Breaking It Down: A Well-Honed Training Program Provides Tangible Benefits

By Dave Cooper

How robust is your process training program for insulating glass (IG)? Do operators teach one another, or do you have a seasoned person or manager with documented work instructions training new operators? These are important questions to answer as you transition to a highly competent IG fabrication department. Equipment, tools and work instructions can only take you so far. It’s training that can make a difference in safety, final product quality and operational efficiency.

First Things First

Safety should be the first topic for any training program. I’ve helped refine work instructions for a very sophisticated IG production operation and the very first section details necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) and considers key aspects for the safe operation and handling of components, such as glass, hot sealants and automated equipment.

Beyond safety, how does a fabricator go about figuring out the best methods and plan for training operators? Going back to fundamentals is helpful. A working knowledge of the process is needed to break down each cell and create effective work instructions.

For instance, if a boundary is placed around a typical IG line, the cells might look like this: glass loading, washing, inspection, spacer preparation, spacer (and grid bar) installation, pressing, gas filling, sealant application, final inspection and racking. Each of these cell operations requires its own set of work instructions.

Once the work breakdown for each cell is understood, work instructions can be created, outlining a series of steps taken within the cell to complete that phase of product build. After the steps are clearly and concisely documented, a cross check from another knowledgeable person is helpful. Having done this, work instructions should be performed in sequence by a knowledgeable operator. Any deviations observed should be noted with appropriate edits made. Sign-off by the quality manager (or designee) is followed by publication of the work instruction, complete with revision history. This is one example of the process for a world-class organization.

Final Touches

Inspections go even further and detail the failure criteria utilized. This often can be a gray area. World class fabricators quarantine any item that fails the inspection. Depending upon the inspection plan and frequency, once a failure is noted, all items produced since the prior inspection (in process or finished goods) are also quarantined and inspected as well.

With work instructions available, training begins. If the training leader creates a matrix with operator names and work instructions, tracking who has been trained on each work instruction, this becomes a record and metric of where the organization stands in training competency.

Work instructions should evolve constantly as process steps are modified with equipment, method or other procedural changes. Documented retraining then takes place for all cell operators.

The bottom line includes safer work cells, improved quality and more efficient, higher yield operations. Those are all tangible benefits and well worth the effort.

Dave Cooper is a consultant and president of Fenestration Consulting Services LLC.

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