Today, there are more ways than ever to optimize your manufacturing processes. And there are more reasons than ever why such changes are necessary. In an environment where you’re continuously challenged to do more with less, no one can afford to sit around without being proactive.

This can seem daunting. But tackling today’s challenges doesn’t have to happen all at once—more importantly, it’s an ongoing process that involves implementing new initiatives where they make business sense along a path of continuous improvement. And it can be achieved by all fenestration manufacturers, big or small. That brings us to today’s tip:

Think differently.

Perhaps that’s an obvious one, but it’s nevertheless true. If you’ve recently invested in new equipment, for example, getting the most out of it requires applying a critical eye to your own processes. A regular question you should be asking yourself is this: “Is this the best way to accomplish this task?”

Answers might not come immediately, and they might not always be easy, but seeking answers is a reliable way to make improvements at every phase in your production process. Consider a few scenarios:

  • Your spacer application for insulating glass (IG) units is now automated, but you haven’t adjusted your raw materials supply chain. You’ve found yourself scrambling to keep pace with your new production capabilities.
  • You’ve installed software and barcoding to integrate IG processing, but employees are still relying on paper forms for unit tracking.
  • You have automated a few areas of your plant, but production is maxed out due to your available workforce. There’s demand to move more product out of your plant, but running a third shift to meet that demand doesn’t quite make sense.

There are ways to improve each of these scenarios. Raw materials supply needs to be considered along with every other operation in your plant when it comes to implementing new capabilities. Paper can and should be eliminated from plant floor operations when everything is trackable via software. And when your manpower isn’t meeting demand, an investment in greater automated capabilities could be the answer.

Elsewhere, you can derive a lot of value from outside perspectives. Work with your vendors to drive new insight into your processes—they may have some good experience helping other clients implement successful changes. This can happen at any level of sophistication on the plant floor and can be especially valuable if you’re taking on new initiatives. At a time when the industry is facing some widespread challenges, it takes working together to overcome them. Forging good working relationships with your vendors and partners can lead to greater success, no matter where you are in your journey toward continuous improvement.

John Ryba is Technical Services Manager for Quanex.

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