein, C. J. Riedel, Ti. Glashuette GmbH. - Upper Austria: Braunau, Inn Crystal-Glass GmbH; Schneegattern, C. J. Riedel Schneegattern GmbH; Kremsmuenster, Vetropack Austria GmbH. - Lower Austria: Altnagelberg, Neue Stoelzle Kristall GmbH; Poechlarn, Vetropack Austria GmbH; Stockerau, Tel Mineralwolle AG; Brunn am Gebirge, Erste Oesterreichische Maschinenglasindustrie AG. - Styria Voitsberg, Technoglas Produktions-Ges.m.b.H.; Koeflach and Baernbach, Stoelzle-Oberglas AG.