Fenestration Focus July/August 2021August 20th, 2021 by Nathan Hobbs
Putting It on the Line: For Quality’s Sake, Ensure Operators Know Where Failures Begin
By John Ryba
A plant floor worker has an important job to do in your shop. It’s one that requires the right amount of training and knowledge to do that job effectively, ensuring that quality doors and windows get into the hands of your customers in a timely manner. So, it’s worth asking yourself a question: Are you giving people on that plant floor the tools they need to do the job effectively?
Your answer here is important, particularly as we in the industry find ourselves mired in an ongoing labor shortage. Recent years have seen technicians with significant experience retire or leave the field. New hires to replace them are hard to find, and when we can onboard new employees, turnover rates have remained high. It all points to a need to get people up to speed quickly—a task that is often easier said than done.
Nowhere is this more important than in your insulating glass (IG) line. Fabricating high-quality IG units that can deliver long-lasting performance for your customers depends on several critical processes going right every time. If your line operators are unclear on even just a few criteria of a well-made unit, things can go downhill quickly.
Your First Line of Defense
Imagine the following scenario: As the manager of a door and window plant, you’ve just received the results of a quality audit provided by one of your suppliers. The report is long and detailed, and your auditing team has flagged several important items relating to your insulating glass production. Some units are being sealed improperly; desiccants are being left out in the open when your line is not in operation; there are some cleanliness issues relating to the glass itself, which can compromise a seal’s adhesion.
It’s your responsibility to correct those issues, lest they turn into a stream of seal failures and warranty claims in the not-so-distant future. You bring the audit to one of your shop supervisors to communicate in detail the adjustments that will need to be made, and you trust that person to achieve the results you want to see.
This process may work out just fine. But so far, we’ve left an important group out of it: your line operators. As the people responsible for cleaning the glass, applying spacers and sealants, and transporting your units from the line to storage or shipping, it’s important that they are tuned in to where, why, and how errors are occurring—lest they continue doing the same things while under the assumption that nothing is wrong.
Your line operators are your first line of defense against bad units. For this reason, it’s important that they understand the most critical ways that seal failure can happen—including proper desiccant storage, seal application, glass cleanliness, edge deletion, and a few other highly important factors.
Of course, you’re strapped for time and labor already, and you have orders to keep up with. But training is important, and your reputation is on the line.
For all of these reasons, it’s critical to invest the time required to properly train the line operators who you rely on to make quality products. A technical services team can evaluate your IG processes from top to bottom, helping you identify where room for improvements might be made.
It’s worth doing what’s in your power today to equip your teams with the necessary skill sets to prevent problems tomorrow.
John Ryba is senior technical specialist for Quanex Building Products.
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