I read with great interest a recent story DWM published, titled “GPAD Focuses on Reducing Labor Costs through Automation.” Indeed, in 2018 the top stories included rising material and component costs brought on by increases in demand, coupled with supply shortages—some of which were exacerbated by tariffs. (That’s a mouthful of issues to overcome.) Also, another recurring theme in 2018 included the fact that manufacturers have been finding it increasingly difficult to attract and keep a proficient workforce. I continue to hear comments, such as, “No one wants to work anymore,” or, “We have a revolving door. We just cannot seem to keep people working on the shop floor!” Stories abound about companies going on hiring blitzes, bringing in hundreds of people and, within a month, up to 80 percent of them are gone!

Given this ongoing crisis with the unavailability of labor, the Average number of Years of Experience (AYE) plummets.

Another difficulty I have seen played out increasingly over the past several years includes the difficulty that manufacturers have passing stringent insulating glass (IG) and window certification standards. At one time, we only had to worry about passing dew points. However, over the years, the IG certification test has morphed into a much more stringent regimen, with chemical fog and argon gas loss also thrown into the mix. Also, ongoing audits are done by certification agencies to ensure that what is being built daily on the manufacturing floor represents the same quality of units that were submitted for the testing.

NFRC also has an Independent Verification Program (IVP) that annually samples window and door products in the marketplace, testing them to verify their performance ratings. It isn’t just a matter of achieving the test ratings. The manufacturing team is responsible for compliance on a day-to-day basis. Again, with AYE being so low, this task of assuring day-to-day compliance becomes increasingly difficult.

This situation screams for the need to automate. So, it really blows my mind to see a window company replacing old equipment that takes 13 people to operate with new equipment that costs nearly a million dollars—which also takes 13 people to operate.

So, let’s say that there is a different machinery option, involving automation that allows you to reduce manpower requirements on your production line from 13 down to three people. With these reduced manpower requirements, you will now save at least another $260,000 in annual labor costs. This doesn’t even include the cost savings associated with not having to constantly recruit, hire and retrain new people, while conducting drug tests—something that’s repeated all over again months later, when most of them are gone. It also enables you to fully focus on the employees that you currently have. You can put more resources into helping them to develop and realize their individual levels of expertise and career development. As turnover decreases, the AYE rises again.

Manpower issues aside, automation also nets savings due to lower scrap rates (less remakes) and lower warranty related expenses due to enhanced quality assurance. As far as marketing implications, many manufacturers also feel that it brings an incremental revenue stream as a result of enhancing the company’s position in the marketplace. Automated machinery can be featured in company brochures, impressing prospective customers as they tour a company’s operations. Market share grows!

So, whether you are considering a new automated IG line, a new glass cutting system, automatic edge deletion, automated frame processing, auto-assembly equipment or sorting machinery, the time to invest in automation has never been better.

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