The busy season always poses challenges and opportunities for door and window manufacturers. The warm summer months typically bring an influx of activity in the building and construction space, and demand for high-quality products rises. Keeping up with an increase in the number of orders requires operational efficiency and a keen eye for maintaining quality production.

And that’s just during a regular year.

In 2021, we continue to find ourselves uniquely challenged by the ongoing impacts of a pandemic, including skyrocketing demand, an exacerbated labor shortage and a crunch on supplies for raw materials.

Amidst these challenges, I naturally begin to think about what manufacturers can do to keep their commitment to safety. Think about it: Keeping up with a demanding production schedule can lead to a mindset that prioritizes simply getting units out the door by any means necessary. With this can come the potential temptation to cut corners or skirt best practices on the shop floor. Elsewhere, the busy season comes with hotter temperatures, which can lead to increased fatigue among your workforce, potentially contributing to lost focus and greater injury risk. All of this brings us to today’s tip:

Production and safety go hand in hand.
My job is to help customers understand and apply established best practices and techniques to reliably assemble quality insulating glass (IG) units. That job begins with adopting a safety mindset—I don all the proper personal protective equipment before I step foot onto the plant floor, and I am sure to be cognizant of the fact that I’m entering an unfamiliar environment. No two plants are the same and awareness of your surroundings is one of the most important things on any manufacturing floor.

My next step involves taking stock of the customer’s production processes, and it’s here where it becomes clear that doing things the right way is also necessarily the safe way. Proper handling of glass, for example, helps ensure that no residual damage will occur to the pane during transportation from one point to another on the shop floor. Even the smallest nicks or scratches can potentially lead to an aesthetic issue or even unit failure in a worst case scenario. Those same handling techniques—using protective gloves, for example, or something more advanced like machine-assisted loading equipment—also keeps the worker safe from any potential harm. The same can be said of proper spacer application, completed unit handling and other critical parts of production. The result is not just high-performance products, but greater assurance that the job has been performed safely by all parties.

Techniques like these can vary from facility to facility. For instance, I’ve seen workers carrying large panes of annealed glass up over their heads on their way to the production line. Something like this can risk both production uptime and worker safety.

You might say that much of this is simple common sense. And it is. But in the heat of the busy season, and amidst the unique challenges our industry is up against this year, it’s not always a given that common sense will prevail during every point in production. Someone who has been working six-day weeks and is nearing the end of his or her shift might find it easier to cut a corner than to follow a best practice.

That’s why it’s incumbent upon management to ensure plant workers are best set up for success, so that they can always listen to common sense when it comes to safety. Whether it’s through training on production best practices, or simpler measures like providing adequate break time, continually seeking new ways to create a safe working environment is one of the important things any manufacturer can do.

Hector Cortez is Senior Technical Services Representative for Quanex.

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