Automation: It’s Getting Real

By Tara Taffera

The evolution of automation is something that DWM magazine and its sister publication, USGlass magazine, have covered extensively and they will continue to do so in the months and years ahead. It’s one thing to talk about the future of automation and give some predictions—definitely important as door and window companies make plans—but it’s enlightening to see how companies are actually implementing technology today. I was reminded of that while editing a feature article for the August issue of USGlass magazine by assistant editor Jordan Scott.

Here are a few examples I found fascinating and likely helpful as all of you make important automation decisions at your companies in the years to come.

At one glass plant, customer service once had to track down where orders were in the production process. Now, after implanting the FeneVision system, each order gets entered once. “There’s no more double entry, and order entry errors are down more than 95 percent.”

With automation, Adriatic Glass & Mirror manufactures based on a schedule so all departments are producing what is required. As a result, lead times have improved. Customer service is now able to locate where orders are on the factory floor, then give instant feedback to customers.

My favorite part of the story was found at Cleer Vision Tempered Glass (CVTG) in Elkhart, Ind. CVTG upgraded its cutting tables to automatic loaders. Before implementing the Forel Super Spacer Insulating Glass (IG) Line, CVTG could produce 225 IGs per shift with six people. Now, the company can produce 800 plus per shift with two people.

But here’s my favorite quote from CVTG: “Labor is brutal right now. No one can hire anyone, and what’s left is not hirable. With automation, we can move our best employees up to key positions. I’d rather pay one highly-skilled guy running complicated equipment $50,000 than pay two low-skilled guys $25,000.”

So you aren’t not hiring but you are taking a different look at who you are hiring—an important distinction.

In this issue, DWM editor Trey Barrineau also tackles the topic of machinery and gives helpful advice on when to buy, when to refurbish and other useful tips when considering an upgrade. One of these includes getting all stakeholders involved in the purchase process, including your machinery operators.

A particularly insightful part of that article is a section offering advice for when companies are specifically looking at purchasing automated machines. Don’t automate for the sake of it—again, get the input from your employees. Clearly define your goals, say machinery experts.

As all of you consider those important questions when it comes to machinery and automation purchases, we hope this information proves helpful. Maybe I’ll run into you “machinery shopping” at one of the fall shows. Look forward to it.

To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.

DWM Magazine

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